LITERACY: WHY CHILDREN CAN’T READ
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC, JULY 10, JULY 31 and SEPTEMBER 3, 1997
Serial No. 105-53
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education
and the Workforce
HEARINGS ON LITERACY
Table of Contents
OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HON. BILL GOODLING, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA
OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HON. TIM ROEMER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF INDIANA
STATEMENT OF DR. RICHARD VENEZKY, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE, NEWARK, DELAWARE
STATEMENT OF DR. REID LYON, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CHILD HEALTH AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND
STATEMENT OF DR. ROBERT E. SLAVIN, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
STATEMENT BY DR. CATHERINE SNOW, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS.
STATEMENT BY DR. VIVIAN L. GADSDEN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
STATEMENT OF JANET NICHOLAS, MEMBER, CALIFORNIA BOARD OF EDUCATION, SONOMA, CALIFORNIA
STATEMENT OF BARBARA RUGGLES, TEACHER, FRANKFORT, ILLINOIS
STATEMENT OF MARGARET DOUGHTY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HOUSTON READ COMMISSION, HOUSTON, TEXAS
Appendix A – PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE BILL CLAY
Appendix B – PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE BILL GOODLING
Appendix C – PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE CAROLYN MCCARTHY
Appendix D – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. RICHARD VENEZKY, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE, NEWARK, DELAWARE
Appendix E – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. REID LYON, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CHILD HEALTH AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND
Appendix F – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. ROBERT E. SLAVIN, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
Appendix G – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. CATHERINE SNOW, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
Appendix H – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. VIVIAN L. GADSDEN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
Appendix I – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. JANET NICHOLAS, CALIFORNIA BOARD OF EDUCATION, SONOMA, CALIFORNIA
Appendix J – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. BARBARA RUGGLES, TEACHER, FRANKFORT, ILLINOIS
Appendix K – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. MARGARET DOUGHTY, HOUSTON READ COMMISSION, HOUSTON, TEXAS
Table of Indexes
STATEMENT OF MARIS A. VINOVSKIS, DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY, AND THE CENTER FOR POLITICAL STUDIES, INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN
STATEMENT OF HERBERT J. WALBERG, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH F. JOHNSON, JR., COLLABORATIVE FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT, CHARLES A. DANA CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, AUSTIN, TEXAS
STATEMENT OF CHERYL H. WILHOYTE, Ph.D., SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, MADISON, WISCONSIN, REPRESENTING THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA
STATEMENT OF ANDREW HAYES, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
Appendix L – OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE BILL GOODLING
Appendix M – PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE BILL CLAY
Appendix N – PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE LAMAR SMITH
Appendix O – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. MARIS VINOVSKIS, DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY AND THE CENTER FOR POLITICAL STUDIES, INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN
Appendix P – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. HERBERT WALBERG, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
Appendix Q – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. JOSEPH JOHNSON, JR., COLLABORATIVE FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT, CHARLES A. DANA CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, AUSTIN, TEXAS
Appendix R – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. CHERYL WILHOYTE, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, MADISON, WISCONSIN
Appendix S – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. ANDY HAYES, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT, UNIVERISTY OF NORTH CAROLINA, WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
Table of Indexes
STATEMENT OF ANN W. MINTZ, ELEMENTARY LANGUAGE ARTS FACILITATOR, THE HOWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, HOWARD COUNTY, MARYLAND
STATEMENT OF DEBRA WAKEFIELD, PRIMARY GRADE TEACHER, DEL NORTE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, CRESCENT CITY, CALIFORNIA
STATEMENT OF KIMBERLY WILSON, GRADUATE STUDENT, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, WASHINGTON, D.C.
STATEMENT OF DR. LAURA D. FREDRICK, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, ATLANTA, GEORGIA
STATEMENT OF BETH S. CHECK, SUPERVISOR OF READING/LANGUAGE ARTS PK-5, NEWPORT NEWS PUBLIC SCHOOLS, NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA
STATEMENT OF LOUISA C. MOATS, Ed.D., D.C. DIRECTOR, NICHD HOUSTON/WASHINGTON D.C. EARLY INTERVENTIONS PROJECT, WASHINGTON, D.C., AND DIRECTOR OF TEACHER TRAINING, THE GREENWOOD SCHOOL, PUTNEY, VERMONT
Appendix T – OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE BILL GOODLING
Appendix U – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. ANN MINTZ, ELEMENTARY LANGUAGE ARTS FACILITATOR, HOWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, HOWARD COUNTY, MARYLAND
Appendix V – WRITTEN STTATEMENT OF MS. DEBRA WAKEFIELD, PRIMARY GRADE TEACHER, DEL NORTE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEL NORTE, CALIFORNIA
Appendix W – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. KIMBERLY WILSON, GRADUATE STUDENT OF EDUCATION, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, WASHINGTON, DC
Appendix X – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. LAURA FREDRICK, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, ATLANTA, GEORGIA
Appendix Y – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. BETH CHECK, SUPERVISOR OF READING/LANGUAGE ARTS PK-5, NEWPORT NEWS PUBLIC SCHOOLS, NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA
Appendix Z – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DR. LOUISA MOATS, DIRECTOR, NICHD HOUSTON/WASHINGTON DC EARLY INTERVENTIONS PROJECT, WASHINGTON, DC
Appendix AA – WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. NANCY THOMPSON
Appendix BB – MATERIALS SUBMITTED BY THE HONORABLE BOBBY SCOTT
Table of Indexes
HEARING ON LITERACY: WHY CHILDREN CAN'T READ
hursday, July 10, 1997
House of Representatives,
Committee on Education and the Workforce
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. William F. Goodling, presiding.
Present: Chairman Goodling, Representatives Ballenger, Barrett, Hoekstra, McKeon, Castle, Greenwood, Riggs, Schaffer, Deal, Clay, Kildee, Martinez, Owens, Payne, Roemer, Scott, Woolsey, Fattah, Hinojosa, McCarthy, Kind, and Ford.
Non-Committee Members Present: Representative Sawyer.
Staff Present: Lynn Selmser, Professional Staff Member; D'Arcy Philps, Professional Staff Member; Andrea Weiss, Legislative Assistant; June Harris, Education Coordinator; Alex Nock, Legislative Associate, Margo Huber, Staff Assistant.
Chairman Goodling. I'm going to begin the hearing with my opening statement--I see Mr. Clay is coming around the corner--hoping that Mr. Castle will be here to introduce the first witness by the time I finish with an opening statement. But I'm going to go ahead with an opening statement and hope that Mr. Castle will be here to introduce the first witness.
Mr. Clay. Mr. Chairman, I'm going to have to go to the Floor immediately so I ask unanimous consent to insert a statement.
Chairman Goodling. Without objections.
See Appendix A for the prepared statement of Mr. Clay
OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HON. BILL GOODLING, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA
Chairman Goodling. Today's hearing will address a topic of extreme importance: learning to read.
I believe one of the most important tasks we can accomplish in this Congress this year is to help teachers and parents teach children to read as early as possible. To accomplish this, I believe we must do several things.
First and foremost, I believe we need to focus on what works: basic academics, parental involvement, getting dollars to the classroom. We must take advantage of sound research which tells us how children learn to read and to support quality training for classroom teachers which is consistent with that research.
While substantial numbers of children in school are learning to read, there is a great deal of evidence that too many children are experiencing difficulties. Two very important studies have been issued over the past few years which demonstrate the need to address the literacy/reading ability of our nation's citizens.
The first study, The National Adult Literacy Survey, assessed the literacy skills of adults and found that almost 50 percent of our adult population read at the bottom two of five levels of literacy. Not surprisingly, 43 percent of those in the lowest literacy level live in poverty; 17 percent are receiving food stamps, 70 percent are unemployed or under-employed. In addition, more than two-thirds of unwed parents, school dropouts, and those arrested, have below-average literacy levels.
But reading problems don't begin when individuals are adults, they begin when they are children, and if the recent NAEP 1994 Reading Report Card is an indication of future reading skills of adults in the next generation, our problems are far from over. The most recent Reading Report Card found that 40 percent of students in the 4th grade were below the basic level of reading achievement.
I know from many years of experience as an educator that there are many reasons children do not learn to read. Some stem from the home environment and the fact that their parents are unable to read or to read well and therefore are unable to provide their children with the reading readiness skills they need to learn to read. In other instances, children have learning disabilities which affect their ability to learn to read.
No matter what the cause, the fact that many children are not learning to read is a serious concern. Those children who had difficulty reading also did not do well in other classes which had a strong reading component, placing them at high risk of failure in other classes and eventually leading to their leaving the school environment where they were not able to keep up with their peers.
Since literacy is and always has been a bipartisan issue, I want to state at the outset that I commend President Clinton for his proposal to address the issue. I look forward to working with the President, his Administration, as well as Members from both sides of the aisle in developing a proposal to help parents and teachers teach children to read as soon as possible.
The purpose of today's hearing is to take the first step and find out how children learn to read and why some children are experiencing difficulties. With this knowledge, we can take steps to insure future generations of adults will learn to read so they do not experience all of the problems related to low levels of literacy.
I believe we will accomplish a great deal in solving society's problems if we can take steps to ensure that each and every child learns to read as soon as possible and each and every adult can read and write at the level necessary for them to compete in today's highly technological world.
The first step in this process is to learn why they are experiencing difficulties, and I know that the experts that we have here today will help us understand those problems and therefore, help us as we try to develop something that will eradicate one of the greatest problems we have in our country.
See Appendix B for the prepared statement of Mr. Goodling
Chairman Goodling. Since the ranking Member is not here, is there anyone who wishes to make an opening statement?
The gentleman from Indiana.
OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HON. TIM ROEMER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF INDIANA
Mr. Roemer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I too, welcome our distinguished panel to our hearing this morning, which I think is one of the most important problems we face as a nation is not only helping to improve and reform our education system, but reward many of the programs that are working well and helping our children learn to read.
Some of our children are not learning appropriately how to read and quickly enough, what to do. Some of our teachers do not know how to teach to some of the children that are experiencing problems. NIH had a very interesting study on this, which was published last year.
We want to hear from our panel of experts as to, not necessarily why children can't read, but we want to hear what we can do to help them learn to read, and how we can improve on those weaknesses in the education system and how we can continue to help our children move forward through the system rather than letting them slip through the cracks when they can't read and they fall further and further behind.
I would certainly hope that this would be the kind of issue that we approach in a bipartisan way, as Democrats and Republicans working together to emphasize new, creative, cutting-edge programs that help in the suburbs and in the inner cities, that help all children learn to read and not just at some of the better schools with some of the better equipment and better technology for our students, but everywhere, all students, and we don't leave a single student or a single child behind in this effort to teach them all to read.
I look forward to what I think will be an interesting hearing this morning, using the NIH study and other studies to help us learn more about this vexing and complicated problem, and I look forward to working in a bipartisan way with the Chairman, Mr. Goodling, who has expressed deep interest in early pro-active efforts to help our children learn to read, and that we also look at efforts in reforming our Head Start Program to look at ways by which we put more academic emphasis and mentoring emphasis on the Head Start Program, to possibly get those children off to earlier and earlier efforts to learn the building skills to learn how to read.
So with that, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your recognition and we look forward on this side to hopefully working together on this issue.
Chairman Goodling. Will the panel make its way to the table? Dr. Reid Lyon, Dr. Catherine Snow, Dr. Bob Slavin, Dr. Vivian Gadsden.
And I would call on Congressman Castle to introduce Dr. Venezky, Unidel Professor of Educational Studies and Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware.
Mr. Castle. I thought I was doing the introduction, Mr. Chairman? You're sort of halfway through it right there.
Chairman Goodling. Oh, that was your introduction?
Mr. Castle. No, that was part of it. But we are delighted to have Dr. Venezky here. In addition to what the Chairman has already told us he was the National Research Director for the U.S. Secretary of Education's Initiative on Reading and Writing, and the past president of the Reading Hall of Fame and Director of Computing the Dictionary of Old English at the University of Toronto.
From '90 to '95 he was co-Director for Research and Development for the National Center on Adult Literacy. Prior to coming to the University of Delaware--and I should pause here and point out that people do have lives before they come to Delaware--he was the Chair of Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and during the 1994/1995 academic year he was a Benton Visiting Scholar in Education at the University of Chicago.
He holds degrees in Linguistics from Cornell and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University. He has written a number of books and articles on reading instruction, he has been involved in authoring instructional programs and materials for reading, spelling, and language arts.
In short, he is obviously an extremely knowledgeable individual in this field. I have looked forward to hearing his testimony. If I could just add, Mr. Chairman, this is not in the form of an opening statement, I hate to say anything is the most important, but I can't imagine many subjects in this world that are more important than teaching young people how to read. To me, it is the key to almost everything in life, to the enjoyment of life, to earnings potential--I think this is a tremendous hearing.
My schedule, unfortunately, is such I'm not going to be able to sit through the entire hearing, but I cannot imagine a more important subject matter. And I would just like to thank you and the panelists for taking this up, and I hope the world takes note of what we're doing because it really is something we need to focus on in this country.
Thank you for the opportunity to introduce Dr. Venezky.
Chairman Goodling. I'm sorry, Dr. Venezky. If we could ask all of you if you can summarize as much as possible, your testimony, because I'm sure that a lot of people want to ask a lot of questions. And there's a second panel that hopes there's still people up here who also want to participate.
STATEMENT OF DR. RICHARD VENEZKY, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE, NEWARK, DELAWARE
Mr. Venezky. Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee. Let me first say that after that introduction I can't wait to hear what I have to say. You have in the paper that I distributed, a lot of what Pogo calls wise words of wisdom--in this case about reading, reading research, reading failure. You also have some graphs and tables to challenge your document reading skills, as Educational Testing Service would call them.
In the 300,000 milliseconds that I've been allocated for this oral summary, I'd like to touch just on three main points in relation to the topic before you.
The first one is that if we are to solve America's reading problems, then we must very carefully distinguish friend from foe. And by this I mean, with limited resources for dealing with the reading problem, it's important to understand where we're succeeding and where we're failing so that we focus these resources where they can do the most good.
I want to remind you first that by international standards drawn from a 1991 comparison across 32 nations, United States children at 4th and 9th grade are second in the world only to Finland; that is, statistically we differ only from Finland. We are ranked among a group of nations at ninth grade, and among two or three at 4th grade.
That is, if we truly are concerned about world-class standards, on the average at 4th and 9th grade, we're there. And when you factor out only the 18 nations who make up the OECD group who are our trading partners, who are of major concern, we're still in the same rank order.
However, this very same assessment, along with the National Assessment of Educational Progress, point out that we have extreme inequalities across different subpopulations within our school total population. And while we would prefer to speak of these problems according to socio-economic status, unfortunately that's a difficult variable to tap in national and international surveys.
Though most of what I'll talk about are racial/ethnic differences, that you must understand that these are just proxies for issues like poverty, like single-parent homes, like low education among parents, and so on.
When we look at the international comparisons we can see that at 4th grade level, as an example, 70 percent of all Whites were at or above the OECD average while only 40 percent of the Blacks and 50 percent of the Hispanic.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress showed us in 1994, the last date of reporting, that the average Black and Hispanic 12th grader read at roughly the same level as the average White 8th grader, and this difference persists even with college education. According to the National Adult Literacy Survey that the Chair cited earlier, the average Black college graduate reads at roughly the same level as a White who has only a high school degree or a GED certification.
Now, the one piece of good news which you can find in Figure 4 is that, from 4th grade to 12th grade, when you look at the gains made in reading by Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites, what you see are parallel curves. That is, even though they start out at very different points on the reading scale, the next eight years of education give them equal opportunities to continue to achieve.
This means that if we're going to focus our resources we've got to ask, what is happening from birth through 4th grade that's creating these differences? Now, I'm going to speak in very general terms about what the problems are. Dr. Lyon, as you all know, is going to focus much more on reading disabilities and some of the research that elucidates what it is that children are missing when they come in to school.
So my first point is, we have friends and we have foes. We're succeeding in some areas, we're failing in others. It's important, therefore, to understand where the successes are and where we need to focus energies.
My second point is, that unlike the high jump or the pole vault, we have multiple barrier to learning to read. In fact, there are three primary barriers that our research and other research shows.
The first is something that goes on in the home from birth until entry to school. And the recent White House Conference on Early Development pointed out in rather stark clarity, the enormous differences in vocabulary and expressive language that children from different types of homes bring to school at kindergarten and 1st grade levels.
And these are very serious differences that impact ability to learn to read, the affect ability to profit from schooling altogether.
Secondly, we know that there are problems in instruction. We know there are schools doing well with low-income children and there are schools doing not-so-well. Furthermore, we know there's an enormous amount of research that bears upon this question that is not being capped, and this is an issue that I'll get to in a moment.
Thirdly, we know there are enormous differences in out-of-school reading, and that this makes an enormous difference for continued progress from the middle school grades, onward. There's more than a 10:1 difference in number of words per year read across different levels of student reading ability.
Thus, in summary, I find that there are three areas that we would need to work on. There is no single area that we can simply dissolve in some way and thereby solve the reading problem. Now, what can we do about this?
My third point, very succinctly, is that the solutions are difficult but they're not impossible. They rank on the Herculean scale somewhere between cleaning the Aegean stables and catching the Pneumian lion. First, we need parallel efforts in research and development, and in improvements in fostering homework with children in language and cognitive development, and thirdly, in support of schools and in community-wide programs that foster out-of-school reading.
We need to continue to build the research and development infrastructure that we've so carefully brought along to the present point, and we need especially to find mechanisms to move research to practice. Dr. Lyon and I have submitted a proposal jointly to the Secretary of Education and the Director of NIH for this, and we hope that this can move forward with great speed.
We need to improve schools through research-based work. Secondly, we need to find a way to reach parents, especially parents who are on welfare, parents from the poorer areas, parents who have low educational levels, and find ways to help them foster better language and cognitive development.
We have interesting models developed by people like Herb Sigel at ETS, Grover Whitehurst at one of the S.U.N.Y. universities, the HIPPIE Program and others.
Thirdly, we need to continue to build community support. Reading is not simply an in-school phenomenon, nor is there any solution we can bring about through schools alone that will solve all of our reading problems. America Reads, Read Right Now, Reading is Fundamental, Everybody Wins, are all pieces of the larger quilt that we need to foster.
When we look at things like nationwide volunteer tutoring, for example, we must understand that this is not a program that intends to raise achievement in any significant way by itself. It's a way of improving attitudes towards reading; it's a way of helping bring to parents and to teachers, support in their efforts to help children; it's a way to bring a community emphasis on literacy, that we can see helping in a lot of communities such as Minneapolis/St. Paul and in Baltimore.
There are no magic bullets, no drugs, no single programs that are going to solve the reading problem for us. We just remain committed first to high standards for all. We must ask schools and those who claim to have the answer to this problem, how well their students are doing relative to national and international standards.
It is not enough just to do a little better than those who aren't doing very much at all. Mort Sol said many, many years ago--for those of you who remember who Mort Sol is; the comedian back from the time when horses like Secretariat and Nashua were still running around--Mort Sol said that the future lies ahead.
We have many of the pieces to this particular problem that are going to help us in the future. We need Federal support in coordinating and fostering and helping bring together practitioners from the field to form consensus panels to further reading, both within and outside of schools. The answers are going to be found within improved family practices, improved schools, improved community practices.
A nation that can put something a little larger than an oversized shoe box on Mars and have it wander over to a rock called Barnacle Bill and scratch a little on it, can certainly solve its reading problems if it focuses its energies and its resources.
I appreciate the opportunity to come in here to tell you all these truths about reading, to tell you how to do your job, and I look forward to exchanging more information with you. Thank you for your attention.
See Appendix C for the written statement of Dr. Venezky
Chairman Goodling. Several months ago the staff said that I should hear Dr. Lyon from NIH talk about reading. And I said, what does NIH have to do with reading? I've been here all these years and had no idea that there was an ongoing research project at NIH in relationship to reading, I guess since 1985.
Dr. Lyon is the Acting Chief of the Learning Disabled, Cognitive and Social Development Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He's authored, co-authored, and edited over 85 journal articles, books, and book chapters addressing learning differences and disabilities in children.
We welcome you here today, Dr. Lyon.
STATEMENT OF DR. REID LYON, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CHILD HEALTH AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND
Dr. Lyon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.
I am Dr. Reid Lyon, Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch, which is a name change of the Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health. I am most pleased to have the opportunity to present to you information about the results of extensive research that our Institute has supported since 1965 on the process of learning to read, the reason why so many kids have difficulties learning to read, and what can be done to overcome these difficulties.
There's no doubt the psychological, social, and economic consequences of reading failure are legion, and it is for this reason the NIHCHD considers reading failure to reflect not only an educational problem but a public health problem as well.
And within this context, a large, well-coordinated network consisting of 18 supported research sites across the country has been working extremely hard to: (1) understand the critical conditions that foster solid and strong reading development; (2) to identify the risk factors that predispose youngsters to reading failure; and very importantly, the instructional procedures that can be applied to ameliorate reading deficits at the earliest possible time.
Typically, beginning with youngsters at about five years of age, we've studied over 10,000 children, many of them longitudinally since 1965. Unfortunately, we've learned that a large number of our nation's kids fail to learn to read. We find that at least 20 percent and probably closer to 30 percent of children, never learn to read well enough so that they learn from what they read and that they enjoy it.
While some international test data suggests that America's children are reading on a par with good readers in the rest of the world, our findings clearly indicate that when over 10 million of our children fail to learn to read, the comparison with other countries becomes a moot issue. These children are hurting, and this hurt follows them through the remainder of their lives, and they are literally disenfranchised from leading a full life.
Because we study broad populations of children from every socio-economic, social and ethnic strata, we've learned that in general, reading failure is frequently attributable to a combination of complex factors.
Kids who are most at risk for reading failure enter formal schooling with limited exposure to language, little experience playing with nursery rhymes and the like to develop an awareness of the sounds of our speech, limited vocabularies, few experiences with books and print so that they are aware of how words reflect language and convey meaning, limited proficiency in English, and they frequently come from homes where their parents aren't reading well either.
In a more specific vein, our studies have found that at least four factors can hinder reading development, irrespective of environmental, socio-economic, ethnic, and biological factors. And these factors are detailed in my full report. I'll just summarize them briefly here.
Poor readers have difficulties understanding that the words that they hear are made up of small segments of sounds called phonemes. In fact, a majority of kids who have difficulties learning to read lack what we call phonemic awareness. This understanding that our speech is made up of individual sounds and that there are connections between the sounds and the letters on the page, is fundamental to the development of phonic skills, which in turn is critical to developing the ability to decode and recognizing words quickly and accurately when reading.
Specifically, difficulties identifying sounds and linking them to letters makes it difficult to read the words on a page rapidly. In turn, the slow reading of words makes it nearly impossible to gain meaning from the print. We know now that one of the best predictors of difficulties in comprehending what we read is the speed by which we read words, and we also know that the best predictor of how quickly one reads words is this skill in phonemic awareness.
We have learned how to measure these skills as early as the first semester in kindergarten with tasks that take about 15 minutes to administer, and we can predict with about 92 percent accuracy, those kids who are going to have a tough time learning to read at the kindergarten level and as they move through 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades.
A second major impediment to learning how to read has to do with how kids understand what they read. The point of learning to read is to understand what is read, to learn from what is read, and to enjoy reading.
NICHD and other research clearly shows that while fast, accurate reading of single words is necessary for reading comprehension, it clearly is not sufficient. Children also must have the vocabulary and other critical language skills that Dr. Snow may allude to, to understand the words they read and the ability to associate what they read to what they already know.
A tough issue is seeing that kids who don't learn to read don't maintain the motivation to want to learn to read. Most kids are going to enter school with positive attitudes and expectations for success. However, it is extraordinarily surprising as we watch these little ones grow up, how quickly they begin to avoid reading when they don't learn the skills easily.
In the primary grades, reading is the most frequent academic activity and the most visible to other kids around the reader. And youngsters who read slowly and laboriously are quick to feel embarrassed because of their difficulties and lose motivation much more quickly than we ever thought.
It's been quite a surprise to all of our NIH and NICHD researchers to watch kids as young as 6 years, 5 months of age, have stomachaches and say they hate to come to school because they simply cannot negotiate the words on the page.
As evidence mounts that reading difficulties originate in large part from problems in developing phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling skills, the ability to read quickly and the ability to comprehend, the need for informed instruction for the millions of children with insufficient reading skills is an increasingly urgent problem.
Unfortunately, several of our most recent studies indicate that fewer than 10 percent of our nation's teachers have an adequate understanding of how reading develops and how to assess and provide reading instruction to laboring readers--less than 10 percent.
