Every Child Left Behind
David Helfand, a world renowned astronomer from Columbia University, is an impassioned advocate of science education. In a recent lecture, he was asked to comment on the state of science and math education is our nationâ€™s schools. Turning the well-publicized NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND idea on its head, he said that an appropriate characterization of the current situation is EVERY CHILD LEFT BEHIND.
Unfortunately, Helfandâ€™s description is not confined to the math/science scene. It applies equally to the teaching of most basic subject in schoolsâ€”namely, reading. Ironically, the No Child Left Behind legislation, aimed at pressuring schools to improve their outcomes, has led many to believe that literacy problems are lessening. In fact, they are not. In an effort to attain higher scores, huge amounts of time are now spent in "training children to the test." But for the most part, the training concentrates on simpler skills such as decoding (i.e., word recognition). While these sorts of skills are critical, they represent only a tiny segment of what children must master-- if they are to become truly skillful readers who can easily comprehend and create written material covering all range of subject matter.
What are parents to do?
Clearly, they need to become a galvanizing force that leads schools to provide the reading curricula their children need. But as anyone who is familiar with bureaucracies knows, this will take years, if not decades, to achieve. In the interim, parents must be the ones who provide the necessary materials to their children. That is a primary reason Phonics Plus Five was created. It has been designed to enable parents to offer their children, from the very outset, the broad set of language skills that makes high level reading and writing a reality.