To the editor:
I have a simple solution to the current out-of-control special education spending and low reading scores. Teach all children to read using empirical research-based methods. To meet ALL children's learning styles, we must use a multi-sensory approach that includes intensive, systematic, explicit phonics.
The current eclectic approach used in the Lawrence school district is a direct correlation to the poor test scores and number of students labeled as learning disabled. The district program does not follow the principles of a comprehensive reading program recommended by The National Institution of Health and renowned, national reading experts. School officials insist that their reading program includes phonics. If a restaurant owner blended a teaspoon of hamburger into a gallon of chili soup, his customer would ask "Where's the beef?"
According to Dr. G. Reid Lyon, chief of the child-development and behavior branch of the National Institute of Health, "The increases in special education can be attributed to poor teaching in the general education classroom. We are talking about special education without talking about the deficiencies in the regular education that give rise to those conditions in the first place." He also contends that the learning disabilities (LD) classification is invalid because a vast majority of the children so designated have conditions that can be prevented with effective teaching strategies.
If we use intensive, systematic, explicit phonics first to teach ALL children to read, the dollars intended for those with physical, mental and emotional disabilities would be plentiful. Special education is filled with curriculum-disabled children labeled learning-disabled. This is costly to the taxpayers as well as the children's self esteem. We can solve illiteracy by following the endless scientific research on the best practices, including intensive, systematic phonics in every classroom.
The choice of inadequate curriculum has helped create inequality in our schools. Those who have the resources can hire tutors to teach their children what they have failed to learn in school. Those who do not have the economic resources continue to fall further behind. Equality among our schools must begin with teaching methods that work for ALL.