I'd like to conclude with a couple of major points. First, on the positive side. The NICHD studies have taught us that for 85 to 90 percent of poor readers, prevention and early intervention programs in kindergarten and 1st grade that combine instruction in phoneme awareness, phonics, spelling, fluency in reading comprehension, provided by well-trained teachers, can increase reading skills to near-average or better.
However, we also know that if we wait to provide appropriate instruction until nine years of age--the 3rd grade when most kids are typically picked up--75 percent of those kids will remain difficult or poor readers the remainder of their life. That is not to say that older kids and adults cannot be taught to read. The expense and effort to bring about reading change probably about quadruples if we don't get to it early.
Finally and very critically, in terms of how we think about what we need to do. As Dr. Venezky pointed out eloquently, we have learned that no single method, no single approach or philosophy for teaching reading, is equally effective for all children. There is no quick fix and there is not a magic bullet that will cure our reading ills.
It is the teacher that is the key to reading success for all of our children. And our teachers are in substantial need of better preparation and support to accomplish this job. It will be the teacher that uses research-based information about reading development and about reading difficulties that she or he will use to construct programs for kids who don't learn to read well, that in our opinion, will in fact, eradicate reading failure in this country.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, the NICHD appreciates your interest in and support of, this productive research program over the past 20 or more years, and it is very pleased to have had this opportunity to report to you on the major findings of this effort. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you, the Chairman, or the Members may have.
See Appendix D for the written statement of Dr. Reid Lyon
Chairman Goodling. Thank you, Dr. Lyon. The Speaker gave me an assignment two-and-a-half years ago to do what I could do to make sure the D.C. Schools are the model for the country. Dr. Lyon is going to try to help do that, and I've asked the appropriators to give us some money to make sure, as you said at the end, that the teachers are prepared then, to do whatever it is the research says they should be doing.
Our next witness I met probably about a year ago at a NASPINS Institute meeting, and he was telling us all these wonderful things. And then he indicated that it was Chapter 1 money that was supporting it, and I said Thank God, I'm finally hearing a good report on Chapter 1.
So Dr. Robert Slavin is the co-Director of CRESPAR, Center for the Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University. He has authored and co-authored more than 180 articles and 15 books. He also received the American Education Research Association's Raymond B. Cattell Early Career Award for Programmatic Research in 1986.
Dr. Slavin. I have a one-page presentation summary.
Do you all have that?
STATEMENT OF DR. ROBERT E. SLAVIN, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
Dr. Slavin. I am very pleased to be here today to address you on this very important topic. I think this is an extraordinarily exciting time in the forum of schools generally, and specifically in the area of reading. I think people are beginning to consider possibilities that could have a profound impact on the performance of so many children.
As I see the situation, we're in a situation where we have a pretty good understanding of how children learn to read and a pretty good understanding of what goes wrong when they don't learn to read. We have a very well-defined target. I think the 40 percent of children who are not reading adequately at 4th grade is a reasonable definition of the group whose performance we need to be worried about.
I think it's clear that it's going to take a very broad approach to meet the needs of all of those children, and that their needs will be quite different. The needs of children who are reading just somewhat below grade-level are different from those who are reading far below grade level, which are quite different from those who are truly dyslexic.
But clearly, we need to move on a very broad scale to make a difference in the reading instruction for children in very large numbers. And this is really the problem.
There are more than a million teachers who teach reading in the United States. If you think just of Title I elementary schools, there are about 50,000 of them. Just to shake hands with the principals would take you the rest of your life, much less to provide meaningful, professional development for this number of teachers in this number of schools.
The question is, how in a practical way, can you provide effective instruction to so many children in so many locations? How can you change what teachers are doing every day? Because I can assure you that nothing less than that is going to make a serious dent in the problem. Because we can change legislation, we can add money, we can add any number of governance changes, we can have choice, we can have vouchers, we can do all kinds of things--but they will not affect what happens on a day-to-day basis between teachers and children, and in the area of reading and most other areas, that is where the difference has got to be made.
The solution I would argue, for this, has got to be to provide teachers in schools with proven strategies--not simply general principles, not just general ideas about what to do, not just you know, here, read this research articles and this may help--but proven strategies that are well worked out, well researched, known to be effective, known to be replicable, and then make these broadly available to schools.
My own experience with this has a lot to do with a program called Success For All. It is a program that we began in Baltimore and now exists in about 750 schools in 38 States. It involves extensive professional development for teachers of pre-kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade, 1:1 tutoring for children who are having particular difficulties in learning to read in 1st grade, and a very active parent involvement program--family support program--to deal with any problems that children may have outside of the classroom.
We have a great deal of research, mostly done by third-party evaluators, to show the effectiveness of this approach in comparison to traditional kinds of approaches that similar children would receive. We've done a lot of research to find out that the program can be replicated and that it's effective in its replication sites as well.
But Success For All is only an example. There are any number of kinds of approaches that could be used that would be school-wide approaches, things that teachers would choose, where you know, we emphasize that teachers make an informed choice among programs that would require that at least 80 percent of the school staff vote by secret ballot to take on the program so it's not something imposed on them.
I think that other programs, other school-wide programs should and usually do the same. So it's a choice that teachers can make from among well-developed programs that are well-researched and known to be effective.
If we had a range of such programs--and I would argue that we do, although we need many more--if we had a range of programs available that could reliability increase student achievement in a wide variety of schools, particularly schools serving high-poverty populations, I think this has profound implications for policies at the Federal and State levels.
I think most importantly is Title I. As Mr. Goodling was pointing out, Title I is overwhelmingly the largest source of funding for reform in high-poverty schools. We have been working at this for quite some time and we work in lower poverty schools as well as very high-poverty schools, and I can assure you that those schools who do not have Title I resources, no matter what their per-pupil costs are--and you can have schools in suburban areas where they are spending $13,000 per child every year but they have no money for reform because the $13,000 is all tied up with routine operations.
Title I is the source of funding for, not only our reform model, but virtually all reform models that have been proposed and widely used. However, it's still a small minority of Title I schools that are using anything that is as systematic and well-researched as Success For All or other kinds of school-wide programs.
I think that there needs to be a major shift in how Title I is used: both an encouragement of schools to use Title I funds to adopt well-developed programs, and implement them with quality and care; as well as to improve the choices that are available to these schools by investing in infrastructure, by investing in research and development and scale-up of effective models, as well as giving additional funds to school during the early years of implementation of new models to help them with the start-up costs that will always be present in any kinds of programs that are going to be school-wide change.
In other words, I think that if we begin to think of Title I as a source for reform rather than as a source for additional money for high-poverty schools to serve kids who are having individual difficulties _and it can be that as well. So we need to think of Title I differently as a source for reform. This is happening already without any special legislation doing it, but on a small scale.
We have millions of children, a million teachers, tens-of-thousands of schools that need to be served, that are having many children with serious difficulties. We can make a difference with those children. I think that the research that we've been doing on our Success For All Program and research others have done on other kinds of replicable models, has implications for other kinds of initiatives as well.
Just to mention briefly, America Reads. As Dr. Venezky was talking about, we're not going to solve the reading problems of 10 million children by providing them with volunteer tutors alone. That can be and should be, part of a solution, but we need to do much more with families, with schools, with communities, to see that all children are going to be successful at reading.
We need to have, in this case as well, replicable models that we know can make a difference with large numbers of children. In Special Education, if we have knowledge that the large number of children who wind up being called reading disabled did not have to be reading disabled had they had high quality instruction in pre-school, kindergarten, 1st grade, as well as 1:1 tutoring if they needed it, this would put a very different slant on how we think about Special Education and Special Education reform.
And in terms of systemic reform generally, the reform of our schools, we need to have a way to have school-by-school change be the purpose of systemic reform; not simply to change things in Washington or Annapolis or Sacramento, but to change things in classrooms is going to take a great deal more than changes in governance and funding structures.
But those funding and government structures must be changed to enable schools, to encourage schools, and to fund schools, to be able to adopt programs likely to make a systematic difference in the achievement of very large numbers of children at risk.
See Appendix E for the written statement of Dr. Slavin
Chairman Goodling. We have a vote on at the present time and I was telling Mr. Hoekstra to go and vote and come back so we could keep this hearing going, and Mr. Barrett thought I meant that he should go, and they were both going.
Dr. Catherine Snow, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Snow received her Ph.D. in Psychology from McGill University in 1971, then worked for several years in the Linguistic Department of the University of Amsterdam. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Center for Applied Linguistics, and was Member of the National Research Council Task Force to establish a research agenda for language-minority children.
Welcome, Dr. Snow.
STATEMENT BY DR. CATHERINE SNOW, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS.
Dr. Snow. Thank you; I'm very pleased to be here. Let me state for the record that I am currently also chairing a National Academy National Research Council Committee on Preventing Reading Difficulties in Children aged zero to eight; that my remarks here today are my own. The Committee has not yet issued its report, so these remarks should not be taken as an early indication of what that report will say.
I hope that whoever put this panel of witnesses together was not expecting a high level of controversy. I think it's clear that we all agree on some basic principles: that reading is complicated, that it is a multiply-determined outcome, that it's possible to succeed as a reader really in only one way--by figuring out the system--but it's possible to fail in many ways and for many different reasons.
I'm going to focus in these few minutes on one area of research I think is particularly relevant to policy. I will summarize 40 years of research in five minutes and I thus try to make only three points.
I'm going to focus on the issue of readiness, of children arriving at school ready to learn, which is an admirable goal, and I will argue that there is really one component to school readiness for reading, and that is language. That children who will be reading well when they leave school are children who have arrived at school with strong language skills.
Language is crucial to literacy. What we read when we read, is language, and richness of language abilities is a very important contributor to reading ability, for a number of reasons. Reid Lyon has identified a couple. Vocabulary. If you encounter a lot of strange words when you read you have a difficult time understanding text. Analysis of the language system is clearly part of the task of the reader.
Most generally, I think the issue is that the kindergarten and 1st grade teachers are forced by the presence of 25 children in their classrooms, to make certain assumptions about what children already know, and children who arrive in those classrooms without the foundations for the instruction the teachers will try to deliver, simply are missing the boat in much of that instruction.
So where do children learn language? Well, children learn language at home. They learn language on their mother's laps, they learn language at the dinner table. And it's quite clear that families that spend an extra ten minutes a day talking to their kids have children with larger vocabularies; that families that spend an extra ten minutes a day reading a book with a preschooler have children who do better when they get to school.
So these are very powerful effects; they're not effects that require massive interventions. They're effects that reflect the differences between organized families who understand the importance of language, and have a little bit of leisure to devote to their children and families who are in crisis.
The other place children learn language of course, is in pre-schools. Pre-schools have very often been constructed, including compensatory pre-school programs like Head Start, as academic enrichment programs, as places to learn the alphabet, as places to start to learn to read.
I would argue that they should be constructed as places to expand children's language systems. That language is the crucial skill to be acquired in the pre-school period. And we want to encourage neither families nor pre-school teachers to be doing what 1st grade teachers should be doing. We want to encourage them to be providing the basis for 1st grade reading instruction.
An implication of this view is that parents should be doing this with their children in the children's first language and in the parent's first language. It would not be easy to provide a rich language environment to a child in a language you don't speak very well, and yet much of the advice that immigrant families get from teachers and from pediatricians and from well-meaning educational practitioners, suggests to them that they should switch to English as a home language. That is a very, very destructive tendency and something that we should undertake to avoid.
So the implications of this work are, I would argue, three. We need to support families in ways that will enable them to provide rich language environments for their children because that does constitute the primary source of reading readiness for pre-school children. We need to think about incentives in providing compensatory pre-school education, daycare, and so forth, to ensure that those are environments which focus on children's language development and not primarily on teaching them how to read.
And we thirdly, mustn't let readiness be undermined by well-meaning but misguided efforts to prematurely induct immigrant families into the English language. We should give them time to develop language in whatever language the children and the parents speak best, and let introduction to English wait until children get to school.
See Appendix G for the written statement of Dr. Snow
Chairman Goodling. I recognize Congressman Fattah to introduce our next witness.
Mr. Fattah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to welcome Dr. Vivian Gadsden from the University of Pennsylvania, who is going to add to the testimony we've heard today. She's received her doctorate from the University of Michigan and she has written extensively on issues related to literacy development, particularly as it relates to urban youth and minority youth in this country.
She is presently the Director of the Center for Fathers and Families at the Grad School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, and an associate professor. Welcome, and we look forward to your testimony.
Chairman Goodling. Dr. Gadsden.
STATEMENT BY DR. VIVIAN L. GADSDEN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
Dr. Gadsden. Thank you. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. It is a great pleasure for me to present some of my issues to you this morning. This pleasure's only parsed by some dismay on my part as a researcher of literacy and families and an advocate for children, that our effort on behalf of children have yielded so little change over time.
Because I do focus on families and literacy I want to say that it's a pleasure to see Mr. Fattah here whose daughter recently graduated from my institution and who has told me, actually just two days ago, that she plans to enter our Graduate School of Education as a graduate student. So we know that the work will go on.
Despite considerable attention to children's literacy learning, we seemingly are parked between an apparent desire to improve children's literacy because we think strong literary abilities will improve their life chances, and perplexity about how to translate what we know from research into effective learning experiences for children, particularly those who differ in income, ethnicity, and life experiences from each other and from us.
My own work has been on intergenerational learning within families, particularly in low-income African-American and Latino families in urban and rural areas. And so I agree with my colleagues here today that there should be a great focus on parents and on families in trying to support children.
Rather than talk only about intergenerationality, however, I want to identify six themes that I think should be considered as we attempt to reduce the apparent intractability of children's poor reading. And part in preparation for today, I contacted several of my colleague around the country just to get a sense of what they thought the major reading issues are.
And there was a study done, I guess about a year or two ago by a woman named Rona Filippo, and she found enormous consistency across researchers around the nature of the problems. And so it was no surprise, as Dr. Snow mentioned, that you would hear some consistency here today.
In addition to the need to increase coordination of services--and I believe this is critical--that these are systemic problems that require a systematic approach. And to paraphrase a colleague of mine at Penn, Ralph Smith, it is amazing that we have done so much and achieved so little. There is a necessary focus on interdisciplinary work and it's great to see Reid Lyon here, and obviously we need increased funding.
But six areas that I think should be considered are, first, a national effort to support children learning literacy. One in which children have access to committed and trained assistants and tutors who make sure that they help children make the connections between and among literacy learning, their school and life experiences, and the purposes and task for tutoring itself.
Such efforts must be more than short-term agendas, however, and they must be implemented over time and with the knowledge that change for intergenerationally poor and educationally disadvantaged children and families, is not a short-term enterprise but lead to self-sufficiency, self-efficacy, and the transfer of literacy knowledge, goals, and values, from one generation to another.
A second is a rejection of a one-size-fits-all philosophy. A philosophy that tends to polarize and not particularly serve children well. On the one hand, as Reid Lyon mentioned, we must acknowledge the code and the importance of phonemic awareness.
On the other, we must utilize the strength of whole language approaches and literature-based instruction. The field will need to act on behalf of children and strive for informed and realistic balance--a kind of bi-partisanship, one might suggest.
Third, I suggest a focus on language and literacy needs with which children enter school. As my colleagues have stated, there is enormous variability in the knowledge with which children come to classrooms. Keith Stanovich refers to the likelihood of children who have had the fewest resources prior to school experiencing the greatest number of problems.
What is needed is greater emphasis on language-related issues for bilingual children, children who speak African-American vernacular or other non-standard dialects and who are sometimes punished for such--and children who have not received the necessary pre-reading and pre-school experiences. And we have to do this without applying harmful stereotypes that contribute to their failure and certainly to their marginalization.
I think we also need to forego, and if not outrightly try to steer away from, a seduction of suggesting that the problems lie within the children and their experiences. In fact, poor children have horrific experiences, but the reality is that all of the problems do not lie there and we need to focus on ways that teachers and other communities of people might support children.
Fourth, I suggest more thoughtful and creative ways to build and build upon communities and community resources. Children learn in a variety of places and from a variety of human and material resources. Churches, libraries, and voluntary efforts in communities enhance the opportunities for children to read and to receive support for literacy.
Fifth, I suggest an investment in pre-service and ongoing professional developments. There is as much variability in the preparation of undergraduates who plan to be teachers as there is variability in the pre-school experiences of children. What is needed is more attention to pre-service activities, including opportunities for prospective teachers to work with students as tutors and resources.
In addition, a nationally recognized set of activities is needed, a coherent core of ways of thinking about teaching and supporting children that enables teachers to choose between and among, the most strategic approaches. At present, teachers are often caught between the competing strategies of publishers who often tend to produce work that highlights the most popular debate rather than the most effective method for reaching diverse classroom children from classrooms and schools.
Inherent in initiatives such as America Reads, are opportunities to strengthen children's literacy experiences and contribute to a culture of positive support for, and social investment in, children.
Sixth, to reiterate once again what has been said here today, a focus on families and a focus on families at risk--whose children by the way, are also at risk--and on the contributions of both fathers and mothers; how parents perceive their own literacy and assess their children's literate behaviors is critical on how they make meaning out of the developmental and literate activities in which their children are engaged.
Poverty explains much of the variance in literacy, and the embeddedness of poverty in the lives of children limits both their human and academic potential and ultimately their ability to contribute to society as good citizens.
And lastly, I suggest a more critical discourse and a more critical examination of the reality of culture, race, and diversity. The relative absence of a critical discourse about diversity and culture above and beyond the recognition of difference alone, requires a reanalysis of the approaches used to teach reading and writing, assessment of instructional tools and artifacts used to convey the meaning of literacy within different contexts, and a discussion of what counts as knowing and knowledge.
Do the cultural and literate experiences of African-American boy from a low-income area such as some of them in North Philadelphia count as much as the experiences of a white boy from a middle class home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, or an African-African-American or Latino boy from a middle class home in Los Angeles? What is nature of each boy's prior knowledge, and when and how do we achieve access to this knowledge or use it on behalf of the literacy development of children?
In conclusion, I want to say that it has become increasingly clear to me that not all, but some, of the traditional, conceptual, empirical, and policy models are inadequate to really get to the core of deep-seated problems that are a part of our contemporary experience.
As increasing numbers of children and families become more vulnerable to hardship and the problems of low literacy persist, the issues take on a sense of urgency requiring the intellectual strength of researchers, the social commitment of the public, and your political will, to effect positive social change.
I think when the ante is the literacy development of children, however, the investment is more than worth the work. I want to thank you for the opportunity to share these notes with you today.
See Appendix H for the written statement of Dr. Gadsden
Mr. Hoekstra. [presiding] Thank you very much. I have to tell you that when I was listening to your testimony, Dr. Venezky--I don't have all the statistics right in front of me--but you indicated that we were achieving at world-class levels. And we've had a series of hearings around the country called Education at the Crossroads.
What has struck us has been the importance of percentages of remedial education for kids who are graduating from high school and entering college. I think we've heard statistics in the high 20s, low 30s, in both California and Arizona.
How are you defining world-class standard? When we compare to everybody else, we're near or at the top, so are we as good as everybody else? Or are you defining a world-class standard as we're getting the kind of results that we, as a nation, ought to be getting and it's not a major problem; we've just got to be fine-tuning it?
Dr. Venezky. Well, first let me qualify. The Goals 2000 along with the other goals related to achievement, typically use the term world-class to simply mean, being best or among the best among our trading partners; that is, the more industrialized, advanced nations in the world.
If we accept that and you look at the reading and the recent TIMMS results for math and science, what you can see is, by those standards, clearly we are at that point on the average. The point I'm trying to make is, the average is not good enough for us. We have too many inequalities; that is, even being world-class does not mean that we don't have 20, 30, 40 percent of our students who, across the board--math, reading, science, and even social studies--don't need further help.
My argument would be much more that we have to stop saying to schools in so many words, everything you're doing is wrong. We have to rather say that we can see things that you are doing well, but there are other areas where we need to focus energy where we need to do better.
The idea that 40 percent of 4th graders can't read at the basic level is a total arbitrary decision of a small group of people who set the performance levels for the NAEP 4th grade, 8th grade, 12th grade reading scales. And I think most people who have examined them are aware that these represent a type of wish-list much more than they represent any honest attempt to set goals that reflect the reality of either schooling demands or civic, occupational, and personal need.
So I'm not sure, you know, where to take you beyond that. I mean, like our children, we can always look for improvement no matter how well they do. My point is more that we need to focus our energy where we need help. Our best are pretty damn good, and I think we should recognize that. At the same time we must recognize that we're not doing well for a very large percentage of the students at the bottom, and that's where our energies need to be.
Mr. Hoekstra. You're saying the percentage there at the bottom in different categories may be as high as 30 or 40 percent?
Dr. Venezky. I would prefer not to get into the percentage game. Let's just say that it is large enough that we should be alarmed; not so large that in fact, we don't score on the average quite well against all of our trading partners.
Mr. Hoekstra. That's what concerns me. By coming out of the private sector when we hear we're competing on a world-class level, or that we're benchmarking against our competitors on an international basis. That was usually pretty good news. You'd say, well, we've got our game plan down and we just need to keep refining it, and there wouldn't be a cause for alarm.
What you're saying is, we may be benchmarking but when we take a look at the absolute results, there ought to be a general consensus that we're not doing as well as we could and, using your words, then there is a cause for alarm.
Dr. Venezky. Well, there's the cause for alarm and also, we have to keep in mind, when we talk about world-class standards we're using an economic competitive model, and we're mainly concerned with whether our achievement is good enough to keep our position in the global economy?
There are many other issues of concern. There are issues that relate to family development and stability; there are issues that relate to crime; there are issues that relate to voting and other types of civic responsibilities. And we know that that those people on the low end without appropriate literacy skills, typically are not voting in high numbers, they're not able to support their families, and they represent a very large percentage of those behind prison walls.
So there's much more to our national concern about reading ability then just our competitiveness. Let me give you a simple analogy using productivity. I'm sure on your Workforce side you've all heard people berate the quality of the workforce and the low skills of the American worker.
But how do you account for the fact that we are leading the world in productivity and the gap between us and our two main competitors--Japan and Germany--is actually getting bigger? That our productivity per worker is actually getting bigger through time when we're continually berating the American worker for having such low skills. I think that's the same issue that we have in Education.
Mr. Hoekstra. I think if we take a look at it from the kid's standpoint rather than the economic standpoint, we may be doing well enough to say we're competing internationally, but every time we lose a child, there's potentially huge social and economic costs.
Actually, the thing you just brought up is exactly what we are soon going to be focusing on, which is the American worker at a crossroads. We'll focus on the long-term implications of having our education system perhaps not being good enough, and what are the long-term costs will be and whether we will maintain the competitive advantage?
I think it's a huge opportunity cost. I'm worried about where we are competitive. But what's the opportunity cost if we could get more of our kids to a higher level, how much better could that be?
Dr. Lyon, I think you wanted to say something?
Dr. Lyon. Yes sir, I do, Mr. Hoekstra. Let me add to what Dr. Venezky is saying in a bit of a different way--in a more of an individual child way. If you sit in my seat and have the opportunity to visit 18 large research sites where 5-year-old's are followed for a minimum of five years, and sometimes as many as 15 years so they're now 21--and these kids come from all spans of life--economically, socially, and so on--there's great readers, moderate readers, very poor readers.
You have a chance to watch this unfold. I'm not a big fan of percentages either, but I will tell you that at least 20 percent of our nation's children cannot use reading to learn. In my initial remarks this morning I mentioned upwards to 30. I think that's probably still a bit conservative. Let me tell you what I mean.
Because we follow in some studies very good readers, or readers that span every level, I have an opportunity to talk with someone--and I hate to put a number on this--but someone at the 40th percentile in reading. That would typically be someone not judged as having a reading difficulty; that person reads better than 40 percent of the other kids that they're being compared with.
You ask that child or that child's teacher or the parents of that youngster, whether this kid reads. No. You ask this kid whether he or she likes to read. She says, absolutely not. They score fairly well, but the 40th percentile, which would be judged as fairly good reading, is not robust enough; it's not efficient enough. It's like all of us in this room practicing a skill at which we're okay at, but it takes an awful lot of labor to do.
So without talking about percentages, that's what I tried to say this morning. We can look at competing countries all day long, but the fact is, when you're looking at over 10 million of our kids who cannot use reading to benefit their life, then we do have a serious public health problem.
Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you. I think that's what I wanted to get. Is that we wouldn't leave here with a degree of comfort saying hey, we're world-class so we're okay. We've got an issue that's very important. I'll return the Chair back to the Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the panelists for their comments. This is an excellent hearing. It's one of the first where we've actually had testimony based on research rather than _I mean, academic research rather than on polling information or what sound bite sounds better.
So I was very delighted to hear the testimony. Dr. Lyon, you indicated that 92 percent of those that are going to have difficulties can be identified early. What do you do after you've identified them?
