Why Is NC Paying For The “Science Of Reading” When It Took Away The Very Things To Make It Work?

Balanced literacy or the science of reading? According to the new State Superintendent, NC should start focusing more on the science of reading approach.

Teaching reading is hard especially when talking about the English language, the largest language in the world that does not always abide by a single set of rules and laws or has consistency in spelling.

So much is the new state super wanting to incorporate more “science of reading,” it has become a new line item in a bill recently offered in the NCGA.

12 million dollars to an outside entity to provide training.

That company, Voyager” is part of a bigger conglomerate. Huge. It makes a lot of money. And no matter how good they are or how effective their hold on the “science of reading,” we need to look at why it may be hard to say that this money is going to be well spent.

First, where are the reading specialists that should already be in schools? Years ago many elementary schools would have their own reading specialists, professionals who could work with students and with teachers. They were a valuable resource to help plan, reflect, and coach teachers and staff. They were current on techniques and resources. Now it is hard to even find one who is totally committed to a single school. Currently, it seems that people who qualify as reading specialists are centrally placed having to travel to many schools.

Second, remember what NC did to professional development for public school teachers. From WUNC.org in December of 2018:

“The General Assembly cut the budget line item for teacher professional development from the state budget during the recession and has never restored it. In 2008, the state budgeted $12.6 million for educator professional development. That line item has been reduced to zero. Now schools might pay for some professional development from other budget areas—like federal funding or state funding to support digital learning — or teachers can turn to grants.”

Ask any professional in an ever-changing, global society about the need to keep up with latest practices and approaches to serving those who depend on them. He /she will probably cite the need to keep learning and coming into contact with others who are attempting to not staying stagnant or becoming out-of-date. They will talk about the need for ongoing professional development. Teachers are no different. 

Third, NC eliminated teacher assistant positions that could help deliver instruction on an individual basis for those elementary students.

North Carolina has over 7400 fewer teacher assistants than it did ten years ago. When study after study published by leading education scholars preach that reaching students early in their academic lives is most crucial for success in high school and life, our General Assembly  actually promoted one of the largest layoffs in state history.

And another study was just released.

Teaching a skill like reading requires individualized instruction. What the NCGA has done is work against that.

Four – time.

It is one of the single biggest deficits in the teaching profession.

The day only has 24 hours. The year is still 365 (+1/4) days long. School still has to meet the equivalent of 180 school days.

Caps on class sizes have been removed. Funding to alleviate class sizes in early grades was never extended to LEA’s as was erroneously claimed by many a GOP lawmaker in the last couple of years. Students also take more standardized tests than ever before and more schools have turned to block scheduling meaning that more teachers are teaching more classes and more students.

Any veteran teacher can tell you the need for collaboration with others is critical to academic success for students. The need to plan and create/grade authentic assessments is also most critical.

That requires time.

Reading specialists. Commitment to professional development. Teacher assistants. Time.

And it’s still rather confusing that we do not invest in our public university schools of education and research to help develop tools for public schools.

Makes their prices lots lower. Saves money. Keeps revenue within the state. Invests in our public universities.

3 thoughts on “Why Is NC Paying For The “Science Of Reading” When It Took Away The Very Things To Make It Work?

  1. I would encourage you to learn more about how reading is taught in NC and why “balanced literacy” is not appropriate. Using the 3 cueing system doesn’t work for most children and it’s not an effective way to teach reading. Emily Hanford has done some amazing reporting on this topic: https://www.apmreports.org/episode/2018/09/10/hard-words-why-american-kids-arent-being-taught-to-read
    Click on the ‘listen’ to take you to the podcast that has more information.
    It’s going to take a massive effort to turn the ship around and leave “whole language” behind and it starts with education, and that’s expensive. Yes, it’s too bad that teaching colleges are promoting whole language, and there are efforts underway to change that, but until then, there are thousands of teachers who need our support.

    And, the word “phonetic” is spelled phonetically. /ph/ is used for words with Greek roots. Once this word is broken into syllables, it’s a fairly easy word to decode.


  2. While I strongly support the provision of professional development in the Science of Reading to NC teachers, I share the concerns raised about the other factors that impact reading skill development (decreases in reading specialists, teacher assistants, loss of state funds for professional development and instructional time). Ms. Sharpless is correct in her concerns about “balanced literacy” and the need for our institutions of higher education to do a better job of preparing teachers. Another issue that is problematic about the proposed legislation is that it does not reflect the work that has been done in NC over the past 20 years to provide teachers knowledge of the Science of Reading. Under the auspices of the Exceptional Children Division of NC DPI, the Reading Research to Classroom Practice (RRtoCP) course is provided at little to no cost to LEAs through a network of literacy consultants and coaches. This course and its existing framework of support should be an integral part of the plan to provide SoR professional development. Funds should be used in ways that will not only provide professional development to our teachers in cost effective ways but also build capacity for effective implementation of the instructional changes that will be required (including more highly trained reading teachers, coaches and SoR trainers at the school, district and regional level).


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