Dr. Lyon. The identification rates are fairly robust. We have those replicated now in two sites, and just to be clear about what we're talking about, with tasks that assess a number of the issues that Dr. Snow was talking about: vocabulary development, early literacy exposure, this understanding that words have words or phonemic awareness, the ability to name letters and words quickly. All of those combine to give us a good boles of information that says which kids are going to have fairly severe reading difficulties.
So let me make sure that as I'm talking about the prediction, we are 92 percent accurate on replication in predicting kids who will read below the 15th percentile; those are lousy readers. Now, what do you do?
All of the things that the panel members have talked about this morning, vis-a-vis all of the family language factors have to be done. What we're trying to understand at NIH is, straightforwardly, given a kid who is not going to be a good reader, what instructional conditions have to be in place in order to move that kid from point A--let's say very poor reading--to point Z, very good reading?
Let's just take a look at what the kid needs to know. This youngster needs to understand that the language they use have teeny sounds in it that can then later be applied to letters to learn phonics. I hate to get into this phonics stuff because we go down that whole language/phonics road. But to be clear, the sounds structure that a kid needs to learn has to be directly taught, its integration with phonics for these kids appears to have to be directly taught.
What I'm telling you is that phonics is non-negotiable, but it is not sufficient. Children, once they learn how to enter reading through the code--because our language that we read as a cipher must engage that skill in very rich literature, that Dr. Gadsden was talking about--there's an integration of skills that must be brought to these kids.
They need to learn sound structure, they need to learn phonics, they need to learn how to read words very, very quickly, and they need to do it with very strong, good literature that's meaningful. How do you do that? You have got to prepare teachers at very strong levels.
Mr. Scott. Let me ask you a question because I can get another question in right on that point. What skills should a teacher have and how do you evaluate who is going to be a good teacher and who's going to be a bad teacher? I assume you can't read that off a resume.
Dr. Lyon. No sir, you cannot.
Mr. Scott. So what skills should you be looking for _
Dr. Lyon. If I were going to hire a teacher _
Mr. Scott. For teaching high-risk students.
Dr. Lyon. Yes sir. If I were going to hire such a teacher I would want to know what that teacher knew about how reading develops, what are the critical conditions that undergird the development of reading skill and reading fluency.
I would want to know how much experience, given that knowledge, the teacher had translating the knowledge to actual practice. I would want to know how many diverse types of kids this teacher had experience with. And I would want to watch that teacher in action.
When we study children we also study teachers, and as I pointed out this morning, that less than ten percent of our teachers have just the content we're talking about, I think that's almost a conservative figure.
Less than two percent of our nation's teachers have ever seen their professor model or demonstrate teaching practices with children of diverse skills in a systematic way. About 90 percent of our teachers have never had the theories they have learned--the theoretical information--directly linked to providing instruction to a wide range of children.
So I would want to make sure that the teacher had her stuff, knew how to stuff the kids, and stuff the kids every chance they got.
Dr. Venezky. Might I add a short piece to that? In many States in this country you need two or fewer courses in reading to be certified as an elementary teacher. A group in the Bay Area have been collecting syllabi from these reading courses at the colleges in that area, and in some of these courses it's very difficult to tell from the syllabus whether it's a course in traditional American mythologies or a course in teaching reading.
Chairman Goodling. Ms. McCarthy.
Ms. McCarthy. Dr. Lyon, being that you're performing research on disabilities, I want you to know that I grew up with a disability. I had a hard time reading, and thank God I had very supportive parents. And as you were speaking, I was thinking of all the things that I was going through in the lower grades--feeling I was intelligent and yet having a hard time learning. It took me many, many years, even after high school, to get over those feelings.
I was lucky. I had an aunt that was a teacher, and she took me for a full summer and worked with me six, seven hours a day. She knew I had a love of reading because my father loved to read, and I wanted to read. So that probably saved me.
My son also has extremely severe learning disabilities, and of course when he went to school we had programs in place; I learned with him and it increased my thirst for knowledge. So I was lucky.
I do believe though, we are putting too many kids into resource rooms just because they don't know how to read. I know my aunt knew how to teach reading, and I find a lot of teachers don't have that skill today.
It's important to be able to take a child that doesn't have severe learning disabilities and teach them how to read, instead of labeling them as disabled. Kids do have labels put on them when they're in a disability program and that's a shame--I wish we could get away from that.
So I'm supportive of trying to find ways of teaching teachers how to teach, and I think that's one of the biggest problems that I see going into the schools and talking to teachers. Some of the newer teachers that are graduating can't even pass tests that are given to their students in 12th grade. That's scary.
And hopefully through this discussion--and I know there's no magic bullet and I know we can't have a set program for every child--we will develop some kind of program, to be able to teach our children to really read and comprehend. Because, as far as I am concerned, that is the solution to all our problems in this country.
Dr. Lyon. Ms. McCarthy, I agree with your very thoughtful analysis. Let me try to give you my perspective on what you've just said.
Clearly, a number of children who enter Special Education settings enter not because they couldn't have been taught to read, but because in a sense, they suffer from dispedagogia, or lousy teaching. One of the things we're studying very aggressively now at the NIH is how philosophies and belief systems drive teaching.
And of course we're your biomedical research arm, and the accountability for allowing belief systems and philosophies to drive something like clinical medicine, has some extraordinary negative outcomes. Driving education through belief systems where no data are present and then providing teachers with these philosophically-driven ideas where no data are present, is tantamount to malpractice in my consideration.
We have teachers that we survey in the State of California that are receiving doctorates in reading who literally have no idea about the kinds of things you've heard from this panel this morning. They have an idea that reading seems to develop naturally; that if you have good language capability, you know, you can listen and speak--that reading will come along right well, and you don't need to get the youngsters very early with very specific kinds of things.
Well, for a lot of kids that's true. A lot of kids will learn in spite of us. But I would venture that of the numbers of children that enter Special Education, if we were able to get to the kids early enough and powerfully enough, as we discussed earlier, that we could probably--and this is pure speculation on my part--we could probably reduce by 90 percent, the number of youngsters who enter Special Education settings for reading problems.
But it does in fact, come back to teacher preparation. Dr. Slavin's program is one of the most powerful programs I've had the opportunity to watch evolve and work, but Bob will tell you himself that some kids are not going to respond as well to some of the program's elements.
No person ever responds to the same medical regimen we may deploy for hamafluous influenza. There's got to be a titration of dosage; there's got to be a combination of teaching effects or treatment effects. Likewise, in teaching kids to read, no one program, as you point out, is going to carry all the oomph, and it's going to be the teacher and their conceptual knowledge that says, well I need to augment here, or I need to make sure family issues and family language issues are moving here.
It's a conceptual, professional process. It shouldn't be so method-driven. And I think in fact, we produce as many reading difficulties as we might see occurring with kids who just have an intrinsic difficulty.
Dr. Gadsden. Ms. McCarthy, I'd also like to say something in this regard. I want to thank you for bringing this issue up because in low-income communities we find that African-American children and Latino children who are poor, are disproportionately represented in these classrooms. And I was struck by two things that you said.
One was that your aunt spent an enormous amount of time with you, and two, that you had parents who could provide some structure for you. The issue of time and the ability to provide kids with additional support in addition to teaching because it just wasn't what was happening during those nine months of school, it was this additional support.
It suggests that while we really have to focus intensively on professional development, both getting our undergraduate students and teacher education programs to focus on content as well as trying to infuse some dedication and commitment to teaching, we have to provide teachers with ongoing support.
We have to provide teachers with opportunities to collaborate with each other, with time to do that, and with opportunities to work with researchers. The notion of research to practice is a kind of off-centered notion in my mind because it is a reciprocal relationship in which researchers really must to something to find out what's happening in practice, and practitioners have opportunities to inform researchers. I think you have perhaps, uniform policy-makers.
But programs such as America Reads provides, I think, a great opportunity for us to focus on additional tutoring for kids, and it in some ways provides an opportunity to reinvigorate the field. Certainly, we think about the possibilities for reading specialists to become more energized around us and to increase the numbers of people who want to take this area more seriously.
And I guess in conclusion I want to just say that as we continue to think about this, I want to reiterate what I said in my opening statement which was, that the problems do not lie only in children, and it is not enough to say they are poor, they are disenfranchised--the poor, you know, limpy children and their families are intergenerationally poor.
I would like for us to begin to think about what it would mean to make children and their families intergenerationally strong so that they can have opportunities in a more futuristic way.
Dr. Slavin. I just wanted to add a couple of things. First, we have evidence from evaluations of our program done by the University of Memphis in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that just with high quality pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and 1st grade programs, plus 1:1 tutoring for children who need it, of a reduction of children being assigned to Special Education for reading disabilities to one-quarter of what they had been.
The one-quarter was probably higher than it had to be even there, because the schools were worried about, if they reduced their pupil counts would they lose their Special Education resources, which is a big policy issue, too late to deal with because you've already passed IDEA, but that's another issue.
I want to be very clear. What we're talking about here in terms of changing the reading performance of so many children who are having difficulties in learning to read, is really a massive retooling of an entire workforce, and nothing less than that.
There are very small numbers of teachers who really have the deep understanding of reading that's necessary to see that children are successful at the critical moment of their development. Pre-service is not enough. If we improve the quality of pre-service education it would produce better teachers coming into the system, but each year only a small number are coming in as a proportion.
It's more a question of helping the teachers who are already in our classrooms, who are working very hard, who are doing the very best they know how using the materials that are given to them, and they are not getting it with a very large number of those children--and they could, with high quality programs available to them that are, you know, researched and known to be effective.
Chairman Goodling. I'm going to have to pay a little more attention to the 5-minute rule since we have all these folks that want to participate. I do want to recognize the fact that Dr. Andy Hartman is in the audience. He was a Staff Director here and is now the Executive Director of the National Institute of Literacy. Also welcome to a former Member of this Committee, Mr. Sawyer, who's been very active in literacy issues for a long, long time.
At this time I recognize Mr. Greenwood for five minutes.
Mr. Greenwood. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to pick up on Dr. Slavin's comment about massive retooling of a workforce. My daughter, who's just finished 5th grade, scored in the 99th percentile in reading comprehension and the 18th percentile in spelling. She has a learning disability and she's struggling.
We're sending her to a tutor every week and we pay for the tutor and we pay for somebody to take her to the tutor and all that sort of stuff. We can afford it and we're happy to do it.
But I think about another household where Mom and Dad get up every morning and go to work. Maybe their combined income is $50,000 a year. They've got to work all summer to pay their school taxes and their daycare. Their 8-year-old graduates from the 3rd grade not reading at grade level, and then goes to the daycare center where he's not really getting any remediation.
The teacher is taking the summer off, maybe making as much money as the combined household income of the family with the problem. We've got millions of kids who just finished their school year not reading at grade level who are sitting at home all summer doing nothing. We've got virtually a million teachers sitting at home this summer--I'll get in all kinds of trouble saying this--basically doing nothing.
We've got empty school buildings all over the place. It seems like if we can put Voyager on Mars, then we can teach all these kids. If NASA took the summer off, we'd have a hard time with what we're trying to do in space.
If every school district in the country said to its teachers' union each one of you has to teach summer school every five years at no extra pay as a commitment to this mess of national illiteracy, that would mean every kid who finishes a grade below grade level in reading, parents could choose the option spend the summer trying to get their child remediation.
And if the school said to those same teachers and you have to spend some time learning how to teach reading so that when it comes your turn once in five years, you're ready. Then I think we actually could solve this problem.
I'd like to know if any of you would like to endorse that proposal.
Dr. Gadsden. I'm just curious as to why the teachers would work one summer every five years at no additional pay. I believe that there's an oxymoron that's called faculty pay.
Mr. Greenwood. Well, let me quickly respond.
The answer is because they're getting a paycheck every week all summer long that's bigger than the paycheck of the mom and dad of the kid who can't read. That's one reason. And I know that teachers' salaries vary all over the country, and that's an issue here.
But I've got teachers in my school district making $80,000 a year, so nobody weeps if they have to work every fifth summer.
Dr. Lyon. Well, I would suggest, Mr. Greenwood, that if you were to--all things being equal, let's say you had summer programs. Doing more of the same thing is not going to get us where we need to go.
Mr. Greenwood. That's why I said they would have to spend some time learning how to teach reading.
Mr. Clay. Yes, sir.
Dr. Snow. Presumably the professional development that was enabling the teachers to do a good job during the summer would, if it was actually implemented effectively, eliminate the need for those summer programs because the kids would be learning to read during the school year.
The real point though, I think, is school years could be longer for everybody. And certainly professional development is not just a solution to problems of poor reading instruction for already badly trained or ill trained teachers. It's a solution for everybody.
Teaching is a life. It's a lifelong commitment, and it really does need lifelong support through professional development. MD's get it, faculty members at universities get it. It's ridiculous to think that you launch a teacher into a school to do the hardest job that you can do with four years of training, some of it not very good.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Roemer.
Sorry, but I'm going to have to move--
Mr. Roemer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I thought I was going to put you on the spot with a couple of tough questions, but I will not be able to compare to my friend from Pennsylvania's tough question to you.
First of all, I want to thank you again for your testimony. I think this is the most important hearing going on Capital Hill not just today, not just this week, but maybe all year. And I hope that we can continue to call you and use you as resources to get your knowledge and your input as we try to put legislation together to address this ongoing concern.
We have heard articulately from each one of you that learning starts not at three to six, but zero to nine. Zero to nine. We've heard that parental involvement and family involvement is key. We have heard that it's not just the children's fault when they can't read.
But we need to equip teachers with the adequate skills and training to be able to deal and teach effectively to those children.
Now here comes the tough question. If you had $2.75 billion dollars to spend on this problem, what would you spend it on? Dr. Snow said maybe we need to work more on vocabulary and other kinds of skills in Head Start. We've heard about professional development.
We've heard about research and development where we only spend $100 million a year. We've heard of Title I reform. Where are your two or three priorities? And let me start with Dr. Snow; and everybody should answer this, I would hope.
Dr. Snow. Certainly one major priority, if I were determining how that money would be spent, would be the expansion of Head Start. But also a professionalization viewing Head Start as an educational program and not primarily as a nutrition, health and community development program.
Head Start has done a very good job of the things that you can do without having educational professionals involved. It has not done such a good job of the things that require educational professionalism, namely really promoting children's development.
It's not a surprise. There are not teachers in most Head Start classrooms who know how to function optimally with three and four year old children. So let's make Head Start educationally appropriate to the age and the needs of the children it's serving.
Mr. Roemer. Dr. Gadsden.
Dr. Gadsden. Thank you.
Since I agree with Dr. Snow, I figured I'd just go next.
I believe that Head Start is a critical program, but I actually would invest money in Healthy Start because we are talking about people who are preparing to become parents and who are among the most disenfranchised.
And I would expand that focus to fathers as well as mothers and think critically about how we engage fathers in one meaningful experience with their children. I agree also with Dr. Snow that there is little to no professional development in Head Start.
And so greater emphasis on the professional development in Head Start and additional support where people really have training to help kids make the connections would be vital.
Mr. Roemer. Thank you.
Dr. Slavin. Well, it so happens I actually made a proposal like this to the Education Appropriations leadership a couple of weeks ago that focused on trying to have resources devoted to help schools with the start up cost for adopting effective models, building a larger set of effective and replicable models for schools to use, building up capacity for training of teachers and working with schools all over the country in models with good evidence of effectiveness, and building in some very rigorous third party evaluations so that we can find out what is effective, not just what people tell you is effective, but, something that really is independently derived and known to work.
And I think that applying that kind of idea to not only reading programs, but also to early childhood programs, to parent involvement or family support programs, to summer programs, to after school programs, to whatever it is that people are talking about.
I think we have to move to a time where we take evidence more seriously and then put money behind evidence, behind programs that have evidence of effectiveness and figure out how to disseminate them on a broad scale.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Ballenger.
Mr. Ballenger. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I apologize to the people here that I was unable to attend the hearing for your testimony. But I was coming from a place down in North Carolina it was a business decision we made. We were trying to find workers. We knew we couldn't find workers that were welfare mothers unless we provided daycare.
So a group of us in the industry got together and set up a daycare center in the black community in my district. My grandson went there. The teachers were CETA employees, the bottom of the totem pole. And yet, this school, and I wouldn't classify it as just a pure daycare center because they taught them.
The taught my grandson to read and write. Not write necessarily, but they taught him to read and do numbers and things. We talk about all the money we spend on teachers' programs. But here were CETA employees teaching these kids to read.
Maybe the ability to teach is something that not everybody has, or maybe some people just have it because it's a natural thing for them. But the one thing we found out in this daycare center that we have is that they teach. In fact, it's been in operation now about 15 years. The high school in my hometown, Hickory High School, tells me that they can tell who the students are that went through this daycare center because when they go to grammar and high school, they're well prepared.
The only thing that really kind of worries me now, and my wife keeps bugging me about it, and Mr. Goodling and I have talked about this before, is Head Start coming along and destroying this daycare center because there is Federal money out there now and you don't have to worry about it anymore.
You can go get a federally funded baby sitter and you don't have to learn anything. Head Start's a wonderful thing to take care of your children for half a day or whatever it is.
I guess I'm being negative to some extent in the fact that I have found teachers from the bottom of the totem pole, who were CETA employees who were able to teach kids, my grandson being one, to have a good beginning education.
Do you find that we have become so complicated and so dedicated that the Federal Government is the only way to do these things? I mean, are we going to have Head Start and Smart Start and all these other Federal Programs? Maybe there is something better that's hidden in the background somewhere.
Yes, sir; Dr. Lyon.
Dr. Lyon. I would venture that the very good education that you saw in your Hickory kindergarten came about because someone luckily intuited what it was that kids need to know to be able to read and, in a powerful way, got that across.
That is the exception, not the rule. I don't want to make this overly complicated, but I would certainly add to Mr. Roemer's question about where you would put that money. Even though the NIH would love to have that money, I would put that money into the preparation--into changing how we prepare teachers beginning from zero--teachers of infants all the way up.
The reason being is I think one of the things that you're seeing as you watch youngsters being successful coming out of your Hickory kindergarten program is they would have been successful with anybody. We've got to be able to understand that there's probably 20 to 30 or more percent of kids that really do need informed instruction.
I'm not trying to make that complicated. We do know a lot about how reading develops. The difficulty comes--and all of the people on the panel have said this morning--in translating what it is we know in fact to teachers so that they can carry it out.
Teachers are probably one of the most dedicated professional groups in this country. They can only teach, however, what they've been taught. If we had a bolus of money, that money probably--and talk about getting into trouble; my congressional liaison will tell me this.
We have to begin to look at how colleges of education function, and how they conceptualize the content they give to teachers, and the experiences they give to teachers, and the accountability or the lack of accountability of these colleges.
Some money is going to have to be deployed to get everyone on the same page with respect to what we know about how kids learn from zero to whatever.
Chairman Goodling. We're hoping to do some of that in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act where we should tell all the teacher training institutions to be aware we're snooping.
Dr. Venezky. Could I add just one small piece?
One of the most disturbing studies that I'm aware of on this topic of teacher capabilities is a study done in the last 1970's that came up with a measure of teacher effectiveness and looked at how teachers improved from year to year once they got out into the field.
The unfortunate result of the study was to demonstrate that most teachers--that is, the average teacher--peaked in effectiveness after somewhere between four and six years, dropped back in effectiveness some small amount, and leveled out until retirement.
Now, there's a continuing debate over whether teaching is a professional, a quasi-profession, a semi-profession or what. Clearly we can do better, but I don't want to leave all of you with the sense that we all sit here thinking we can just beat up on teachers all day and somehow say to them shape up gang, or get out, and assume that somehow that's going to fix the problem.
The whole set of working conditions under which teachers work are abysmal. Teachers don't have access to telephones. They don't have secretaries. They don't have typewriters. They don't even usually have a space within a school to do all this curriculum development and assessment work that everybody thinks they ought to be doing.
And that's only the beginning of the problems in the profession. So it's not simply money—or a factor of pulling them out of school for intensive inservice and throw them back into schools as they're run.
From my perspective, studying ineffective schools over a great number of years, we have more problems with principals than we do with teachers. We have fewer principals out there who are academic leaders and who know anything about interacting with their staff to encourage personnel, to set reward structures, to know how to hire and fire, to monitor progress, to encourage teachers to monitor progress.
That's a bigger problem probably than teachers.
So while I agree fully with my colleagues here that we can do significantly better in both pre-service and in-service training; all by itself, that's not the answer.
Mr. Ford. If I'd have closed my eyes and you raised your voice, I would have thought--I mean, higher pitch--I would have thought it was my first grade teacher wife who was speaking.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Fattah.
Mr. Fattah. I hear it all the time. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I really want to get at a number of things, but I want to start with the most important one, which is money. And since you've all done a great deal of research, I want to know whether there's any correlation between these issues of disproportionate failure among sets of children and these state public school finance systems.
So if you could just respond to that, each of you, whether there is a correlation or not, whether or not the districts in these states with the most at risk children are inversely receiving the least amount of dollars for the education of these children.
Dr. Venezky. Well first, the correlation is moderate, but not extremely high. But the correlation comes more from the fact that the communities where the parents are doing the best jobs preparing students are also the communities with the most money to put into schooling.
Mr. Fattah. Okay.
Dr. Venezky. However,--
Mr. Fattah. I need you to be brief because we only have five minutes and I've got to get through all of you.
Dr. Venezky. All right, let me also point out too there's a very nice study you can get from the National Center on Education Statistics that summarizes the funding of the 100 and the 500 largest school systems in the United States per capita, and they can also give you performance data on the students.
Mr. Fattah. Thank you.
Dr. Lyon. I would just quickly add that in those areas of lowest socio-economic wealth, there's an inverse relationship between that and the amount of intensity and quality of instruction that has to be provided.
Mr. Fattah. Thank you.
Dr. Slavin. Well, as you know, in general, high poverty schools receive a good deal less on average than do other schools and they have much greater needs. This is unique in the entire industrialized world. No other nation funds its schools using property tax in the way we do and producing such grotesque inequalities.
They tend to be unequal in the opposite direction, providing more to high poverty places than to low poverty places.
Mr. Fattah. Dr. Snow.
Dr. Snow. The lack of perfect correlation between student outcomes and per people funding has to do with the fact that large school systems tend to receive more in the way of bilingual education funding and special education funding which raises the per pupil expenditure.
But if you got those out of the picture, then clearly you'd have a much higher correlation between how much you spend on the kids and how much they learn.
Dr. Gadsden. I would think that even where there seems to be a high per pupil expenditure, for example, in our Philadelphia, the reality is that when you look school by school, those schools that are in the most impoverished areas have a significantly greater number of problems that they have to really address.
And so even if they're--even if those systems did get a high per pupil expenditure, the kids are bringing a number of problems that are more difficult for us to--
Mr. Fattah. I think this is important, because part of what we're hearing is that there's some thought that the Federal Government shouldn't be involved at all in education; that it's the State's responsibility.
These financing systems are set up at the state level. My colleague who has left, Congressman Greenwood, talked about teachers being paid $80,000 a year. Now, he's in a district right outside of Philadelphia. In that district, there's $60,000 more per classroom being spent than in a classroom in Philadelphia.
Over the 12 year life span of a child's education in Philadelphia, that adds up to almost three quarters of a million dollars more per classroom. When we talk about instructional equipment, books, computers, teaching assistants, class size, all of the issues that through research we know has an impact on how children might be able to perform is impacted by the lack of dollars available.
And so that when we start to talk about Federal intervention and ways to help at-risk children, particularly as we talk about raising literacy levels, I think it's important that we not miss the opportunity to have put on the record that these issues are important.
And as the Chairman goes forward in our various considerations about work, we'll take your comments under consideration. And I want to thank all of you for your testimony.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Deal.
Mr. Deal. Like the Chairman, a husband of a school teacher, I appreciate Dr. Venezky's comments and his last remarks about the importance of not overlooking what teachers do.
As I talk to school teachers across my district and as I attended a public hearing that a subcommittee of this committee held in the State of Georgia and listened to educators at every level, some of the things you've touched on continue to be repeated.
But the one that was most prominent was the fact that the schools of the colleges of education have gone through periods of transformation, as have various facets of education. I think one of the great mistakes we made was letting architects design school buildings and gave us classrooms without walls.
We're having to spend millions to go back and build those walls back because you can't teach if you can't hear what's going on because of the class next door.
But the constant theme that we heard was that the issue of phonics mentioned here was omitted for a period of time and a different approach to teaching reading was implanted through the colleges of education.
To this panel of Ph.D's who deal with this subject and have come up with some very interesting information, I suppose my question would be how well have we been able to take the information that you have gleaned from your various studies and reports, etc., and make that a meaningful part of transforming the colleges of education as to how they teach teachers how to teach?
Dr. Lyon. Minimally.
Mr. Deal. How do we improve that?
Dr. Lyon. We, I think on this panel, are very comfortable with a common sense idea about how children learn to read. They need sound structure, they need phonics, they need to learn to read words quickly, they need to do that in a rich literature context.
All of that needs to be integrated. The polarization that you're talking about, is it phonics or Whole Language, is driven by philosophical and belief systems that are embodied in academic freedom in some ways, in the tenure process at the higher education levels.
When I am talking about what our teachers need preparation-wise, please let me be clear I think teachers do the hardest job in the world and do the best they can. My points this morning have been they have not been supported to do it well just in terms of what you're saying.
It's a common sense notion, albeit not an easy one, that kids need to learn a variety of skills to be able to get meaning off of the page. Teachers will--
Mr. Deal. I hate to interrupt, but I want to ask one very quick follow up question.
I think you've identified a linkage problem with schools of education. The second question I would ask is about the materials that are being purchased by way of books and other materials. How good of a job are we doing taking your research and your information, translate that into the materials that are being provided to classroom teachers?
Dr. Lyon. Poor.
Mr. Deal. We struck out on both scores of my questions here.
Dr. Venezky. But let me just qualify something.
The reading field, for reasons that I don't understand, has for 200 years been more susceptible to snake oil and to mythology and opinion than any of the other curricular areas. And as hard as we try, it is very difficult to change the fact that our professional organizations are not doing a particularly good job in bringing a more objective view to the schools on how to teach reading and how to build reading materials.
The main organization in the field of reading has attacked viciously the extremes of phonics, but has been a platform more for the extremes of Whole Language than ever been a force to moderate or bring balance.
Now, one hopes that will change with new administration in these organizations. But that's one of our failures.
Dr. Lyon. Mr. Deal, also let me say that a lot of this rests on what people feel is the nature of evidence. In other words, the snake oil is much a part of evidence for a lot of people as is the empirical, statistical test, if you will.
The NIH and the Office of Education are funding the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Research Council, of which Dr. Snow chairs a committee. The only request that the NIH had to that committee was that as you move through looking at all the reading research, let us know how one conceptualizes what constitutes evidence you can trust.
What is the nature of evidence? Is it descriptive? Is it anecdotal? Is it a case history? Is it objective? Or are there combinations? I think the snake oil issue continues to be present because people can look at these situations from a variety of lenses.
And the accountability for looking at it through some types of evidence just doesn't smack us hard enough in the face. It smacks the kids, but it doesn't smack us.
Dr. Gadsden. Before we move from this though, I just want to say something about the linkage again.
We've done a lot of talking and certainly I've worked with my friend, Dick Venezky, for five years really closely. I think researchers have a responsibility in this too. And we have talked a lot about practitioners. Bob Slavin certainly has a core of dedicated practitioner/researchers who work with him.
And I want to just move back to this old notion of research trickling down to practice. We really cannot have that paradigm any longer. As we think about what teachers need to do, then we really have to involve teachers in some of the research that we're doing.
And we have to involve them in critical ways because they will be the ambassadors of this work, not simply from researchers serving as gurus or guras of information.
Chairman Goodling. Congressman Kind.
Mr. Kind. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I, too, would like to express my appreciation of the panel's being here today and the devotion and the commitment you've shown on this very important subject matter.
But I'd also like to commend the Chairman and congratulate him for keeping the focus on what Mr. Roemer aptly describes as perhaps the most important hearing that we're going to have this year and perhaps in the whole 105th Congress, and probably the most important issue that we should be dealing with in this 105th Congress.
As a new member, I was just delighted to be sitting in my first State of the Union address and listening to the President of this country talk about making education his number one priority for the next four years.
I think he's right on the mark on that. When I go home in my district, it's probably the number one issue. When I'm talking to parents as I'm traveling around, it's about education and how we can improve the conditions for our children.
But I'd be interested in hearing any dissent that any of you might have in regards to the America READS Program. I think the President is pretty close to the mark in recognizing that the student's performance in school is directly proportional by how much interest is shown in that student's performance, especially from the support that he gets in family members, whether it's aunts or especially parents.
I remember growing up and learning to read and sitting night after night on the couch with my mother without the radio or TV on and just reading. And she'd be listening and correcting me. And that indicated to me at a very early age how important reading is and her commitment to it.
But also how much fun it can be to read and to learn. So I'd like to hear any comments you might have in regards to really the two portions of the program, the reading core which would involve volunteers, but also an army of students who are on work study to go in and start tutoring students and showing an interest in reading with them at a very early level.
But also, the parents as first teachers. I think that is so important that we figure out ways to empower the parents and the bring them up to a level and an appreciation to be involved in their children's lives. Because if we can get to that issue in particular, I think we're going to see a dramatic increase in the children's performance in our schools.
Dr. Snow. I think we probably all agree that more practice reading is a very important thing, that positive feelings around reading are very important things, and that's precisely what tutors and volunteers can provide.
The danger, of course, is that that program, a policy based largely on volunteers and on tutoring, could undermine the professionalization of the reading instruction that we've argued is not just necessary, but crucially important.
So in its place is a tremendously good idea and one that warms our hearts. If it undermined the recognition that people in classrooms teaching kids how to read need very directed instruction in how to do that, it would, of course, be a disaster.
Mr. Kind. I'd just like to respond. And again, based on personal experience, just having someone sitting there next to me and looking over my shoulder and just hearing how I'm reading again showed a level of commitment that made me appreciate what I was doing and how important it was.
So the idea of bringing students in and showing an interest in these kids' lives doesn't seem to be all that off the mark.
Dr. Lyon. Well, it's not. And it's a noble idea. But I think Dr. Snow puts it eloquently. For those children who are going to get these skills fairly much on their own_not saying that you might have, but you probably came a bit easier to reading than some kids_obviously expanding the reading session with this kind of situation is good.
I'd have to applaud Carol Rasco at America READS for being very open, for calling NIH, for asking for a presentation of the research or those things that we know about with respect to reading because I think her point of view is that well, if these kids haven't been learning to read in situations that are even more formal classrooms, how in the world will being read to going to take care of that problem?
No doubt, being read to by students or whatever is going to, I think, develop to some degree vocabulary, possibly. It will help the kids develop an interest in literacy activities. But I think as Dr. Snow says, there are specific conditions that have to be in place in order to teach reading.
And if we expect a program that does that through just general exposure, we're going to be disappointed. I would argue that if America READS is going to be robust and powerful, those tutors must have some understanding of what it takes to learn how to read.
And while they're spending the time reading, to try to bring some direct attention to these skills we've talked about all morning.
Dr. Gadsden. I don't have a dissent, but I have a word of caution. And the caution goes back again to the training. Another is that we have to really think about what role volunteer tutoring will serve as a complement to what happens in kids' classrooms or is it just going to be an enormously strong community support mechanism.
We've had issues and questions about volunteer tutoring for a long time. And certainly in adult literacy this has been an issue where we have numbers of people who volunteer, but we are not always sure what they teach.
And so this is not to say that we cannot do--or that we should not do it. In fact, we should do it. But we really need to go about this in a methodical and systematic way and think very deeply about what it is we want tutors to be able to do and what resources we're going to put into supporting them.
Dr. Venezky. As I understand--
Chairman Goodling. I've been calling on Members, as you may have noticed, as you came in the first time. I'm also beginning to cut you folks a little shorter because I always worry about a second panel. And I'll be looking around to see who's here with me at the second panel.
Mr. Schaffer. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have a couple comments. I wanted to find out if anybody here is familiar with the term to comment on it. I have discovered this Eddie Hersch character. I read lots of his books. He sort of radicalized me on education and I have been familiar with his work for a number of years.
He talks about two key philosophies that have an awful lot to do with learning. One is this term naturalism. Let me see if I can--he caught me before I was ready. Naturalism, which is this theory and philosophy that children are natural learners and that that natural curiosity needs to be harnessed and managed in a way that allows children to flourish.
And the other is formalism. That really focuses on the content of what children learn and so on. And he suggests that both of these philosophies are half truths, as he says, because many people in education seem to gravitate toward one or the other.
And the fallacy is that they both need to be used together. But his criticism is more directed at teachers' colleges throughout the country that seem to push future teachers in one direction or the other.
And I would like, if any of you are familiar with these terms and these theories, to comment on Hersch's assessment of this philosophy as it's played out in our teachers' colleges and how it applies to today's topic of teaching children to read.
Dr. Snow. Yes. Well, naturalism is another term, of course, for Whole Language. And I'm a child developmentalist. I am a naturalist. The problem with alphabetic literacy is that it's not a natural system. It's a system that got discovered once in the history of mankind.
And so it's not like language. We're not going to just discover it. It doesn't flourish. For many kids it has to be taught. Being a naturalist is associated with being a romantic. It's associated with being nice to people.
It's associated with all kinds of positive human traits. And thus, it does have some power in face to face confrontations and in faculty meetings and so forth. Being a formalist involves being tough as nails, telling kids they've got to do things they don't really want to do, telling teachers they've got to learn things they don't necessarily understand why they need to learn.
So it's not so popular a position, but it's the position that needs to be made palatable.
Dr. Lyon. You know, I think with respect to reading, just the dichotomy that you brought up with respect to how we disentangle these kinds of things that probably have a middle to them is beyond me.
How in the world are we preparing people to take these polar opposites when clearly we can look at reading and see, as Dr. Snow says, that if reading is so natural and everybody comes by it at their own pace, why are there so many illiterate cultures and why is there illiteracy in literate cultures?
It is not a natural act. But your question resonates with me because I am still confused about why these philosophies in fact are disentangled or are not amalgamated to look at the entire spectrum of issues we need to be dealing with.
Mr. Schaffer. I want to beat the red light here.
I believe that we place too much emphasis in America on the naturalism philosophy and don't focus enough on the content. And I think you're correct. There needs to be some meeting in the middle, and that's not to the exclusion of naturalism.
I think that's a fine philosophy. But am I correct in that assessment that we seem to be more to--
Dr. Lyon. Yes, yes. And it relates to Mr. Deal's questions. Despite the evidence that we have that phonics are critical and necessary but not sufficient skill that has to be learned, we still find the majority of teachers being taught that it is not a necessary skill or that it can be learned more naturally than some kids can learn it.
In fact, if one talks about the necessity of phonics in many states, there's a term for that now. They're called by the naturalists phonicators. So there's this derision that's given over to a critical skill--critical, necessary, but not sufficient. But at some point, you've got to be a little bit hard nosed when kids lives are at stake.
Kids who don't read don't expire because of the lousy reading. I think the lack of accountability frankly comes from people not really seeing that figuratively, kids do expire if you watch them grow up long enough. The issue is, is that if you expect kids to naturally learn things, how do they wrap this_what do they wrap the naturalness around?
They have to have content. I mean, strategies in learning about how to know to me is not very efficient unless it wraps around a body of content that frankly differs according to its structure and its properties and all this kind of stuff.
I go back to the question, Mr. Schaffer, how in the world have we allowed teachers, fine professionals, to be prepared in what in essence are these non-common sense ways.
Mr. Ford. I would encourage Dr. Slavin and Dr. Venesky to be a little more forceful so that you get your opportunities.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Payne.
Mr. Payne. Thank you.
It's a very interesting subject and it's too bad we have to limit the time because it's an area that I've had a lot of interest in. And it's good to see Tom Sawyer here who had the National Literacy Act, of course, primarily dealing with adult literacy; but I think they are certainly correlated.
And also, for the last nine years, I've had a literacy workshop at the Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Legislative Conference where literacy -- it's not a very sexy thing when you talk about adult literacy. You know, no one really wants to talk about literacy.
You don't draw large numbers of people. But it's so critical and important, and there is a correlation too I think between the adult literacy and the fact that children can't read. We've seen from some Carnegie studies that the critical years are now zero to three.
I mean, they're knocking it down from zero to nine. They're saying if you don't get it by your third year, you're in trouble. And so this whole question--and of course, Jonathan Kozol, who we had here a number of times before, really all of the things that you're talking about, he just continually hammers home and the country should thank Jonathan Kozol.
I wish people would listen more because we should have full funding for Head Start, which we don't. We are not preparing our schools. We put a five billion dollar, five year request for the budget to be matched at a 3:1 basis to try to repair the $100 billion dollars we need to repair schools in this country.
Of course, the majority said that we should not be fooling around with schools, so that's a local issue. Hundred billion dollars. So we're going to have this gap between what needs to be done and what we can do. And we're going to have actually a larger number of people with welfare reform going in with this question.
What no one's talked about is the question of kids who have to go to multiple schools. And I tell you, since we had a couple of personal--Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Norwood, my own personal story is that the difficulty of people having to go to a number of schools early in life is traumatic.
I think it's just as bad as coming into a school not understanding the language. Unfortunately, I went to four different public schools before I was in the fourth grade. And when you go from one public school system to another, there is nothing similar about what's happening in one school--and one was in a different town.
And I remember even being in a school where they were doing cursive writing and the school I came from was still doing block printing. Now, when you get into a system where you can't read anything off the board, it's just like a foreign language. And so the question is that--which, of course, in the old days, you know, we were very poor.
We had to move a lot. And actually, my mother passed when I was very young, so I had to live with different relatives during my first formative years of education, so I can really relate to homeless children or children that have to be in a different school.
I wonder just the--what can be done to sort of regularize--for example, one school would be having multiplication and the other school I came from was only on subtraction. They were doing long division at one place. We were on short division. I became a teacher. That was my other life before I came to Congress.
But what do you suggest can be done so that there could be a regularized--at least somewhat on the same wavelength throughout different school districts?
Dr. Venezky. That's a real dangerous area to get into. Some city school systems like Baltimore try to adopt a single textbook with the argument that most families are moving around within the city. Every time the rent is due, you move. So you typically move from relative to relative, friend to friend.
I think what you would hear from this panel more than anything else is you train teachers to be better diagnosticians, to recognize better what children's needs are, then you don't have to worry about whether a child has had X or Y in a different place. Every child is looked at anew every year.
Beyond that, I certainly don't want to sit here and advocate that we have a national agenda, a national teaching sequence that everybody in September teach the T sound and then short A in early October, long A in late October.
I don't think we can do that. But if we can improve the diagnostic capabilities and the teaching capabilities of teachers, this would not be such a big issue.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Riggs.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I also want to thank the witnesses for their testimony. I've had an opportunity to visit with Dr. Lyon and am very impressed by the longitudinal research that NIH has done on literacy and reading skills development.
I have to tell you that when we got together to talk about putting together a literacy proposal, I was somewhat skeptical that we ought to initiate congressional action. I'm skeptical that we can or should be addressing this problem here in Washington.
And I'd like to know really at the outset how we know there is a literacy problem or a reading problem in America today? Are all five of you suggesting that we ought to act on the basis of the most recent testing results, or is there other objective or empirical evidence that suggests that we truly have a literacy problem in America today?
Dr. Lyon. Well, I'll take the first stab at it because from the NIH work that we've talked about, the individual assessment of those 10,000 children tell us over time that they, if not seen early enough, continue to have problems.
Now what is a problem? The common sense of it is that if you're going to read and do it well, you need to be able to learn from what you read. So if someone says to me what does a kid have to do to be able to read, we know some of those factors that go into that.
But why do children read? They read to learn and they read to enjoy it. And if you just take those two factors, regardless of any test score you may use, whether it's NAEP data or things that Dr. Venesky can talk about at length, there are substantial numbers of children that cannot read well enough to learn across this country and every state we have a site.
And a lot of them that might in fact read well enough to learn don't because they don't enjoy it. Why, it's still too laborious, too hard.
Mr. Riggs. We're moving the lights right along here I guess to get to the next panel. But let me ask you really I guess sort of the critical question, and let me address one other skepticism, and that is whether volunteer tutors can succeed where paid teachers, paid professionals, perhaps have failed.
Let me ask. Let's just assume that we move legislation--bipartisan legislation through the Congress, it's signed into law by the President. It meets the requirement of the budget negotiators that we spend X hundred of millions of dollars more on literacy, or again, reading as a ``protected domestic priority'' within the context of the bipartisan agreement to balance the budget.
What should we do in the area of assessment and evaluation? How will we know that this hundreds of millions of dollars more of Federal taxpayer money will be well spent and will give us the results that we're seeking?
Dr. Venezky. I think the first thing you have to do is make sure you're clear on why you're spending the money. That is, if you honestly believe that this small amount of money with volunteer tutors and some home visitations is going to dramatically raise the reading performance by itself of minority poor children, than I think we're in trouble from the beginning.
I think first you have to understand that these kinds of programs are only going to be effective if coupled with other steps forward in fostering home language, cognitive development, teacher assessment, teacher training, and better materials and methods.
As for tutoring, for example, as I mentioned earlier in this hearing, the two most important things that I would look for are first, are we changing attitudes about reading? And we know something about measuring those.
And secondly, are we bringing communities, parents, professionals and others together to work together to foster both home performance and school performance? And that's a little fuzzier thing to evaluate, but I think we have some ideas of being able to tell whether we're achieving that or not.
Mr. Riggs. I'm sorry, but Mr. Chairman, allow me to ask one other question because, I mean, we could talk around this ad nauseam. But let me just cut right to the chase.
We spend all this money. Should we require that those local school districts that receive the money, assuming that we drive most of the money down into the primary and secondary schools, administer some type, some form of a national reading test?
Chairman Goodling. Boy, that brought them all to the microphone.
Mr. Riggs. Because as you'll acknowledge, not all states participate in the NAEP. The NAEP gives us a random sampling. It doesn't give us individual student testing results.
Dr. Slavin. I think that they're two separate issues. I think that there are arguments for and against national tests, and I think America READS is a--you know, has a life of its own that should be debated on its own merits.
And I think that--but I will say that I agree with the sentiment behind your question that if we're going to be asked to have substantial new expenditures on programs that are intended to bring children to higher levels of reading performance, we'd better damn well have very rigorous assessments to know whether they in fact have done so.
And if we, in advance, do not believe that this expenditure will result in higher reading achievement, then we shouldn't do it. I do not think personally that it's worthwhile to have substantial investment in programs that are only supposed to make people feel better about reading.
We have a major crisis here that needs to be addressed much more squarely than that. And the idea that we would have, you know, some volunteer tutors working with kids just solely so that, you know, everybody can feel better about it I think is irresponsible.
Now as a part of a broader approach, fine. But particularly when the idea that we would invest substantial resources into the training and supervision of volunteer tutors, and it's a requirement to have them--any chance at all of them being effective, and not put substantial resources into the training and supervision of teachers who are with the kids for six hours every day for many, many years to me is craziness.
Dr. Venezky. Let me break this lovely harmony up here and disagree with my colleague go my left.
For the first place, the intention of tutoring is not to make people feel better. The intention, among other things, is to create a more positive attitude towards reading. And we all know that attitude is very important.
Dr. Lyon spoke earlier about lots of kids who in fact perhaps could read better, but in fact didn't want to read, who had negative attitudes towards reading. So added to it is one of the factors that leads to better reading performance.
The argument more is what is the broader kind of offensive that we have to do in order to ensure over time that we can raise reading scores? We can run in with money thinking we have the magic solution and throw it all into one gimmick and hope that it works.
Or, we can continue with the best of what we're already doing; to do research, to translate it to practice, to try to improve teacher training, to try to involve communities in reading and raise attitudes, reach parents through a variety of ways.
In the same way that you all run your campaigns knowing the magic number five or eight or ten reaches to every person of your name or some part of your program, we have the same attitude about reading; that we need to reach parents, schools and teachers through a variety of channels.
They need to hear over and over that the community cares, the country cares, the state cares about how well they teach reading. So that's my homily for the morning.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Ford.
Mr. Ford. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate the panel for coming. I also apologize for not being present for much of your testimony--or all of your testimony. And I said to Dr. Gadsden I'm a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, however I represent Memphis. And I heard Dr. Slavin mention University of Memphis's contributions to some of his studies.
But I think that what we've seen and heard and what I've heard over the last hour has been very interesting. I said to my esteemed colleague from California whom I have the greatest respect for--and I must say he's a more than adequate basketball player on the court, Mr. Chairman, and he certainly has a great wife.
We spent time together in New York at a hearing.
But I think his question speaks volumes about the disconnect that we have here in this Congress. I think that you all have come and provided some testimony for all of us not only on this committee, but I hope that all of Congress and really all public policy makers get an opportunity here which you've talked about.
But all that you've said won't be heard by one side of this committee, and we ought to be frank about it. There seems to be a constipation in the mind on the part of many of my colleagues, particularly those to my right, with regard to teachers and teachers' unions.
If you listen to some of the questions and the tone and the content of many of the questions, there's an underlying motivation and an underlying concern and there's a frustration on their part that when you talk about teaching and you talk about funding and you talk about professional development, as many of you have--and Dr. Snow, you so eloquently responded to my distinguished colleague from North Carolina in asking teachers to work for free every five years.
Dr. Gadsden, you made the same point.
We want to ask the same folks if they want to provide capital gains relief, which I want to as well to work for free. I say to my Republican colleagues that if you're serious about addressing these issues, and even to my Democratic colleagues--and I think Mr. Sawyer has provided tremendous leadership over the years.
And as a new member, I certainly appreciate what you've done, Mr. Sawyer.
But I say to my Republican colleagues let us listen to the testimony--Mr. Chairman, I'll be finished in 30 seconds--let us listen to the testimony of these panelists. They've come at a great expense to talk about these issues. They've presented and corroborated with research, with--
Chairman Goodling. I would ask the gentleman please ask questions. I didn't hear anything from this side of the aisle that took away anything they had to offer. In fact, we have sat here--
Mr. Ford. Mr. Chairman,--
Chairman Goodling. We have sat here, as a matter of fact, two and a half hours listening intently to what they have had to say. So let's concentrate on what it is we can do to help American children read.
Mr. Ford. Mr. Chairman, I've got great respect for you too, sir. You all may have the majority, but you can't tell me what I can do in terms of asking a question or making a comment, sir.
My only comment--and I say to the Republicans and Democrats, I hope we've heard what these panelists have said. I appreciate what they've said. I will not ask another question because really you've answered all the questions that I might have.
I would urge you to continue doing the research you're doing.
Dr. Slavin. I'd love to get with you after this hearing to talk about your design models on how I might play a role and even working with some of my colleagues on the other side.
But I would hope that all of us, Mr. Chairman, have listened closely and intently. But not only listened today, but take what they've talked about and practice it here in the Congress as we talk about our children, talk about tomorrow's marketplace; but more importantly, talk about preparing a workforce for the 21st century.
Again, I thank the panelists.
Chairman Goodling. And your closing statement was the way the entire statement should have been. All of us should be listening carefully to what it is they are saying and to see whether we can't come together and help the President as he tries to lead the American people into thinking more about the inability of many children to read and the repercussions of that inability in relationship to a better life for them and a better life for everybody.
So I would hope that we could do a literacy program in a bipartisan effort as we did a special education program.
Mr. Sawyer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thanks for the chance to take part in this hearing.
There are so many topics that have been raised and so many that we could carry further. One that we have talked about really is encapsulated for me in the story that all of us have encountered in one way or another when we fly from one place to another. When you sit down on the airplane, as part of the litany with the flight attendants' offers, they stand there and they say that in the unlikely event of an emergency, will those people who are adults--or adults should take care of themselves and then fix their oxygen mask before turning to the child next to them.
It is so counter intuitive, and yet it makes all the sense in the world. We have talked here today a great deal not only about the schooling years, but zero to three, four and five, the importance of tutoring programs. Do you believe that there is a role for reaching parents in a systematic way to enable them with specific strategies and tactics, nothing complicated, but that would enrich the language environment in which children begin to learn?
Is there a role for that in broad based tutorial programs? And how would you advise us to try to structure the work that we do to make that happen effectively?
Dr. Gadsden. I think that there is an enormous role for parents to play. Of course, that's pretty self serving in my case. But we have evidence from several programs and several research studies that parents play an important role. And my own work in family cultures, parents are very clear about the ideas that they attach to children's literacy development.
We have evidence that if we work intensively to parents over time, in cases of Head Start in particular, that the quantity and quality of materials within the home often changes. The verbal interactions between children and parents change.
That systematic approaches to helping to providing additional help--Dr. Snow's colleague, Victoria Purcell Gates, has worked with Appalachian--our kids from the Appalachia and has found that consistent help over time does make a difference.
Now the--I heard Mr. Kind say earlier that his mother--he sat next to his mother and his mother tutored him. And of course, some parents already know what those strategies are. They do it as just a function of their own knowledge about reading.
For many other parents, we really have to provide direct instruction not of the sort that we provided to their kids, but we have to provide them with ways of thinking about serving their kids and supporting their kids without becoming teachers in the traditional sense.
Mr. Sawyer. The Chairman's Even Start Program was an attempt to begin with specific populations to build that kind of practice. Are there ways--is it useful to broaden that to a much larger population and to make use of some of the programs that are being proposed now to do that?
Dr. Snow. Well, certainly the extension of Head Start downwards to newborns is another attempt to do that. And I think like Head Start, a tremendously promising attempt which will be difficult to see the effects of because it will be a different program in each of the many sites where it is being implemented.
It's easier to give people money than to tell people what to do with the money, and that's perhaps partly a lack of will because we don't believe the research findings. We now have the research findings that constitute the basis for saying this is what good, stimulating parent/child interaction looks like.
We need as well to engage in the social marketing to convince parents that what they know is what they children need to know. We don't need to chance everything they're doing with their children. And we need to convince them that they are resources of knowledge, language and expertise for their kids.
Dr. Gadsden. Can I say one more thing?
Many, many programs have been developed, and many of them have titles such as Parents and Children or Families. And we then give them a little bit--a very small amount of money to do literacy. And they don't have the personnel there. They don't have people who are prepared to do the work.
And so when we have visited programs--we did a study with Scott Harris at the University of Michigan. We visited many, many programs around the country. And the thing that was most striking to me was how committed the people were to doing something around literacy and how incredibly small the knowledge base was about what to do.
And so if there's a commitment to doing it, it has to be a commitment around really investing in the resources, as we have said many times here today, to prepare people around literacy.
Chairman Goodling. May I indicate that I appreciate all of you coming with your testimony. We have a big job to do, and certainly you've given us a lot of good information that we can put together as we try to produce a program that will be effective.
The three gentleman on the wall behind there and all of my colleagues know that I sat here for 20 years and kept saying over and over and over again when are we going to talk about quality. The only thing we ever talked about was access, and the only thing we talked about is if we only had more money for more access.
And then I'd say access to what? And finally, Stenny Howyer, because his mother, or his wife, I think, was in the programs dealing with Federal funds in one of the local counties, started picking up the same theme saying, you know, do we have people in Head Start who really understand early childhood.
At $10,000, maybe even $100,000, there weren't that many. But we couldn't seem to get over the hurdle. Chapter 1--and I'm as guilty as anybody because as a superintendent, I didn't know what to do with Chapter 1 money at the time. It always came in October or November.
School had already begun. And so we were pumping it all into middle school and high school. And again, no one trained to deal with remedial reading programs for ten, 12, 14, 18 year olds. And I finally said, you know, do we have any early childhood people? Can we go out and deal with parents and preschool children and see whether we can make a difference.
And of course, Even Start came from that. But what I'd like you to do is, in writing, if you would send to me what you see as the strength and the weaknesses of the Administration's America READS Program. The President and I have had a long discussion on the issue.
I've met on numerous occasions with the Assistant Secretary who is carrying the ball. I emphasize that some of the weaknesses that I thought I saw were the lack of emphasis on helping the teacher. My whole argument was if you're going to demand higher standards, then certainly it's unfair to the teacher not to help prepare them to meet those higher standards.
I saw a lack of emphasis, I thought, which was a weakness, on intergenerational efforts. Because many of you mentioned that, and I think it's very important. I didn't think there was too much thought given to the whole idea of volunteers: training of volunteers, preparation of volunteers, coordination of what the volunteer does with the school system.
All of these things seem to be very loose and they're all things that we're going to have to try to tie together. And I too have some concerns about the amount of spending when you talk about the testing because we know we have a problem, and where do we put the limited resources we have?
So if you would respond in writing to me telling me what you see as strengths and weaknesses, I would certainly appreciate it because we have a big job to do.
And as you can understand, on this committee I have every extreme philosophically and in every other way. And trying to pull all them together is not the easiest thing to do. And I have just as much trouble from my side as I have on this side. And so you can help us if you give us some good insight from your research.
And I apologize to the second panel. We'll run and vote and somebody can grab a hot dog and hopefully we can get back and maybe you can run downstairs and grab something very quickly. And we'll continue then.
Chairman Goodling. I would ask the second panel to come to the table, please.
Again, I apologize to the second panel. I tell the staffs all the time don't schedule two panels; it's unfair to the second panel. Everybody gets on to the Floor and they get back into other committees, and the second panel waits.
So we're very happy that you waited. And I had a hot dog. I hope you got something to hold you over.
On panel two, we have Ms. Janet Nicholas, a Member of California's Board of Education, Sonoma, California. We have Ms. Barbara Ruggles.
Did I pronounce that correctly?
Ms. Ruggles. Correct.
Chairman Goodling. Good. A teacher, Frankfort, Illinois.
We have Ms. Margaret Doughty, Executive Director, Houston Read Commission, Houston, Texas.
And if you will begin your testimony, and hopefully we will have Members coming in.
Ms. Nicholas, if you would begin.
STATEMENT OF JANET NICHOLAS, MEMBER, CALIFORNIA BOARD OF EDUCATION, SONOMA, CALIFORNIA
Ms. Nicholas. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'll try and be very brief and summarize much of what I presented to your staff.
I was very impressed, I must say, by the morning's testimony and by the depth of understanding of the Chairman and the committee of the dilemma we find ourselves in. In my state in 1987, we officially adopted Whole Language as state policy and eliminated the residual remains of phonics instruction in our curriculum.
Contrary to all the evidence you heard this morning, all scientific evidence, the Whole Language philosophy holds that a skills based teaching approach, one which emphasizes phonics, spelling and grammar, alienates children from books and reading.
The advocates purported in my state and before my state board that children learn to read as they learn to speak, and you heard some previous discussion of that, naturally by some unusual sense of immersion. Unfortunately, for my state's children, the unsubstantiated claims and enthusiastic visions of Whole Language idealogues proved to be disastrous when applied to real children.
By 1994, it was clear California was in a reading crisis of epidemic proportions. And why do I say epidemic proportion? The NAEP was really the confirming nail on the coffin. Fifty-nine percent of the children in my state cannot read at a basic level.
And that holds true for every sub group identified by NAEP, whether their parents are college graduates or whether they're of any particular racial group. The statistics and reams of numbers you can read do not begin to reveal the real personal tragedies for the hundreds of thousands of kids and their parents who are victims of California's experiment with Whole Language.
Far too many kids who were never taught to read in elementary school now continue to struggle with the written word in middle school, and they are unable to read the most basic of grade level materials.
How did California get in this mess? I just want to highlight a couple of points because I hope none of you will ever go there. Not to California, but this particular--
Chairman Goodling. Please don't tell us it was the Federal Government that put you there.
Ms. Nicholas. No, you didn't. It's not even your fault. I wish I could blame you all.
While the research on reading is and was incontrovertible, the education community in my state, as an institution, did not always operate on the bases of evidence and research findings. The culture that existed in California was philosophically biased to a holistic and natural approach to learning.
Therefore, anecdotal evidence and testimonials by proponents were substituted for scientific findings. Backed by a system which valued the good intentions of proponents more than reliable research, California's educational establishment embraced Whole Language with a vengeance.
The bottom line was, in 1995, the situation became so out of control that our state legislature unanimously stepped forward--I underline unanimously; it's very unusual in my state--that unanimously stepped forward indicating that fundamental skills would be added back to the subject matters including phonics and other basic reading skills.
We've struggled since that time to try and change direction moving to research based teaching. In May of '96, my board adopted a reading program advisory. It was signed on to by our state superintendent and our Teacher Credentialing people.
We sent out alerts to local districts explaining that they needed to have a detailed, explicit, systematic phonics instruction as part of a comprehensive and balanced reading program. In addition, in that June, the governor and the legislature allocated $200 million dollars for a statewide early reading initiative.
There are details provided of what that involved. It involved all the things you heard the previous panel talk about. And that investment was combined with a one billion dollar investment to reduce class size in the primary grades to 20:1.
I wish I could tell you all was wonderful. It is not. It's unfortunately now clear we have a long and difficult road ahead even with enormous financial resources committed to the project.
I want to just concluded by telling you what we see--or I see as the role of the Federal Government. We want to thank you for supporting the numbers of very important research projects you have supported so that we all can better understand the teaching and learning of reading.
People like Reid Lyon and others have just been invaluable to educating people like myself and teachers in my state. We think it's vitally important to ensure that educational policy and reading and other fundamental skills are based on reliable research, not the latest fad.
But while the Federal Government has made excellent investments in reading research, it's failed to take the critical next step. It's failed to insist that the results of your research are reflected in the billions and billions of dollars that you spend annually in your allocations to Title I, special ed., bilingual, and Head Start.
As a result, I would respectfully suggest that countless disadvantaged children have been cheated of what they need most to success in life, and that's academic proficiency.
So my plea to you in conclusion is we do not need another new, untested reform, restructuring, innovation, or anything else. What we really desperately need is rigorous results-based Federal research in education to evaluate and identify how to improve student performance in core academic subjects.
We need solid evidence of tools that work and work consistently. And we need the Congress to adopt policies and protocols that focus Federal education dollars on validated, research-based instructional practices.
Lastly, I would just say in California we really learned, sadly, at the expense of a generation of kids, that fads, no matter how well intended, don't work and are a great harm to children. Unless the Federal Government and all of the states very firmly and publicly commit themselves to shift from a mode where educational policy is determined by popularity to one in which it's backed by solid research, I fear that we'll really have learned very little from my state's very tragic experience with Whole Language.
I thank you.
See Appendix H for the written statement of Ms. Nicholas
Chairman Goodling. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF BARBARA RUGGLES, TEACHER, FRANKFORT, ILLINOIS
Ms. Ruggles. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me, and Members of the committee.
I appreciate that you invited a teacher, and I wish this whole room were filled with teachers because what you're talking about is what I do every day. And I will tell you that the information does not get to us. It's stuck somewhere, and we haven't gotten the information.
The children that have come to me, whether they've had Head Start, preschool, whether they're from a single parent family, whether they're from poverty, I still have the responsibility to teach these children to read; and therefore, I need the most effective and efficient programs so that I can do this.
And let me tell you that when teachers are successful, the morale of the staff just soars. And therefore, they're anxious to learn more and more. And when they are unsuccessful and blamed for things when they haven't been given the resources or haven't been taught, it causes problems.
I have been a classroom teacher for 30 years in Park Forest Chicago Heights. For a lot of my children, I feel that public school is their only ticket to getting a good job and becoming a productive citizen.
I have spent 18 years in a first, second and third grade room; three and a half years in kindergarten; three and a half years in third grade; and the last five years in a kindergarten, first, second grade classroom.
I want you to know this because I want you to know that I've taught prereading, reading readiness, reading, and I've taught third graders that can't read. I am very troubled by our reading scores. And I have four issues that I want to quickly address today.
One is decoding instruction. The second one is grouping for decoding instruction. The third is staff development and the teacher preparedness. And the fourth is where is the research? Why isn't it getting to the people who are in the classrooms?
Comprehension. Comprehension is why we read. Just like Reid Lyon said, we read to enjoy, we read to learn. But how do we get children to be independent readers who can comprehend? The critical component is they have to learn to decode.
They have to learn to decode explicitly which means if I want you to learn the sound for S, I want to teach you ``ssss''. I'm not going to give you a bunch of words and then have you try to guess what the sound is. I'm going to be very explicit about what I expect.
And it has to be systematic. There has to be a logical method for what I am doing that what I am doing today is easier than what I will do tomorrow, it will be more difficult. That what I'm doing today is based on what I did yesterday and will continue on.
It's very systematic. There's a plan to it. If I have children that don't know letters and don't know sounds, then I need to pull those children over and teach them the letters and the sounds. If I have a group over here that knows it, certainly I'm not going to bore them by spending the whole class working on letters and sounds.
I can work with those children on putting the sounds together to blend and make words. If I have children who are already reading fluently, then I can certainly give them wonderful things to read. So grouping for instruction at the kindergarten or first grade, especially first grade level, is absolutely critical.
And you know how grouping has been out. But grouping for this instruction until the children can move on to the next step is absolutely critical. And it's critical to the children who need the skills, and it's critical to those children who don't have it not to be in that group and to be bored with it.
So that's critical. Children need to know that the letters and sounds are connected; that when you put them together and blend them, they make words. When you turn them around, they make different words. And then the critical component that is very often left out after we teach this is we're going to use these words in connected text and practice these words in sentences and stories.
Now at the beginning first grade level, this might be silly sentences. But still, it's using what we have learned. And it's absolutely critical. We can't expect children to make the connection. We have to walk over that bridge with a guided practice.
And this is what we worked on today, and now we're going to take these words and blend these letters and make these words and put them into sentences, and we're going to read them. We're going to read what we worked on today.
We're going to make the connection for them. Then the children will eventually develop automatically, which is the way you become a fluent reader.
Now, am I going to find any systematic, explicit phonics instruction in the teacher's guide? No.
Am I going to find it in a college class?
Am I going to get it in staff development? I've had 30 years of staff development and I'm still waiting for some staff development to teach people how to decode, how to learn how to sound out words.
No, I'm not going to learn it that way.
So it becomes my responsibility to try to dig out this research. This should be the responsibility of publishers, of universities to get this to their teachers. I open up the teacher's guide. What's it going to say? It's going to say how the child went to the end of the sentence and used context.
I will give you some dismal data on context. If it is a functional word like this, that, the, what, you have a 40% chance of getting that word correct through context. If it is a content word, which is a word that holds the meaning for what you're learning about, you have a ten percent chance of getting that from context.
Ten percent. It doesn't work. What you have to rely on are the letters and sounds. Children must learn to decode. They must learn it. Another piece of dismal data is that there is a .88 correlation between a child who is reading poorly in first grade that that child also will be reading poorly in the lowest quartile in fourth grade.
Therefore, we have to do this at first grade. Our first grade teachers have to be so knowledgeable in how to teach decoding. It's a critical component.
Another thing that our teacher's guides might say is have the whole group reading together. Now this is a good activity, to read together. If you hear the pronunciation of the words, you hear the rhythm of the language, you hear our expression can bring it to life, and it has value.
But don't think for a minute that it's going to teach a child how to become an independent reader, how to decode those words. Because at the end of everybody in the class reading Little Red Hen together, the teacher doesn't know who knew those words, who could sound them out, who looked at the pictures and who guessed.
So it's an activity that does have merit, yes; but it is not instructional decoding for children that teaches them to become fluent, independent readers.
Dr. Becky Hamilton from the University of Pittsburgh illustrates this perfectly. She's one of the authors of Questioning The Author. And the AFT is working with her on developing a teaching beginning reading program. She's also a pianist, and she says I can play a Chopin piece for you.
In fact, I'll play it a second and third time, and I'll give you the score to follow along. And then when I'm done playing, I will hand you a picture of Chopin and show you and tell you about his life. And we can write about his life, and we can illustrate his life.
And then, I'm going to ask you to go play Chopin. And it illustrates the whole point of yes, all these activities have merit; but they're not for piano instruction. Reading together has merit, but it's not for decoding instruction. And if our first graders don't get decoding instruction, they aren't going to learn to read.
Whole Language brought in good stories and it brought in an emphasis on writing, which is critical. But why in the world they left out the decoding part of it is beyond me, because that's absolutely critical.
There's been such a reaction against phonics that I felt that people thought that we walked in, said the Pledge, and then went ``bi, ba, bu'' for the morning, took a short break for lunch, and came back with, you know, ``su, sa, se'' in the afternoon.
We're talking about 15 to 30 minutes of decoding instruction a day for a first grader. Possibly a kindergartner. But first grade, absolutely. This is what we're talking about. It's an absolutely critical component. We need knowledgeable teachers.
I have one more story that I want to tell you. A very good friend of mine is a special education teacher. And she had two very bright students, intermediate students, who could not read. And she tested them and they had no auditory processing problem, no visual processing problem, but they could not read.
And they were going to lose services because they felt that they did not have a disability, but yet they could not read. And we got the article where Dr. Bonnie Grossen from the University of Oregon summarizes and cites all the research of Reid Lyon in the National Institute of Health.
And in it there's just two sentences I want to read you. It says, ``Using modern neuroimaging technology, medical researchers have identified a unique signature on the brain scans of persons with reading problems. Very recent research shows that phonemic awareness can be taught and practice can change the signature of the brain scan.''
When we got this, we were dancing in the halls. We knew all of a sudden now we have something to support what we know has to be a part of our curriculum. She went back. She passed it out to her special ed. staff, to the psychologist. She gave it to the parents.
Most importantly, she started working with the children who are fourth graders on manipulating the letters, working on the sounds, making words. And these children are beginning to read, to the thrill of the teachers, the parents. But most of all, to the thrill of the students.
So it's absolutely critical. Where did I get this information? Did I get it from a teacher's guide?
Did I get it from a college course?
Did I get it from staff development?
No, I got it from my teachers' union which is a good place. But what is wrong with this picture? Why aren't the people who are teaching reading the ones who are getting the research on teaching reading? And I ask you, where is it? Where does it get lost in there?
So I guess we get the fads really quickly. Those come to us, that information. So -- also, one more thing. In the What Matters Most, the report of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, it says that the greatest gains in student achievement occurred when districts used their money to invest in teaching their teachers.
The teachers in my district desperately want their children to learn how to read. They want to have materials. They want to know. A systematic, explicit instruction in the teacher's guide would assist an experienced teacher, but it would teach a new teacher because they haven't come in with that information.
They haven't been taught it. So I'm asking you, please, let's not hide what works. Let's get the research to the people who are in the classrooms teaching the beginning readers, the first grade children: the kindergarten, the first and second grade teachers.
It's our only chance for many children to become successful is if they can learn to read in public school classrooms.
See Appendix I for the written statement of Ms. Ruggles
STATEMENT OF MARGARET DOUGHTY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HOUSTON READ COMMISSION, HOUSTON, TEXAS
Ms. Doughty. Good afternoon. Thank you very much for allowing me to be here today.
I work with the underground school system, so I think my testimony may be a little different because I'm not within the traditional school system.
Why can't children read? Because they don't have reading readiness skills when they start school. Because at school they're not taught with a good mix of what works best. Because they're promoted to the next grade without passing the current grade. Because their parents cannot read. Because there are no books at home to read.
Because there is not a family history that reading is important and pleasurable. Because they are only reading in school a small percentage of the total day. Because no one has identified how they read as individuals. Because we teach children as classes and not as individuals.
Because it's easier to say there is something wrong with this child than there is something wrong with the system.
In family literacy programs, children and parents are able to learn together with proven success. In Houston, we have a very high level of adult illiteracy that is matched by equally poor literacy levels among children.
Only 48% of the adult population achieved skill levels in the National Adult Literacy Survey to be considered as minimally functionally literate. The percentage of those with limited skills is significantly higher in inner city Houston, especially in areas of high poverty.
Children from families with low literacy experience a similar lack of success to their parents and a cycle of intergenerational illiteracy is perpetuated. The only way to break that cycle is to provide a new approach to create success.
In our city, we have talked for years about how to improve the situation. We focused on what was wrong with our school system. How would we put more resources into the schools? How could we test for minimum skills? How could we hire better teachers?
It was clearly their problem, and we explored ways to help them fix it. Last year, community organizations came together to explore the issues around who owns the problem. We asked the questions whose children are these and whose skills are these?
These are our children in our schools in our city. The solution does not belong to them. The solution belongs to us, the mothers and the fathers, the organizations and businesses, the volunteer groups and the libraries, the congregations and the clubs, as well as to our schools and our teachers.
We do not want minimum levels to be our community goal. We began to talk of the concept of a 100% literacy as the goal for our community and the right of every child to have a literate parent to lead them to literacy. It was at this point that several things conspired to create a dynamic in time.
The greatest force for dynamism is doing. So together, our city developed Houston Reads To Lead. There have been family literacy programs in Houston for five years, but this was the first time, as a total community engagement project, our whole city came together.
Literacy providers voiced a desire to develop stronger, more integrated family literacy programs for preschool and elementary school children and parents. Then Governor Bush announced his statewide literacy initiative, so we had state support for the concepts that we were developing.
Then the U.S. Department of Education invited us to be part of the READ*WRITE*NOW! Program. And we got together with a whole lot of different community organizations, the United Way, the Junior League, the Urban League, Hadassah, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Houston, the school district, the city, interfaith ministries--lots of different organizations came together and determined that we were going to create together a solution.
Secretary Riley came down to Houston and kicked off Houston Reads To Lead. Houston became the first America READ city in the United States. And I'm saying that with some pride because sometimes you need something to kick of a synergy.
And having the Governor's initiative and then the President's initiative created the atmosphere in our city to be able to come together. It was the thing that was clearly the right thing to do. And it didn't matter that there was no legislation. It didn't matter that there weren't parameters specifically designed.
It created a concept around which everybody within our community could focus.
Then the President's summit happened. And our community agreed to recruit 20,000 volunteers for literacy. We found that business companies were coming forward and saying what could they do. Exxon donated a loaned executive to run the program and coordinate it for the whole of the city.
So we were very, very excited about all the things that have happened. We have a couple of recommendations that I'd like to present, if I may.
I think that it would be important to support community collaborative efforts by providing funding for family literacy programs. The largest numbers of families with the greatest literacy needs live in urban America.
Target funding to major city literacy coalitions to make a big impact and cut down on red tape and bureaucracy at a state level and also to recognize and support the work that's already being done in some of the major cities.
Limit funding to tax supported school systems that are already budgeted to teach reading and provide funding to community coalitions and initiatives which are working to support the school system and parents and family programs.
Expand the concept of parents as first teachers to ensure that every parent with limited literacy skills can learn together with their children. Encourage parents to be volunteers for their own children.
Clarify the recent legislation regarding work study to enable work study students to support parents as well as children in family literacy programs. Explore creative partnerships and funding blending with Even Start, Head Start, all of those different funding pots.
I think--and I hesitate to say this. When all the funding comes down to one community and it goes into one pot and the community can determine where those resources are best spent, you can leverage dollars so much better than when funding comes in separate silos and the programs are fragmented all over the place.
And then be flexible and creative and innovative to allow for change to happen.
See Appendix J for the written statement of Ms. Doughty
Chairman Goodling. Ms. Nicholas, you said that it was a unanimous vote to get out of the mess that you were in. What kind of a vote was it to get into the mess that you got into and how did that ever happen?
Ms. Nicholas. Well, I say this in jest, but truthfully, I've only been on the state board for one year, so I--
Chairman Goodling. You can't take any responsibility or blame.
Ms. Nicholas. I can't take any responsibility, but I can take responsibility for the difficulty we've had getting out of the mess. But someone sitting in this chair previous to me talked about snake oil salesmen. And I think there was a lot of that going on.
I also think there were a lot of really well intended people. I think there was, and to some degree, still are residual remains of a culture within our educational community in my state--I can't speak for others--where there was a strong, strong tendency to evaluate ideas based on who said them and whether they were nice people rather than putting them to the cold light of day.
Chairman Goodling. As a follow up question, the secure teacher, did they fall into that pattern? Were they forced or did they use the best of all programs as a good teacher normally will?
Ms. Nicholas. The latter.
But I have to tell you they did that--I've had just numbers of conversations with teachers throughout the state and they still go on as recently as a couple of months ago that the good teacher loves their student and will do anything to establish that success.
Many of them risk termination for using just tools of the trade that were phonics. I know of one teacher who was disciplined for giving a spelling test three years ago in the State of California. Spelling--probably the most notorious byproduct of Whole Language was that one damaged the self-esteem of the child by giving a spelling test.
There were some real odd things going on and teachers suffered very greatly. And it seemed to me the more dedicated you were, the greater the risk. And believe me, many of our teachers took great, great personal risk for the benefit of their children.
Chairman Goodling. The reason I asked that is that I've said several times my wife would punch out the administrator that told her that she couldn't teach phonics. She's also punch out an administrator who said she couldn't use Whole Language.
She believes that she can very effectively teach by using the best of every program that's out there.
Which leads me to Ms. Ruggles. I hope Frankfort, Illinois knows how lucky they are.
Ms. Ruggles. Thank you. I actually teach in Park Forest Chicago Heights. I live in Frankfort. Thank you very much.
Chairman Goodling. And I would assume that you use the best of every--
Ms. Ruggles. I appreciate what you said about that because books were collected--I mean, we had to run an underground, change the books at night program because when Whole Language came in--and granted, the books had wonderful stories, but at first grade it was not instructional.
And all books were collected and taken out of the rooms, and you were given this program to use. And you did not use anything else you were told. And on days when there were administrative meetings, all the sudden people were grouping because you did not group children.
Pretend your teachers were dismissed at the end of the school year if they were holding groups. So it's exactly like what you said. And the materials--a lot of the materials were taken away so you were making your own materials because you knew what was right.
And there were terrible things said about people that were using phonics. And so it was difficult. Even though, you know, like what you're saying about your wife, absolutely. You know when you've been doing it a long time that there is a framework that you must work, that that's the way young children learn to read.
And when all the sudden that's taken away and it becomes that your name called if you're doing phonics and you're felt that you're not teaching children equitably, it becomes very difficult.
Chairman Goodling. Ms. Doughty, I was glad you talked about family literacy as most of those who testified earlier did. I don't know how it took us all these years to realize that you couldn't break the cycle unless you dealt with the entire family.
But for some reason or other, we only got around to that in about the last ten years, to the best of my knowledge. We did, when we reauthorized adult ed. You can include Even Start in that effort to bring about family literacy. Same way with Title I. We now indicate that that should be part of it.
And of course, that was one of the biggest problems with Head Start. There was a parental component, but it had nothing to do with improving literacy skills or parenting skills. And that's changed.
Just one story I might tell. The Secretary said to me that the President was in Ireland and he saw this wonderful intergenerational program. Over on this side of the room, they had little children, preschool children, and they were working with them on reading readiness skills and so on.
And on this side, they had parents and they were working on their parenting skills and their literacy skills. And then they brought them together so that they could share what each learned. And I told the Secretary, they stole that from us.
That's Even Start. You don't have to go to Ireland to see that. But the intergenerational issue is just so important if we're really going to have to break the cycle.
Mr. Ford. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I also thank the panelists for coming.
And I would agree with the Chairman and certainly his wife in saying that we certainly want to empower teachers to be able to pick and choose from the best elements or best dimensions of any initiative as we teach our kids.
I think sometimes here on both sides of the aisle we lose sight of whom our_the important players in this game. Teachers obviously play a huge role, but it's the students who_I'm sure the teachers on this panel and educators who spoke before would all agree it's the young people and the students who we're trying to prepare for the challenges that they will face.
And I see that our--one of your panelists is leaving.
Chairman Goodling. Thank you for coming, Ms. Doughty, and please have a safe trip back.
Mr. Ford. But I would ask the panelists, as you think in terms of the Federal role and you think in terms of the strengths and something that we've already talked about in terms of the money being fragmented, money that comes from the Federal level--in a broader sense, you all have talked about this whole debate, phonics and Whole Language, and certainly there's a lot of controversy attached to that and there are good points on both sides.
But leaving that aside for one moment, as we look at crafting some sort of constructive Federal role, just your thoughts. I am one who believes that we ought to have standards for teachers and for schools and we ought to spend Federal dollars in helping to build new schools and provide--put more technology in the classroom.
And I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on that. And specifically, the introduction of technology in the classroom. How does that affect phonics and Whole Language and some of the teaching methods that both of you have talked about and clearly endorse?
Ms. Nicholas. I'll just take a very brief crack at it.
I do represent my state on a technology panel. We have actually asked for research which would substantiate that early learning--and that's in terms of reading, that's what I'm speaking of--if there's any evidence, if there had been any factual studies done that would show positive, negative or neutral results with technology, and we have yet to be able to find any.
That doesn't say they don't exist. But it seems to be highly inconclusive. I do know in another hat that I used to wear that we are highly successful with teenagers who happen to be incarcerated using technology to teach literacy.
There are some very, very good--this is just my personal observation--very, very good software programs that are useful in that respect.
In terms of the broader issue of how do you link Federal dollars to real good results for students, I guess I would really beg you to, whether it's in reading or mathematics or some other subject, you are the Federal Government and you have all the resources of the country intellectually behind you.
Please look at the research. And whatever it tells you in a given subject, link that research result, if it's conclusive, to how you make those expenditures. And that would be my only request of you.
Ms. Ruggles. For technology, unless it's related to the curriculum--it must be related to the curriculum so that teachers feel that this is not an add on. It's a tool that you use to enhance what we're teaching. And the children that I teach don't have computers at home, so it's critical that they learn how to use computers so that when they go out in the workforce, they have this information.
We've gotten an initiative from the state where we're connecting our second and third grade writing curriculum to work on the computer. So this summer, the teachers in second and third grade will be trained on the computer. They'll get a computer and a printer for their classroom.
And they will be submitting student writing so that children will be learning word processing. So therefore, your writing is tied in with your technology. The reason for the computer is to enhance your writing, spell check, etc.
Another really successful program is Accelerated Reader where books the children can check out from the library, you can take a test on the computer and you can win a t-shirt or you can win school supplies. And this Accelerated Reader, we have gotten this program in our district, and that's very successful.
The third thing is if you add a parent component, because many of our parents aren't familiar with the computer either. And I've seen that it works. We talk about all the things that we want to do for parents to help children learn to read.
I've seen it as a first grade teacher that if I invite the parents in and, even if I know that the parents can't read and I show them what the children are learning to do and I send home those letters to make the words, that the parents, as they're working with the children, are also learning to read.
And then when you invite the parent to come to the school and sit next to their child on the computer, the parent, even though you're not addressing the fact isn't computer comfortable or computer literate, you're saying now here's how your child learns and they are picking it up.
So I have found that to be very successful and the parents get very excited about coming in with their child to watch their child, but they're also learning themselves how to read, how to use the computer. So I think when it's tied to something--you just can't load a school with computers and not train staff.
The staff won't use it. A lot of staff isn't trained on computers either. It's got to be tied to something and there has to be a product, expectations, and there has to be training for teachers and parent involvement at that level where they get to come out and work on the computers has been successful.
Mr. Ford. Ten seconds, Mr. Chairman.
So professional development resources and funding, you would certainly support that?
Ms. Ruggles. Professional development. But you know, you've got to look at professional development is dismal. I mean, it is--you know, I --
Mr. Ford. In terms of the funding, you mean?
Ms. Ruggles. I'm talking about in terms of what we get as educators. You know, we get someone to come in speak and it's not ongoing. We don't go back and practice and then come back and say here's the problems I've found with it.
You know, one of the things of getting to teach this beginning reading course is I'm getting to work with Dr. Isabel Beck and Dr. Becky Hamilton. I can take their research. I can do it in my classroom. I can come back to them and say okay, look, this didn't work, help me.
So I'm getting to work with the researchers, and that is what we need for staff development. Not for someone to come in and tell me do this, but for someone to say okay, do this and I'll talk to you in a month after you've tried it and you'll give me a reaction to it.
You'll keep an account of what happened with your students, what training that you need. Because we just give it to people and they're sitting there in a gymnasium where you can't see the overhead, and it's gone. And the day's over, and it's gone. And then you would fill out an evaluation form and nobody ever does anything with it.
You know, and staff development is absolutely critical. This information this morning, teachers would have been jumping up and down. This is the information we need. You are all talking about what we need to learn and we are the ones who are training the--are teaching the children.
So yes, staff development's critical, but it has to be looked at as far as we don't just do it; we do it, then tell teachers what to do, and then we come back and talk about what we did and what worked and what didn't work.
Mr. Ford. Thank you.
And thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the extra minute or two.
Ms. Ruggles. Thank you.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Riggs.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank our two remaining witnesses, particularly my good friend, Janet Nicholas. I actually should have taken the prerogative of introducing Janet because she's a friend and I consider her a constituent even though she's just over the line.
She is a neighbor and fellow resident of Sonoma County in Northern California.
Janet, I wanted to ask you, are you familiar with the work that I believe Reid and the NIH are doing with, is it Sacramento County schools? That's one of the NIH test sites? And is that an example, going back to your testimony, of how we can implement federally funded and federally directed research?
And what do you think will ultimately come of that particular project or experiment in Sacramento schools? Is that something, for example, that the State Board of Education might be able to embrace and ultimately be able to implement statewide?
Ms. Nicholas. I just have to say I applaud you for that work and certainly applaud Professor Lyon for that. And the Sacramento City School District that you've indicated really has taken a leadership role in early reading.
I hope and have every confidence it will come out very well. And if in fact it does, then we easily can replicate it because it's set up as a model that can be analyzed and replicated.
Mr. Riggs. Well, as we consider potential congressional legislation to try to promote greater literacy skills nationwide, I'm wondering again if that is an example that we could build on and whether we should look to that particular case where you have NIH working with Sacramento schools and again use that as a model or an example for what we could be doing in the context of the legislation that we're considering.
The other thing that I wanted to ask was it seems to me so much of our problem here is a consequence of moving from the ABC's to what I call the three D', deliberately dumbing down, in public education.
And I just can't, for the life of me, understand how we have gotten to this problem, this phenomenon which I think the President referred to in his State of the Union address when he announced his national crusade for education as social promotion, the idea where too many of our kids are advanced from grade to grade, many times graduated as much on the basis of seat time and good behavior as on the basis of what they know and can demonstrate that they've learned.
The emphasis being again on seat time and not on standards. And it's now spilled over into higher education where more and more of our incoming college students are in need of remedial education, which some people have defined as not able to perform at the eighth grade level.
And it just seems to me that if again, we're going to address this problem, we need not only to look at why our programs, that you mentioned in your testimony, Janet, like Title I and programs where Federal taxpayers have spent hundreds of millions, of not billions of dollars over the years, why they're not giving us the long term or longitudinal results that we're looking for?
But also, whether we need to have or encourage the states and local school districts to adopt some system of competency based advancement. And then apply rigorous assessments, rigorous standards. And we could debate who sets those standards. But it seems to me that we've got to tie that to this literacy proposal.
Otherwise, we're going down the same road again without insisting on high standards and high expectations of students, teachers and parents. Do you want to comment on that and whether you see a need for a competency based advancement system being linked to our literacy initiative?
Ms. Nicholas. Well, absolutely. I take no pride in coming here and saying the horrible statistics that California has. I mean, that clearly does not make me at all happy. I can use the end result being our California State university system where last year's entering freshmen who met all the qualifications, they had the grades, they passed the courses, 54% of them couldn't pass the basic math test.
And it was, I believe, 52% couldn't pass the basic english requirements. And that, by the way, was not because they didn't speak English. They couldn't write properly for academics. We're debating all of the issues that you've brought up. And I guess I would just say ditto to everything that you've said.
We are struggling to move--there's a population I guess that I feel very compelled to try and represent, and those are the kids who are really trapped in failing schools. And they don't have the options that adults have of perhaps moving, getting a new job, moving to a new area.
They just aren't on the table. And it's very much on the forefront of what do we do if it really does take, as most of the scholars tell us, 20 years to change an institution? Are we willing to give up on kids who are stuck in failing schools?
My answer is easy. No, I'm not willing to sacrifice.
Mr. Riggs. Well, I hope I can convince my colleagues too because, going back to what Mr. Ford said, this isn't intended to be an indictment of the entire public education system. But I wonder how we got in this fix?
And I think we all understand that long term there are social and economic consequences to the individual and to society collectively as a result of that individual not having a certain basic level of academic proficiency lacking perhaps the workplace literacy skills necessary to find a good paying job.
Before we get into that mess down the road there ought to be real academic consequences in the system for someone who cannot perform to grade level. And I hope we can look at academic consequences before we simply go and throw more money at the problem.
Ms. Ruggles. Can I respond to that?
I think that we can test; but until we start teaching what children need to learn at first grade, it's not going to make a difference. And you might see temporary improvement. For example, we had a reading program where it was intrinsic.
You taught the phonics when it came up, if it came up. And the children at the end of the year weren't doing too badly. And I retested those children in second grade right when they came in in the fall in the gates, and they lost a lot over the summer.
Now people can say it's because they didn't read. I'm saying it's because they don't know how to decode. If you're going to rely on pictures and on pattern or predictable text, all that disappears in third grade. And all you've got left are those letters and sounds.
And if you can't sound out those words, if you can't decode, then your scores are not going to hold and they're not going to build. Once a child has that skill, then you can move to fluency and the automaticity where then you can read to learn anything that you want to learn.
But that's got to be--the money's got to be on putting a program in first grade in place where children get the opportunity--as much of an opportunity as they get with beautiful literature and beautiful books, they've got to get an opportunity to learn to decode.
That's where the money has to be.
Mr. Riggs. Now I don't, Mr. Chairman, I don't disagree. We have to move on both paths. But what I'm simply saying is if we throw hundreds of millions--let's just assume for a moment that we're successful and we bring a lot of kids up to grade level at the beginning or end of fourth grade.
I think we still acknowledge that there's a problem down the road if we don't sustain that improvement, if we cannot sustain those results. If that child then is below grade level or peer level or can graduate junior high school; or worse yet, if they are below grade or peer level and can graduate high school; if they can get admitted to college, then we will not have accomplished much.
So we have to, system wide, raise our expectations and standards. And I'm going to insist on that as principal author of the legislation as we move forward before we go throwing again hundreds of millions of dollars at this problem on top of all the money, the billions, that we're already spending for the variety of Federal programs, including Title I.
Chairman Goodling. I think if I can editorialize, part of the problem lies in the fact that we have grades and part of the social promotion is partially due to the fact that we have grades. And when you think about grades, you know, particularly when you talk about first grader, that's about as unfair as anything you can possibly do.
As people have heard me say many times, you get 20 youngsters in first grade, 20 different reading readiness levels, is it fair to say because you sat there for grade one that you failed because you weren't ready to read until February?
I mean, that's silly. We ought to have segments of learning that people are supposed to accomplish before they graduate and so on. But to tell a first grader you failed because you weren't ready to read, now, you know, if we had all these wonderful programs in preschool in place and they were properly done, etc., etc., then we wouldn't have all these different reading readiness levels.
But we do, and we're going to for a long, long time to come. And I think that's part of the problem that we get into and then somebody decides well, we'll socially promote.
Mr. Payne. Right, I agree with you there too that the readiness and the different levels at what youngsters come to school with is very important.
But I really almost take offense to the continued throwing of millions of dollars that the gentleman from California talks about all the time. How much money we've thrown at this educational system. When we look at how much money we throw at California to continue to build houses where they have mud slides and the houses come down, but the Federal Government goes back under FEMA and put money--I mean, hundreds of billions of dollars.
When we look at Californians having houses built right in the middle of these forests that catch on fire every year and FEMA comes back in, when we look at the hundreds of billions of dollars we spent on highways in California, when we look at earthquakes that are paid, the pittance of money that we spend on education--it's a disgrace.
And I'm getting sick and tired of hearing about this taxpayers' money, the millions of dollars we throw out. It's hypocritical. I'm tired of that crap. If we're talking about what the Federal Government is spending, let's just take what we spent on education and look at what we pour into California and then we would at least have an opportunity--I'm getting sick and tired of taxpayers' monies, throwing millions and millions of dollars at it.
It's a pittance. It comes nowhere near the money that we throw to California for disasters and all the rest. People continue to go there. People continue to build. They build in the same place. And this hypocritical pontificating is getting to be up to here.
I get sick and tired of every time we're talking about trying to bring a kid in to teach him to learn and then to try to have an equal playing field, we hear about all these hundreds of millions of dollars that we've spent.
I'm tired of it.
I hope, Mr. Riggs, you've come up with some other way to characterize taxpayers' monies being spent on education. Absolutely every time you said it--five times in the time that you had even after your five minutes was up. If we're going to talk about trying to get youngsters to learn and that everybody being able to have an equal playing field in this country, we ought to do it.
And I guess you can continue to characterize your way anyway you want it. But as long as you keep talking about throwing, wasting it what I get, all of this money on education, then I'm going to continue to have the same tone that I have.
And if we're talking about bipartisan stuff, if we stay on that stuff, then I'm going to stay on mine. I don't have any questions.
Chairman Goodling. My hope would be that we would all consider what I believe Ms. Ruggles said, is to make sure that whatever program--and in fact, both of you I think said--whatever programs we come up with, they are proven programs and they are quality programs.
And I think it was Ms. Ruggles who indicated that a lot of young people, with some of our dollars, have been denied quality. And that's always been my gripe and my concern, that we have paid little attention to quality. And that's totally unfair to those in particular who are most in need and depend on our ability to help them.
Mr. Schaffer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As you can see, sometimes these are delicate issues here in Washington. There are those in this chamber, indeed in this body, who take great offense when we talk about our concern and caution that many of us apply to the excessive waste in Government.
That being said, the fact remains that there are millions, in fact billions, of dollars that are wasted in public education throughout the country, and many of those--because of programs that emanate right from this chamber, this institution of Congress.
And I have had an opportunity to read through both of your testimonies, and I'm sorry I was unable to be here for it.
But Ms. Nicholas, in particular, I'm quite impressed with what I read and find, and I just want to make a comparison that I am quite serious about. By far, the premiere thinker on the issue of education in America's history, at least in my opinion and I know that of others, was Thomas Jefferson who was not an educator and was not a school master.
And I see you, especially through the comments that I read, as being very similar in terms of your genuine concern for the families of Government owned school systems and almost the monopoly status that is applied to the most important function of our country, I believe, which is educating our children and our future leaders.
But I want to restate for the record and for the committee just to highlight something that you have submitted.
You said ``it is popular to espouse that the role of the Federal Government is to provide vision and leadership and educational issues, yet those words ring hollow and have had little impact on the quality of education received by real children, particularly those condemned to low performing schools by virtue of their place of residence.''
Ms. Ruggles, you mentioned the teaching--the professional development aspect as well, that information is thrown at teachers. Some make good use of it; others don't. That there really is no systemic process in place to make sure that continuing education actually results in the better education of children.
In both cases, you've talked about treating teachers like real professionals, which I think we ought to do. But the system does not do that. You've talked about treating parents like real customers essentially, allowing them to choose an educational setting that best meets the needs of their children.
Those kinds of concepts are in fact foreign among those who are--who believe that the Federal Government plays some meaningful role in centralizing education authority here in Washington.
And so that is why you see people get upset when they realize just what you have told us, that the millions of dollars that have been wasted from Washington back to our states have probably done more to harm the ability of real professionals, real political--or educational thinkers to design and deliver an educational process that best meets the needs of the children that you know best.
I would like you to--Ms. Nicholas, to comment, if you would, on this America READS program, a proposal to have more Federal intrusion into the ability of states to manage and design a school system that meets the needs of you as a board member and knows your state better than we do.
And to talk about your thoughts about the--what you expect from that heightened level of Federal interest in centralizing education. And also, tell us whether you agree with the comment that has been made by many that the suggestion that we need in America READS program is really a condemnation of the Head Start program, which is very similar in many ways; is operated with non-professionals in many cases; and has, by almost all accounts, been a miserable failure when you look at results especially past the third grade, which you have mentioned, which is where the decoding philosophy begins to break down.
I'd like both of you to comment on this.
Ms. Nicholas. I'll try. In terms of the first part of your request dealing with, from my perspective, the America READS program or proposal, there's really two parts. I have to separate out in my mind what is it that would be really difficult for my state to do and for our state to finance, as well as conduct--and I have to tell you the most difficult thing for a state to do, which I think needs to be replicated two or three times then, is to do the research.
So the Federal Government could take the strongest possible role in research. I realize we're talking about reading, but my real love is mathematics. I won't get into it, but I just have to put that in the record--and instruction in mathematics.
If the Federal Government could continue to support and really enhance efforts like the ones that you heard about this morning from Dr. Lyon, you would be making not just a contribution to California, but to the entire country and all the children.
In terms of personally looking at California, we last year just started on a mentorship program which is truly excellent. I'm not saying it's perfect because it's not. We always need more volunteers. But the voluntary part of the program, in my opinion, is something that we can really do at a state level.
What we can't do is the research. And if you have extra money, I certainly want you to give it to education. I think that's a good idea. But I'd like to see it go in areas that make the most difference, and that is both teacher preparation and what I will say quality in-service.
And I think the two of us agree as to what is quality with relationship to reading. Quality sustained inservice professional development for teachers through various types of proposals similar to the concept that--many years ago, the Eisenhower Grant for Teacher Training.
Those would be more important than the voluntary component because I want, for those six hours a day, every California kid in school. I want wonderful things to be happening.
Ms. Ruggles. I would completely agree on the research part. We desperately need that because, very often, the research will back what we know we're supposed to be doing. And yet, we aren't given the materials to do it. So when we come up with research that's been replicated, that's proven, that's been around for years, then we can say okay, this is what I'm giving my children for instruction.
This is why I'm using this decoding explicit and systematic rather than when it just happens to come up in the story. This is why I'm building. So I completely agree that would do so much to help staff.
On the volunteer part, I have three retired women who have been--well, two of the three have been helping me for nine years in my classroom. They come in every Tuesday and Thursday and work with the children in reading.
What they do is--now, since they've been doing it so long, they've watched how I do it and they will have them, you know, make the words out of letters and they'll work with them also in math. But it took a tremendous amount of work with them. And they would come over and ask me can I watch you do this so I know what to do?
Because you just can't have somebody just coming in and working with a child without the teacher spending--or somebody spending a great deal of time saying here's our focus, here's what we need to do, the child needs to know these letters, they need to know the sounds, they need to know how to manipulate these letters to make different words.
So there's a lot of training that has to go in. If people just come in to help me, then I'm stopping my instruction and I'm saying--when they say what am I supposed to do, then that's taking time away from children and time off task which is absolutely critical.
Chairman Goodling. I didn't realize we're down to three minutes.
Ms. Ruggles. Okay. So I guess that there would have to be a great deal of training for it.
Chairman Goodling. I do want to thank you again for being so patient and the good testimony. I had to laugh, Ms. Ruggles, when you were talking about professional development and it has to be meaningful and worthwhile.
Because, as an administrator and now as a member of Congress, I get lectured every time I go home to think that they would take me away from my children and put some substitute in there and give me that kind of nonsense and call it professional development.
There's just not very many good professional development people out there apparently. So we have to get that panel this morning to get out on the road, I guess. That's the important thing.
Thank you again very much.
Ms. Ruggles. Thank you.
Chairman Goodling. Appreciate it.
[Whereupon, at 2:15 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]
HEARING ON LITERACY: A REVIEW OF CURRENT FEDERAL PROGRAMS
Thursday, July 31, 1997
House of Representatives,
Committee on Education and the Workforce,
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. William F. Goodling [chairman of the committee] presiding.
Present: Chairman Goodling, Representatives Petri, Barrett, Hoekstra, McKeon, Castle, Riggs, Schaffer of Colorado, Deal, Clay, Kildee, Martinez, Owens, Payne, Mink, Roemer, Scott, Woolsey, Fattah, Hinojosa, McCarthy, Ford, and Kucinich.
Staff Present: Lynn Selmser, Professional Staff Member; D'Arcy Philps, Professional Staff Member; Sally Lovejoy, Senior Editorial Policy Advisor; Andrea Weiss, Legislative Assistant; Carol Cummings, fellow; Gail Weiss, Minority Staff Director; June L. Harris, Minority Education Coordinator; Alex Nock, Minority Legislative Associate; and Mark Zuckerman, Minority Counsel.
Chairman Goodling. If the witnesses will come to the table: Dr. Vinovskis, Dr. Walberg, Dr. Wilhoyte, Dr. Hayes, Dr. Johnson. All those doctors and we peons sitting up here. How about that?
Today we will examine the importance of Federal literacy programs and teaching children how to read. Witnesses will provide us with their insights into the effectiveness of the programs, such as Title I, Head Start, Even Start, and Bilingual Education. We spend money on programs, and we always want to know whether they are quality programs and how effective they are, and the purpose of today's hearing is to gather information on what works and what doesn't work.
Reading is fundamental to a child's ability to learn, and if children cannot read, they will have difficulty with their academic classes. According to the NAEP 1994 Reading Report Card, 40 percent of students in the fourth grade were below the basic level of reading achievement. This is a cause for great concern to us. I am particularly interested in learning about the impact of the Title I program. These are definitely the children most in need of reading assistance, and we have to be sure the Federal programs are designed to meet their needs and to make sure they are effective.
Of course, I am always interested in hearing how we are doing in Even Start, and we will be interested in hearing that again today. And, again, in Head Start and Title 1, I have always said year after year after year, we want to make sure they are quality programs, because if they are not quality programs, we will help to cause the disadvantaged to become more disadvantaged, and that is the opposite of what we want to do.
I now turn to the ranking member, Mr. Clay.
See Appendix L for the opening statement of the Honorable Bill Goodling
Mr. Clay. Mr. Chairman, I have a detailed statement. I would ask unanimous consent to insert it in the record at this point.
Chairman Goodling. Fine. I thought you were going to give some summary statement, but this is fine.
See Appendix M for the prepared statement of the Honorable Bill Clay
Chairman Goodling. Okay, Lamar Smith would also like his statement to be included for the record. Without objection, we will include his statement. Lamar Smith is not a member of the committee but very much interested in literacy.
See Appendix N for the prepared statement of Representative Smith of Texas
Chairman Goodling. We will begin, then. We would appreciate it if you can summarize your testimony, and I imagine we will have more members showing up as we continue and then we can ask questions and receive answers from all of you.
Let's start with Dr. Vinovskis.
STATEMENT OF MARIS A. VINOVSKIS, DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY, AND THE CENTER FOR POLITICAL STUDIES, INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN
Dr. Vinovskis. My name is Maris Vinovskis, and I am the Bentley professor of history and a senior research scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. I was also the research adviser to the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in 1992 and 1993, and thus have had the privilege to work with both the Bush and Clinton administrations.
I will submit the full text of my remarks for the record and will briefly summarize my comments for the committee now.
While the rationale for educating children has shifted somewhat over time, Americans have always viewed education as important for the well-being of each citizen. There has been a significant shift, however, from a heavy dependence upon parental and private responsibility for that education and to a greater reliance on public schools.
Throughout the past 350 years, providing education for the poor was a major societal goal. Historically, support for K-12 education was mostly a State and local responsibility, with the Federal Government playing a secondary role. But as part of President Johnson's War on Poverty, the Federal Government created several compensatory education programs for the poor, such as Title I and Head Start. These educational programs symbolized the renewed commitment of American society to help the disadvantaged, but they were premised on an unrealistic expectation that we could eradicate poverty almost entirely by means of a few uncoordinated, underfunded, untested, and largely new Federal initiatives.
In the mid-sixties, Title I and Head Start raised hopes that for the next generation poverty could be eliminated, but by all accounts, the programs have failed to provide at-risk children with sufficient assistance to overcome their disadvantages and compete equally and successfully with their middle-class counterparts.
Some of the individual Title I and Head Start programs have provided at-risk children with a better education than they might have received otherwise, but it is appalling, that having spent more than $150 billion on these compensatory education programs, we still do not know which practices and programs are particularly effective in helping at-risk children, especially those living in the high poverty areas of inner cities.
There are several explanations for the overall limited results of Title I, Head Start, and other early childhood education programs of the past three decades. Our initial expectations of them were unrealistically high, and our understanding of the nature and persistence of disadvantages among the poor was too simplistic. Too often, well meaning proponents of these programs understandably defended Title I and Head Start at all costs against hostile critics. But in the process, we were reluctant to admit there were weaknesses and limitations in these programs.
Neither the executive branch nor the Congress has done a good job of ascertaining exactly what types of compensatory education services and programs are most effective for helping at-risk children. While there have been some useful national assessments of the overall impact of Head Start and Title I, usually these evaluations have not even attempted to ascertain in a rigorous and systematic matter which components of their programs have been successful, and although there have been a few good in-depth assessments of individual model programs, especially in the area of early childhood education, the Federal Government has devoted far too little attention and too few funds to develop and test alternative ways of delivering educational services to the disadvantaged.
The failure of the Federal Government to provide more guidance in educational program development and assessment is disappointing, given its initial efforts in this area. When the Johnson administration created Title I and Head Start, it also established the regional educational laboratories and research and development centers, which were to produce precisely the large-scale assessments that are needed.
Moreover, the Nixon administration created the National Institute of Education to sponsor long-term research and developments. Unfortunately, neither NIE nor its successor, LERI, produced the type and quality of research development on specific educational practices and programs which could now be employed effectively by Title I and Head Start.
Most of the current research and development activities in OERI and the rest of the U.S. Department of Education do not include systematic development and rigorous assessment of different models of compensatory education programs. The Department is beginning a valuable, large-scale individual analysis of the overall impact of the Title I program, but this study will not systematically ascertain which educational practices or models are most effective.
The inability and unwillingness of the Federal Government to develop and systematically assess different compensatory education programs invites the exploration of alternative strategies. For example, this may be an area where private foundations could play an important and constructive role, but the U.S. Department of Education and OERI should develop, test, and disseminate information about appropriate methods and models of instruction by hiring more distinguished researchers and targeting their existing moneys more efficiently and effectively.
Let me conclude by saying that when existing Federal programs, well intentioned though they may be, are not as effective as they should be, the problem is not just wasted tax dollars but wasted chances to help those most in need. We raise the expectation of those who have the least to look forward to and then dash their hopes by failing to really help them escape from their poverty.
The overall experiences with Title I and Head Start also have been frustrating for the American public, who have been willing to sacrifice for the achievement of the lofty goals of Title I and Head Start but now find little real progress has been made.
For many of the at-risk students who pass through these programs and who are not significantly helped, however, the results are more than just frustrating, they are precious opportunities lost forever.
See Appendix O for the written statement of Dr. Maris Vinovskis
Chairman Goodling. Dr. Vinovskis is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Michigan, and he recently completed a paper entitled "Development and Effectiveness of Federal Compensatory Education," focused mainly on Title I and Head Start.
Dr. Walberg is a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He recently produced a paper for the Brookings Institute entitled "Uncompetitive American Schools: Causes and Cures."
Dr. Cheryl Wilhoyte is the superintendent of schools for the Madison Metropolitan School District. She has done a significant amount of work in Madison with reading programs under Title I.
Dr. Hayes is an associate professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, specializing in education, research, evaluation and instructional systems development. He also serves as an evaluator for several national programs in family literacy and school reform.
Dr. Johnson is Director of the Collaborative for School Improvement at the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas, Austin. He currently directs the Austin office of the U.S. Department of Education's Region 8 Comprehensive Regional Assistance Center.
We welcome all belatedly. And now Dr. Walberg.
STATEMENT OF HERBERT J. WALBERG, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
Dr. Walberg. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
In my view, a growing crisis of literacy and learning lies before us. Congress could best help by undoing educationally harmful categorical programs. These include Title I, the $7 billion per year program for poor and low-achieving students for which taxpayers paid more than $100 billion over the last 25 years. They also include special and bilingual education for psychologically handicapped and limited English proficient students.
Study after study has shown, on average, these programs do not help students' learning or literacy. They have even harmed some children for whom they were intended, and they have created an expansive bureaucracy and hosts of special pleaders at the Federal, State, and local levels who raise costs and diminish the general effectiveness of American schools.
The United States Department of Education, in my view, left unfulfilled its duty to inform the public and the Congress of the true state of schools in respect to their most important purpose, learning. We must turn to recent reports of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. These reports reveal that during the school years, U.S. students make the least progress in the essential literacy skill of reading, as well as in mathematics and science achievement. Yet, with the exception of Switzerland, the United States spent more per elementary and secondary student than any other OECD country.
Thus, the world's most productive country has the least productive schools in terms of what students learn during the school years and especially in relation to how much money we spend on education.
There are a number of reasons for this, in my view, but Federal categorical programs contribute massively to productivity problems and create others. The programs are strongly influenced by teacher unions and other education lobbying groups to advance their interest rather than the interest of students, taxpayers, and the Nation. They create red tape and huge bureaucracies, which make the United States administrative costs twice the average of other developed or industrialized OECD countries. They cloud accountability for learning results, and they create imperious, detailed rules and regulations that make it difficult for State and local educational authorities to bring about constructive changes. These distract educators from their clients, which are students, both categorical and non-categorical.
A good example of a categorical program of this nature is transitional bilingual education. This means teaching students in their native language, which denies them the very experience that they most need, practice in English. Such programs, moreover, have perverse incentives that make them grow in size, cost, and ineffectiveness. Thus, the more students classified as limited English proficient, the more categorical Federal funds flow to a school.
The same is true for special education students, who are spuriously classified as psychologically handicapped, such as learning disabled or mildly mentally retarded. Since Federal funds pay for teaching and administrative posts, it is like paying doctors to keep their patients sick. Bilingual and special education categorical programs thus create conflicts of interest between educators' jobs and their students' success.
Much research, including very recent research, shows that Federal special education classifications are scientifically unreliable. The first report was done about 20 years ago by the National Academy of Sciences. They stigmatize students and segregate them from others. Placing students in special and bilingual education programs gives them an excuse not to learn, and they rarely escape. Though these programs can cost two or three times as much as regular education, the students are often worse off.
Categorical program regulations, moreover, assume the Federal Government knows better than citizens and State and local educators about their preferences, their students' needs, and which education methods work best. Yet a quarter century of research revealing the failure of categorical programs shows that these are false assumptions.
In my view, the Congress might best lead the Nation in solving the school productivity problem by decentralizing school decision making, not to an unproductive educational establishment but to citizens. Indeed, the biggest problem with categorical programs is they subsidize the status quo and interest of providers rather than consumers; that is, parents and students.
Free markets, on the other hand, provide the greatest amount of innovation, efficiency, and consumer satisfaction the world has ever known. They are precisely what our schools require. A growing number of studies show competition and choice benefit educational consumers. Increasingly favorable to the idea are citizens, especially poor parents in big cities whose children are often ill-served by categorical programs.
I believe that Title 1 was a good example of a program that could be voucherized. The most direct remedy of the educational disadvantage of poor families is to give them money, not to bureaucrats and special interest, but to families in the form of grants or vouchers. With these, they could purchase educational services from a variety of public schools and private providers.
Such redesigned categorical programs would allow their parents to make choices among competing providers. Aside from assuring safety and civil rights protections, regulations could be minimal. Program funds could be free of the rules that suffocate many public schools. Money could be concentrated less on administrative overhead and more on learning. In my view, markets would compensate educational providers according to their capacity to attract and maintain student enrollment, which would be decided by parents.
Given this learning crisis, Mr. Chairman, my hope is that the Congress will neither continue nor modify categorical programs but undo them. Short of this, Congress might best leave control of such programs to State and local school boards; better yet, to parents.
See Appendix P for the written statement of Dr. Herbert Walberg
Chairman Goodling. Dr. Johnson.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH F. JOHNSON, JR., COLLABORATIVE FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT, CHARLES A. DANA CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, AUSTIN, TEXAS
Dr. Johnson. Good morning.
On both State and national assessments, scores for Texas students are indicating substantial improvement in reading, writing, and mathematics, especially for African-American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students. There are many factors that have contributed to improvements in Texas schools, including, first and foremost, the hard work and dedication of thousands of teachers, parents, principals, and other school leaders. But another critical factor has been the use of Federal education resources in ways that support State and local reform efforts.
In particular, two themes of current Federal education legislation have been powerful in supporting Texas reform: first, a strong focus on State and local goals for the academic achievement of all students; and, secondly, flexibility in the use of Federal resources, coupled with accountability for academic results.
Federal resources are helping Texas schools focus on Texas goals. New content standards and assessments are causing educators to focus on helping students acquire the challenging reading, writing, and mathematical skills that life in the 21st century will demand.
Federal funds have facilitated a process in which thousands of Texas teachers, parents, business leaders, and community agencies have come together to define Texas' expectations for the academic achievement of all Texas students. Furthermore, instead of detracting from the focus of State programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act resources are helping educators pursue State reforms in ways that benefit all populations of students.
Over 2,500 schools in Texas are taking advantage of the opportunity to create school-wide programs that focus Federal resources on whole school improvements. These schools no longer need to spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about complying with complex Federal rules. They no longer need to spend valuable professional time on issues such as who was eligible to use the computer or which students can work with the aide. Instead, they can focus on creating high-quality schools that help every student meet State and local standards for academic excellence.
It is important that Federal education resources continue to emphasize flexibility in the processes schools are asked to pursue while insisting upon accountability for the results those programs are expected to achieve.
Another way that Federal legislation can add to the power of State and local reform efforts is to help bring parents, communities, and schools together in support of the crucial goal of getting all students to read proficiently by the end of the third grade.
Research on some of the most effective successful schools in Texas revealed that a common attribute of these schools was their ability to create strong partnerships with parents, businesses, and community agencies. These schools recognized that if they were to achieve high academic goals, they needed to involve everyone in helping make the dream a reality.
Legislation, such as America Reads, could become the vehicle that supports State and local reform efforts by building school-parent-community partnerships focused on the important goal of getting all students to read proficiently.
Any such effort must be designed in a way that builds on and supports State and local reading improvement initiatives. It must be a resource that complements and enhances instead of creating competing or conflicting agendas. It must insist upon accountability for measurable results for all children and focus educators on effective practices that show the greatest promise for getting all children to read. Yet, it must provide reasonable flexibility to allow schools to tailor efforts that respond to the unique strengths and needs of their students, their parents, and their communities.
Such legislation, in combination with existing Federal education programs, can have a powerful impact in supporting the attainment of high academic goals in Texas and throughout the Nation.
See Appendix Q for the written statement of Dr. Joe Johnson
Chairman Goodling. Dr. Wilhoyte.
STATEMENT OF CHERYL H. WILHOYTE, Ph.D., SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, MADISON, WISCONSIN, REPRESENTING THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA
Dr. Wilhoyte. Good morning, Chairman Goodling, Members and staff of the Education and Workforce Committee. I bring you greetings from Money magazine's number one city for education, Madison, Wisconsin, where I serve as superintendent of schools, the second largest district in the State. We serve 25,000 students who represent the ethnic diversity, diversity in languages, and the increase in poverty of children across our urban centers. Today I come to represent the American Association of School Administrators, 14,000 fellow superintendents and educational leaders.
Your Federal policy programs that successfully contribute to the literacy agenda today hold special interest for me for two reasons. First, as a 21-year-old, fourth- to sixth-grade teacher, my biggest challenges were the children that couldn't learn to read, and yet I was serving in Montgomery County, just a few miles from here, in a very affluent district. And my second biggest challenge, as a not so young superintendent, is a school district that made dramatic changes in the diversity of young people it serves with regard to their readiness for reading. Our children used to come to school reading and writing, doing all kinds of things, and now we are lucky if they know one or two letter-sound relationships, and they barely recognize their name.
This rapid change in our student population, particularly as the number of children of poverty increases, makes them sure candidates for school failure because of their lack of literacy. Thirty percent of our total school population now lives in poverty, with some of our elementary schools approaching the 60 to 70 percent mark. Yet 90 percent of our third-graders pass above standard on the State third grade reading test. I attribute this success to several things: A community who invests in schools; a business community, with the city and the county, who have taken over drug-related violent housing projects and returned them to safe, wonderful places for children and families; a Board of Education that spends 85 percent of its total budget on classroom instruction; leadership for learning; administrators, teachers and students who know high literacy standards and work together with parents and volunteers to achieve them; and, most importantly today, Federal Title I resources that are focused and invaluable catalysts for maintaining the high literacy performance in the face of dire predictions.
I want to talk a little bit about Carolyn. Carolyn is 5 years old, and she just finished the Head Start program for homeless children. She is bubbly, she is bossy, and she is bright. Carolyn doesn't know her colors; she doesn't know one letter-sound relationship; she doesn't recognize her name in print. These things are not important in her world, nor do they bring joy to her. Carolyn is coming to kindergarten in 6 weeks, ready or not.
In my testimony I shared three schools that I wanted to bring to your attention, schools that have moved third-graders to reading above standard from the 69th to the 80th percentile; Glendale School, moving children from 49 to 60 percent achievement. At Thoreau School, that had but two children who had letter-sound relationships when they entered, and after second grade all were reading above standard but three English-as-a-Second-Language children who had entered after kindergarten.
The winning combination: Schoolwide, Title 1, Title I programs versus targeted, coherent curriculum versus the fragmentation of pull-out. Intensive designed interventions, like Reading Recovery versus patchwork assistance; and the collective IQ of a school district that is focused on student achievement, participation and a climate that is safe and respectable for all children.
The question before us today is will we be the dreamkeepers or the gatekeepers, keeping children where they, quote/unquote, belong, by race, by socioeconomic status, by gender? Will we make the decisions that provide leadership for policy implementation and monitoring that are accountable for student results?
Carolyn and the Carolyns of Madison are our children of promise, for the future of our city, our State, and our Nation. In the information age literacy is not only a moral and ethical imperative, it is an economic one. Without Title I in Madison, it would not be possible. I urge you set the policy, keep the gates open, keep the promise, keep the American dream.
See Appendix R for the written statement of Dr. Cheryl Wilhoyte
Chairman Goodling. Dr. Hayes.
STATEMENT OF ANDREW HAYES, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
Dr. Hayes. I am Andrew Hayes, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Consulting Director of Research for the National Center for Family Literacy. But I am speaking for myself here today, even though much of my experience has been sponsored through work through the National Center.
I would like to applaud those of you who have conceptualized and dreamed of the national Even Start Program, translating that into a system of legislation and a system of programs throughout this country. Particularly, we would like to applaud you because what you have done, in my judgment, is taken on a very complex national issue, serving a very complex set of needs with a very complex population of families. This is no small matter, but you at least have taken it on.
What Even Start Family Literacy Programs have provided, in my judgment, is a seamless way for the families to enter programs that have often been difficult for them, move through them and make accomplishments. I started work with family literacy programs in a comprehensive way and an intensive way in 1988 with the evaluation of the original Kenan model family literacy programs and have continued working almost continuously since then.
What do I know from my experiences. I would like to summarize that in two sentences: Implement the programs as they are designed; they work. Don't implement them as they are designed; they don't work. That is not so surprising because that is the case with quite a number of programs that have very sound models but fail to get implemented as fully as we would like to have them implemented. I find from my work programs that have substantial variations in quality among sites consistently, and often among sites from year to year as staff turnovers occur, and as leadership changes within the organizations occur, and as funding streams change.
Family literacy programs address family goals, goals for the adults who participate, goals for the children who participate, goals for the families themselves. I have documented in a number of studies, since 1988, that well-implemented programs do, in fact, accomplish those goals. I would like to focus my attention here, however, on the goals primarily related to the performance of children and to the success of children in schools when they participate in well-implemented family literacy programs.
We know some things from the studies that I have done and from my review of the national studies of Even Start Programs. One is that almost all enrolling families, particularly the parents, had unhappy and unsuccessful schooling experiences when they were in school themselves. To be successful with our programs, we must, in some way, get the parents to be active participants in the education of their own children and work with the schools cooperatively in the education of the children. We must get these parents who had unsuccessful school experiences comfortable in schools and comfortable working with people in schools as people. Well-implemented family literacy programs do that without qualifications.
A high percentage of the parents either had entered adult education programs before without success or said to me, I would never enter those programs, so we are often dealing with the most difficult of the families to serve, people for whom the single-service programs for the adults quite often have not been successful, or they would not participate in them directly.
As from previous testimony that you have received about the impact of family communications and language on child learning, the language patterns of the family highly influence what happens to the children in their own schooling. We know that complex language--language that is not directive, language that is positive--has a more positive effect on the children. I am not sure I started that sentence right. Language that is complex and positive and language that communicates ideas with children is more positive, has more impact on the learning than does directive kinds of language that often occurs in the low-education, low-income families. Family literacy programs, when they are implemented well, in our studies have shown to change that pattern of language within 6 months of the time they enrolled to language that is complex, language that is a positive, language that communicates with children in ways that helps them develop ideas.
Children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, and they continue learning on through the grades. A recent follow-up study I did of over 500 families in well-implemented Even Start Programs nationwide showed that the children from those programs are rated by their kindergarten teachers at or above average in their class over 80 percent of the time on all of the factors that we have asked them about. The same pattern held in the third grade. When we looked at the data in the records, we found that the children were performing well in all of the variables that we were able to find data from. According to academic performances measured by the test scores, attendance, placement in special programs and so on, the children are performing well.
There are several recommendations I would make to you as you go about reconsidering this legislation. One, there is a tremendous amount of variation in the quality of programs as they are implemented. I think one of the things we must do is recognize that at the operational level, Even Start is a State program, so, in my judgment, we must develop the capacity or help the States develop the capacity to get the programs implemented at the level of quality that the legislation and the quality standards indicators describe, the kind of quality that, in my judgment, has been shown to be effective in programs.
Furthermore, I think we need to review the legislation to make sure that if there are any barriers to States' capacity or to the local agencies' capacity to implement programs in the best ways that are needed, that those barriers are removed. If there are prescriptions of methods that we do not think are generally the best available to use, then take them out and let the States, with their local agencies, determine what to do.
As another recommendation, I would strongly urge you to consider review of the systems for evaluation and research of family literacy programs to make sure that we get the high-quality data, the intensive data we need by an intensive study of programs to determine the kinds of models actually used in the programs and relative impacts of those models, but particularly so we can give States and local agencies the kinds of guidance that they need to develop that capacity.
Somehow we have to get family literacy programs to the point where they are no longer considered projects in the implementation at the local level and dependent on outside systems of funding, but are institutionalized. That may mean working directly with the legislatures and with the agencies to develop commitments, capacities to institutionalize the Even Start type of family literacy program within those respective States. I strongly encourage you to consider those recommendations.
See Appendix S for the written statement of Dr. Andy Hayes
Chairman Goodling. I want to thank all of you. In different ways, you all did what we asked. You told us what you think works and what you think doesn't work, and you told us how you think we can improve what doesn't work and improve on what does work, and that is what we were hoping for.
A couple of questions. Dr. Vinovskis, you talked about the role that private foundations could play to improve what we are trying to do which is make sure all are able to read properly on grade level or above. Would you elaborate on that, how that could happen?
Dr. Vinovskis. Well, the private foundations have played an important part in American education since the early 20th century and have certainly, since the 1960s, been very active in trying to help with school reforms and improving education, and I think they should continue that. But to be honest with you, most of them don't have the kind of funds and the kind of monies to do the type of evaluation and analysis that the entire panel has called for, and so they can supplement what the Federal Government is doing, but they can really only supplement it.
So, for example, one of the common themes in all of our presentations has been we want programs that work; we want to give local consumers, whether they be in public schools or in private schools, some sense of where to turn to. Private foundations can work with the Federal Government to help out.
One of the reasons I am urging us to look more at private foundations is because the Federal Government for 30 years has failed to do its work. It is not the money, we have spent the money, we just haven't done the work. So that I think if this Congress will take seriously how to do this work better and work with those private foundations, we will be able to come up with some compromises and answers that we will all agree upon, but they can't do it by themselves.
Chairman Goodling. Thank you.
Dr. Walberg, just an observation. You were saying some things that Steny Hoyer and I had been saying for years, but it was pretty lonely to say it because the advertisement of some of the programs was so great that you had to be very careful if you criticized motherhood, ice cream and apple pie. But while we were not criticizing motherhood, apple pie and ice cream, we were allowing a lot of disadvantaged youngsters to become even more disadvantaged.
As I said, it wasn't popular, but we have made real strides in both Head Start and Title 1 because more and more people are beginning to indicate that we have to improve their quality, or we are really not going to help.
Dr. Johnson, of course, you used some words that are near and dear to my heart: flexibility and accountability. For years we were trying to make sure that the local level and the States could design programs that best met the needs of the locality or the States in trying to get away from the auditor just coming out and zapping you because you commingled some funds and made a program better by commingling the funds. So I want to thank you and also your emphasis on schools' strong partnerships with parents.
Dr. Wilhoyte, as I told the Ranking Member--he was impressed with your testimony--I said, of course, we superintendents always know what to say. But I do want to refer to one thing that you particularly said where you talked about high State expectations. Again, sometimes we in Washington don't realize how much reform has taken place in State and local areas. We are kind of running behind them. But the high expectations, again, whether you are a Title 1 student or a Head Start student, those expectations have to be high, and we have to meet those expectations.
Dr. Hayes, you indicated that programs that are implemented properly work, and programs that don't, don't work. I give a lot of credit to Mary Jane Latondra as far as Even Start is concerned because I can remember when we kicked off the first round, she had all those people in Washington who were going to head these programs, and she said we want them to be successful, and this is what you are going to have to do, and we will be watching to make sure that is what you are doing. And I think, Dr. Hayes, you pointed out that the 30 programs you looked at that implemented them properly have outstanding, lasting results.
What is it that those 30 did? We want to make sure that anybody who isn't implementing them properly--any of our Federal programs—begins to implement them properly. What is it that they did differently than those you may have witnessed and surveyed that weren't successful, or nearly as successful?
Dr. Hayes. First we start with the assumptions, and all of these sites represented that a high-quality family literacy program, such as those advocated by Even Start, begins with high-quality separate program components. So they begin with the best adult education program they can have or job training program they can have. They begin with a good program for the children. They begin with a good parenting program and so on. What they do in the family literacy program, the Even Start program, is make those much more powerful by a system of integration of those components and by the methods that they use, collaboration among the different agencies working with those, and then helping the families make the transitions into whatever it is that is the next step for them. It is that integration, collaboration and the transition of families that makes them so powerful. The stand-alone components alone will not have the power of an Even Start Family Literacy Program.
Chairman Goodling. Thank you.
Mr. Clay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Walberg, your testimony seems to be critical of compensatory education, because apparently you believe such programs, as you state, stigmatize children and set low expectations for the students. In that statement you said that much research shows that these programs stigmatize students and segregate them from others. Placing students in special and bilingual programs gives them an excuse not to learn, and they rarely escape. But in your paper to the Brookings Institute, you support the ability grouping in allowing for student differences in learning.
The question I have is how would your proposal to categorize children by ability help raise the expectations and achievement of low-performing students without labeling or stigmatizing those students?
Dr. Walberg. Well, I believe in the case of special education that there is a stigma associated with their presumed psychological deficits. The National Academy of Sciences about 20 years ago said the burden of proof for special education is, number one, that you can make an accurate, scientific and reliable classification of students. Most programs don't meet that criterion. If you had several psychologists classifying the child, you would find they would disagree.
The second criterion, according to the National Academy of Sciences, was that the students in the programs would do better than comparable students who weren't in the programs; that is to say to have experimental groups and control groups and compare their progress over time. Special education programs don't meet that criterion either--
Mr. Clay. Excuse me, but grouping them by ability does not stigmatize them?
Dr. Walberg. I was just coming to that.
With respect to content, not psychological deficit, but content, some students have already mastered the material, and to re-teach them the material they already know, for example, common fractions and decimal fractions and mathematics, is a waste of their time.
Mr. Clay. Some students, but we are talking about many students, most who have not mastered anything. Dr. Wilhoyte, has Title I been of any help to your fabulous school district?
Dr. Wilhoyte. It has made a significant difference for students. With student achievement, we are identifying where our children are, we have high standards for where they should be, and the children and their parents and any volunteers that help in the classroom, plug in totally schoolwide coordinated focus on that particular student, where they are and where they need to be, and the Title I monies have provided for the staff training and the planning that gets everybody focused on literacy for children.
Mr. Clay. Thank you. Dr. Walberg, once again in your statement you state that a growing crisis of literacy and learning lies before us, and you talk about Title I, spending $7 billion, you talk about $100 billion over the past 25 years, and you also include special and bilingual education. And you say that these programs have created an expansive bureaucracy and host of special pleaders at the Federal, state and local levels who raise costs and diminish the general effectiveness of American schools.
How do you jibe that statement with the fact that less than 2 percent of the Department of Education's budget goes to Federal administrative costs, and that States spend approximately 3.6 percent of Federal funds on program administration? Where is the massive expansive bureaucracy?
Dr. Walberg. I do want to call attention, sir, to the 47-page paper I made available to the Committee that documents all these facts, but that particular fact-
Mr. Clay. Does it dispute these figures?
Dr. Walberg. Yes, it does. It comes--
Mr. Clay. How much does your paper say the administrative overhead for administering Federal programs costs?
Dr. Walberg. My paper cites the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris that surveyed modern industrialized countries in Europe and the United States and Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and their estimate of administrative costs in American education, the percentage cost for administration is twice that of the average of other countries.
Mr. Clay. You mean we have to go to foreign sources to estimate what our administrative costs are? What is the cost in your paper, just tell me; not twice somebody else's. What is the actual cost of administering these Federal programs?
Dr. Walberg. I have not provided that information. I provided the information on administrative costs in American education.
Mr. Clay. Then how do you arrive at a conclusion that I just cited, that an expansive bureaucracy now exists for administering these programs?
Dr. Walberg. I think, sir, you may be referring to Federal administrative costs and I am referring to all administrative costs, Federal, State and local.
Mr. Clay. All right. Then why would you make the statement, then, if I am referring to Federal and you have no documentation as to what the cost is?
Dr. Walberg. Because I was referring to Federal, State and local all together, rather than only Federal.
Mr. Clay. What does that cost?
Dr. Walberg. I don't know that cost.
Mr. Clay. Then how can you conclude that it is massive expansion?
Dr. Walberg. Because I have the total cost, and that is what I am referring to.
Mr. Clay. Well, I would think--and this is an area we really need to clarify because I hear people say we ought to put 95 percent of the money into the classroom. How can you put 95 percent of the money into the classroom when you have to have heat, lights, and telephone, and security, and cafeteria workers and all of these kinds of things? Explain that to me, will you, please? How can we put that percentage of money into the classroom when you got to have all of these other expenses that accompany a schoolroom, a school, a class, a school building.
Dr. Walberg. I am sorry, I don't understand your question, sir.
Mr. Clay. The question is in reference to the statement that you and many, many others make about how the bureaucracy, the cost of education, overhead, expenses involved in education is too high. We have got a bill floating around here now that we ought to expect to put over 90 percent of all the money in education into the classroom. I want to know how do you do that without diminishing the other programs that go along with running a school system?
Dr. Walberg. Well, I believe that Federal categorical programs have caused more administration, among other things. There are more reasons for this.
Mr. Clay. I think we just discussed that. You don't know the answer to that. You said you did not know the answer of what the Federal overhead expenses were, so we answered that one.
Now tell me about how we run a school without the kinds of other auxiliary support that you need to run a school.
Dr. Walberg. Well, American schools have run for many, many years with local and State control and local financing, so I think it is obvious we can run the schools without Federal intrusion in policies. And I do think not only the Federal costs that you were referring to, which is only a small cost of American education, cause further costs for States and local communities that have to conform to this through people who run the programs, who have to write administrative reports, and through various types of rules and regulations that unnecessarily complicate American education and lead to higher total cost, which is my concern.
Mr. Clay. Mr. Chairman, I see my time has expired, but I want to say when States and local communities did run the schools, they didn't run them very well. That is why the Federal Government got involved. Thank you.
Chairman Goodling. You see, Dr. Walberg, you just found out what I have gone through for 20 years. You don't question programs, because if you question them, people think you are saying they aren't any good. What I have tried to say for 20 years is these programs could be a darn sight better, because, of course, I realized how much money was going into Title 1. I realize the money was wasted because there was no planning, there was no guidance, there was no nothing, and now I am happy when I go to conferences and hear people telling me how well they are using Title 1 money. It has taken a long time to get there. The same thing is true of Head Start.
I wasn't complaining about the importance of doing something to help children become reading-ready. What I was saying is we are asking 10,000 people to do something that they don't know how to do and have had no training for. There aren't very many early childhood specialists out there, but it becomes a problem when you question motherhood, ice cream and apple pie.
Dr. Walberg. I quite agree, sir.
Chairman Goodling. We have to go on.
Dr. Hoekstra--not Dr. Hoekstra. Oh, all these doctors here leave me confused.
Mr. Hoekstra. I guess that is better than becoming an attorney.
Thank you. I thank the Chairman for yielding.
Dr. Wilhoyte, Madison, great town. I had some of my best days at Herman Miller working with a designer in your community. Wonderful college town, and congratulations on the wonderful work you are doing there.
The things you do with Title I funds, would you do those same things if you didn't have Title I funds?
Dr. Wilhoyte. We would not be able to do them to the degree we do now in schools with the highest concentration of poverty. We do align our resources according to need. We have an equity resource formula based on student achievement, so we align our budget according to need. But the additional dollars now provided by Title I, the leadership, with schoolwide planning to bring everything, special ed, English as a Second Language, from pull out to plug in, the gathering of all of that and the collective IQ of teachers and parents and communities toward literacy has been made possible because of those additional monies.
Mr. Hoekstra. How many different Federal programs do you get money from?
Dr. Wilhoyte. I would have to start listing, rather than counting, but primarily we have a few grants, for alcohol and other abuse, but the seed grant has been phenomenal in curtailing violence as the first choice for conflict resolution in some of our after-school programs, and we were sorry to see that go. But Title I is our major source, along with some reimbursement from the State with regard to special education needs, which are very high in the Madison school district.
Mr. Hoekstra. Dr. Hayes talked about running programs correctly. The Ranking Member talked about why the Federal Government got involved. Dr. Hayes, you talked about the need to run programs correctly. Would the two of you think--I mean, I have schools in my district that are--and I am right across the lake from you in Michigan--that are not doing very well at all. Would either one of you suggest that perhaps what we need is more stringent Federal guidelines and rules and regulations, so that we could tell these schools how to do it right?
Dr. Hayes. I would not recommend that. I guess I have a bit of a strange set of experiences in working with Federal agencies, State agencies, local agencies, schools, classrooms, and so on, and that is almost without exception when I go in I find really good people trying to do a really good job that is just too big for the capacities that they have.
So I think I would strongly encourage you to spend your resources in developing the capacities of the State agencies to work with the local agencies to get the programs implemented. That probably is going to mean such things continuing to provide and perhaps even expanding some provisions of the kind of guidance that Congressman Goodling suggested, that Mary Jane Latondra and her staff provided already, and certainly some of the other agencies provided.
I would start with the assumption that we have good people who are trying to do a good job with what they have. So if they have the guidance--and I think that guidance does need to come in terms of something such as clear sets of goals, but not necessarily in sticks--but the clear sets of goals and the work with them to develop that capacity. Right now I see a lot of turnover in programs, turnover in the staff of programs--in doing things to help stabilize and institutionalize the services at the State and local level, so I would prefer to do it that way.
Mr. Hoekstra. As we have gone around the country, we have had hearings, and I think what we have consistently found is good people trying to do the right things. We often run into people getting Federal dollars who say, this is what we need to spend the dollars on. But if we had the flexibility, we would spend them on something else because the needs in my district are different than what the Federal Government thinks my priorities might be.
Dr. Walberg, we are working on the question that Mr. Clay was asking you about. I mean, we have gone to States, we have gone to local communities, and I support you strongly. We are losing tremendous amounts of money through the bureaucracy of the Federal Government, and it may not be Federal spending, but it is because of Federal mandates. We think that we are losing anywhere from 30 to 40, to perhaps even 50, cents of every dollar that comes to Washington in the administration of that dollar on its way back to the child. The bureaucracy of getting that dollar back to the classroom, back to the point where, in all of our literacy hearings, we have heard that dollar actually has an impact in the classroom near the child.
We lose a lot of money by requesting people to fill out paperwork to tell us to get the money, to tell us what they are going to do with the money, and then to tell us what they actually did with the money. Mr. Clay, we are looking forward to having you come to our oversight hearings later on this fall to actually take a look at the applications that are filled out--the paperwork that comes from the local schools and the States. We are going to find out whether we'll need Yugos to bring the stuff here or semi trucks to bring the stuff here. And I want to ask a very basic question as to whether anybody actually reads the stuff, these applications, because what is the added value of the paperwork? Ms. Mink is an active participant, who may not agree with it, but yesterday she said--
Mr. Clay. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Hoekstra. I would love to yield.
Mr. Clay. Have you ever been to a bank to get a loan and say, I am not going to fill out any papers?
Mr. Hoekstra. I always go to the bank and fill out lots of paperwork.
Mr. Clay. If the gentleman will further yield?
Mr. Hoekstra. I will reclaim my time.
What is the value added for the local school district in educating our children by the stuff that we require them to do and the stuff that we do here in Washington? The focus has to be on the kids, not the bureaucrats here in Washington.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Scott.
Mr. Scot. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Wilhoyte, you indicated that the Title I funds allowed you to focus on some areas of need. I assume your school board is subject to political pressures. Would you ever have been able to allocate that kind of money to at-risk students if you didn't have the Federal mandate?
Dr. Wilhoyte. The Federal mandate, from my perspective, makes the goals set for our school district possible, for high achievement: 300 citizens, set 100 percent success, leave no child behind, that is the commitment. But the pressure is for talented, gifted, the all-American middle, and children of promise continue to play out on the political front.
Mr. Scott. So the fact that there are Federal mandates helps you allocate this money towards those very much at need who may have been left out had we not had a Federal mandate?
Dr. Wilhoyte. And the Title I expectations for student improvement have been clear, and the changes in the Title I program have moved us in that direction.
Mr. Scott. You mentioned Reading Recovery. We have a very successful program in Newport News where one school had a percentage at grade level, about 2 percent at grade level, and now virtually everyone is at grade level. Can you tell me how Reading Recovery works, what good it does?
Dr. Wilhoyte. Exactly as you have described. Within one year we take children who are nonreaders in grades one and two, and by the end of the school year, over 85 percent of those students are reading at or above grade level.
Mr. Scott. And where did that money come from that allows you to do it?
Dr. Wilhoyte. As you will see in the budget attached to the testimony, half of each of the 11 schools now served, their Reading Recovery money now comes from Title I.
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
Dr. Hayes, you go to great lengths to show the value of the family support. When you have--and my view is if the families did all they were supposed to do, we wouldn't have half the problems we have now. When you get families involved, does the level of support from the family increase?
Dr. Hayes. Yes, it does, definitely. The teachers, in general ratings, say that the children of Even Start, who participate in the Even Start Programs, are at above their class average in participation from the parents in their schooling, for over 80 percent of the children. Also, when I ask them about the strength of the children, over half of the teachers actually initiate responses about how the parents participate in the programs. For the most part--
Mr. Scott. Without your program, the parents' participation would not have been as high?
Dr. Hayes. For the population we are serving, almost without exception they would have been under-represented in the schools. They would not have been participating, in my judgment, and many of the parents have told us that without the program and the kind of direct contact with the schools they had on a daily basis, they would never have participated in the children's program the way they did.
Mr. Scott. What difference does that make for the children's education?
Dr. Hayes. Several things. One is that if something is going on that is causing their children trouble in schools, most of the parents are there dealing with it. They deal with problems. The other thing is the children see that the parents value education, and they engage in the education more, they enjoy it themselves, they are in there. I can't isolate the actual factor of parental engagement, but it is certainly one of the important factors I would attribute to the successes of children in schools. The parent who would not have been expected to be in the schools with the children are there. The children are enjoying school and engaging in it and so are the parents.
Mr. Scott. And the achievement goes up.
Dr. Hayes. Achievement for Even Start children is far beyond what we expected for that population of children had they not been in that type of program.
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
Several of the witnesses have indicated a lack of research available. OERI has been without a director, and hopefully they will have one soon. They have been without a director for a couple of months. What specific studies would you like to see OERI conduct so that we can better target our resources? And I ask that to anybody who wants to answer.
Mr. Vinovskis. OERI was expected, in the 1994 reauthorization, which Major Owens played such an important role in, to undertake systematic, large-scale investigations of different models of the programs. In May of 1994 there was a memo within OERI proposing such an approach, using the Fund for Improvement of Education, to find monies which are available for those kind of activities, and there was a tentative decision to go ahead.
For some reason that did not go ahead. So today OERI is undertaking a series of small-scale studies. It is not living up to the promise of the institutes that were made in 1994. The regional educational laboratories are not doing large-scale development. So what is happening is we are having more of the same, a lot of little studies, which may be interesting and useful in their own sense, but cannot answer the question, what is the relative advantage of using Even Start or some other program. That if OERI or other parts of the Department of Education would undertake those kind of studies, then we would be able to help the local districts and the States to decide which programs to do. You cannot do it piecemeal.
Dr. Walberg. I would like to add to that if I may. There are two types of studies that need to be done. There is a huge amount of research for special education, bilingual education and the effects of Title 1, including the more recent schoolwide Title 1. The studies should be gathered together and synthesized in a very explicit way by panels so we can learn from what we already know, because a lot of the research is already there.
Secondly, I think there is a strong need for categorical programs to be independently evaluated. If you ask the program administrators, is this working or not, it is like what we say in Chicago, you shouldn't ask your barber if you need a haircut. They need--they have a special interest, their jobs are at stake. And if you ask, are you providing these services, if you take independent studies, you get the kind of objectivity that is required to make sure the Federal monies are being spent effectively and efficiently.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Deal.
Mr. Deal. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Wilhoyte, I would like to ask you a question that is perhaps a little more specific, and that relates to the approach of using Title I funding. And we hear a lot of talk about the schoolwide approach versus the pull out approach. Do you have an observation as to which of those approaches you think is most effective?
Dr. Wilhoyte. I think from Colorado to Wisconsin to Maryland, the schools that have shown dramatic improvement in student results support the schoolwide because it focuses the teacher assistant, the parent, the community, the school, the district on literacy results for student needs, and everybody focuses on where the child is, where they need to go, and the teacher becomes the manager. Rather than sending a child down the hall with a teacher assistant three times a week for 20 minutes and not retaining accountability for that child's literacy progress in the targeted, fragmented approach, the schoolwide brings it all together and makes a coherent curriculum and coordinated approach, and if it can bring in special ed and ESOL, all the better, with everybody focused with where he needs to get the child, to where he needs to be.
Mr. Deal. What effect does that have on the classroom teacher who is expected to teach this broad spectrum of students? Do you provide that classroom teacher with any additional assistance, and if so, how?
Dr. Wilhoyte. I think the assistance is there and the support from other resource teachers. According to Principal Devitio at New Hampshire Estates, just a few miles over the line here in Montgomery County, she believes the time that is provided by Title I for the classroom teachers_and they dismiss a half day a month so teachers can be in conversation with the lead teacher in terms of how the child will work in the classroom program, and support staff comes into the classroom to help the child complete the work in the classroom. So there is one agenda and one focus.
Mr. Deal. I noticed from our panel--actually I suppose all of the panelists other than you, Dr. Wilhoyte, are within the academic community at the college and university level. In some of our hearings we have heard,at our field hearings in particular, when we talk to superintendents and principals, a problem that appears to be recurring is what I call a delinkage between what a teacher who is coming out of a college of education is taught and what they are expected to do once they reach that classroom.
For those of you who are at the university and college level, you apparently are not within the Department of Education in terms of instructing teachers. Well, maybe Dr. Hayes is. Do you have observations about that? I mean, why is there such an apparent delinkage between what they are being taught in the college and university setting versus what the expectations are from principals once they get to the classroom?
Dr. Hayes. I told the State Board of North Carolina several years ago there was one thing I was sure we could do in teacher education. That was we could take 18-year-olds and make them 22-year-olds. We have such a lack of clarity of what it is we want people to be able to do and how we want them to do it that we insist in a 4-year time period, in the way the institutions are organized now, we both educate someone well and also train them for a career. We can do either of those within the time frame of a teacher education program, but not both very well.
So I think it is attempting to do entirely too much. I think we simply need to look at different models from the traditional 4-year model in which we educate people generally and train them for a career. It is much, much too much to expect us to accomplish, I think.
Dr. Wilhoyte. I also serve as adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and I teach a diversity program, through Federal grant again, provide the professor and a classroom teacher, as a pair, to take the students through a master's in teaching. These were undergrads that were not education majors, that came out of AmeriCorps and a number of places and wanted to be teachers, and we felt the reality of the classroom in combination with the theory of the university was the best way to go, with increasing work within our poverty schools so they knew the real world and were prepared for first-year teaching.
Dr. Walberg. Perhaps I might just add one brief idea we use at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Many people get into the field of teaching that are not suitable for being teachers. They don't have the personality, competence and other sorts of things. So at our university, we try to give people early experience in the schools; in fact, many of them in the Chicago public schools. So there is a direct linkage, as you were suggesting, between the programs and the schools and what we were trying to provide at the university.
Some of the students select themselves out because they realize they are not suitable for being teachers, but others love the placements they have had, and it provides, I think, a good linkage between College of Education programs and programs within the city.
Dr. Vinovskis. Let me add one other point. I think one of the things we have now learned in education, we need both the skill of teaching and how to do that well, and people do that in varying degrees, but we also need the content information. And one of the things we have a problem with is the mismatch in terms of training of teachers, future teachers, and knowing something about their subject matter and where they end up teaching, and I think the best situations are where schools of education work closely with regular departments so that somebody teaching history knows something about history, somebody teaching math knows something about math. American education has not done enough in this area, and I think this is an area we can certainly improve upon.
Chairman Goodling. Ms. McCarthy.
Ms. McCarthy. Thank you, and thank you for your testimony.
Last night I had the opportunity to ride through D.C. with the D.C. police and see the worst of the poverty-stricken neighborhoods. I come from a suburban area, but I also have some distressed areas in my district. The only difference is that on Long Island, there is a small, concentrated area, maybe 10 square miles. Last night, I couldn't believe we could spend 2 hours going through project after project after project.
So when we look at the neighborhoods where the poor are warehoused and then expect children to go to school, I am a great believer also when we have high parent participation, even those students in distressed neighborhoods do fine. So it is not just the reading problem, it is just not the school problem, it is the whole scenario coming together.
What I have done is start bringing businesses into the schools, and ask them to mentor the students; not me, because they don't need me, but someone that is going to be there every single week and work with the parents, and so far it is starting to work.
But I am a believer that the Title I programs can work. Some aspects don't work well probably because they are not implemented correctly. But while we have a big job ahead of us, I am finding out very rapidly that the Federal Government can't do everything.
But I think everybody on this panel cares about the issues we are discussing, and we are trying to do our best. We appreciate people like you coming in and giving us your insight. But government rules do break down at times, I can see that, but I do believe that we have to have some rules to guide schools. The good schools in my district don't need Federal oversight, but unfortunately schools in the poorer areas do, because they are not being run very well.
I thank you for your testimony. Thank you.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Schaffer.
Mr. Schaffer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to ask a number of you-- Dr., tell me how to pronounce it, please.
Dr. Vinovskis. Vinovskis.
Mr. Schaffer. Vinovskis.
Dr. Vinovskis. Right.
Mr. Schaffer. You suggest in your testimony that we should question more vigorously, at the very least, the benefits of the money spent on the Head Start program over the years. I am familiar with the Westinghouse study you cited and as well as others conducted since then. I would like you to elaborate further and comment on the dollars spent on the Head Start program. And basically ask you if you were a Member of Congress, would you continue to spend money on the program?
Dr. Vinovskis. I think that is a question we need to ask of all programs, Federal, State and local, and ask is this the best way to spend that money. I am a great believer we need to spend more money on education, and particularly on helping the poor. We are not doing enough there. The question is what are the cost-effective programs?
And so something may be useful in some ways, but it is so expensive. So one of the questions about Even Start, how much money are we spending per family, and would the money be better spent on K through 3 education in Success for All? The studies that we have usually do not look at the cost/benefit ratios, and secondly, many of them, the success cannot be sustained.
Oftentimes, we go into model programs, and they work for a year or 2 years, and we send them back to the environments you talk about, and all those gains are lost. We need a long-term commitment that looks at the whole development of the child, not one that overemphasizes early childhood education at the expense of our regular schools.
And the other thing I want to remind you, we are not interested in schools, we are interested in education. For those at-risk kids you talked about, many of them need help in summer learning. Middle-class children go to neighborhoods and environments where they grow and thrive during the summer. Inner-city kids, poorer kids, do not.
So, again, I am not against these programs, but I am against spending more money on them without finding out what works, and you have plenty of opportunities. For example, the Department of Education now has a longitudinal study of education. If you just added 3 to $5 million a year, you could add to that model design to see do certain models work better or others. In the meantime, you are spending, as a Member of Congress, monies on educational programs, research programs, that could be better spent there.
So if I were a member of Congress, I would not say I don't want to spend more money on education or on programs, I would say, how can I shift money from programs that are not as effective to those that are more effective in getting some of the answers, and you can do that today.
Mr. Schaffer. The attitude you mentioned is one I hope begins to take hold here in Washington. I think throughout the country we are shifting our focus away from measuring fairness by each institution's relationship to another institution to a model that suggests that we should measure fairness by the relationship of one individual to another individual. I think that's what you're suggesting.
But, Dr. Walberg, you mentioned free market approaches to schooling as a way to try to achieve this fairness, and I would like you to talk about that further. How can a free market approach achieve our goals of increasing and enhancing literacy in America?
Dr. Walberg. I think the history of the last 20 years and the history of our country shows that freedom is a prized idea in and of itself, ethically and morally, but in terms of economics, it certainly works. Compare North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan with the People's Republic of China, and also a great deal of research is coming out to show this actually works in schools; in American schools as well.
Studies have indicated, for example, the presence of private schools in an area or the presence of multiple public school districts introduce choice, diversity and competition, such that the kids that remain in the regular public schools actually do better. And we know choice and competition works in many, many settings, and I think we have a lot of research.
I think we know some of the things that work very well, but they are not in place. Twenty-five years of the history of research in Title 1 is promise after promise after promise, but even the most recent studies, including schoolwide studies, tabulated by Professor Wong of the University of Chicago, indicate even these new variations are not working. And I think the major incentive is public schools do not have incentives to please the client, the client being the parents and the students.
I think if you had vouchers for Title 1, among other things, one thing that could be done right off the bat is many of the programs are pull out programs, or if they are remaining in a regular program, you have all kinds of administrative complications. I think the programs could be supplementary. If you had a Title 1 certificate, you could go to summer school, after school, Saturday school.
Some people have said poor children in cities live in desperate environments. One way to get around that is give the family, let's say $1,000 so they could purchase services from public schools or private providers so they could supplement their education, so they would have higher quality and more of it in summer school and so on, because we know one of the laws of learning is the more you study, the more you are in school, the better you can do. I think even more important than that, it would cause the incentives and competition that we need, so that the public schools themselves would improve because of it.
Mr. Schaffer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Fattah.
Mr. Fattah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Just to set the record completely straight, the only children living in_
Chairman Goodling. Is your microphone on?
Mr. Fattah. The only children living in desperate situations are not just situated in cities, and we should be clear that in rural parts of our country, there are equally desperate situations that our children find themselves in. But I want to talk about this because I think we may be missing the main course here.
The vast majority of money being spent in these schools are State dollars, dollars authorized to be taxed and levied at the State level. Dr. Johnson, you are from Texas. The highest-spending school district in your State is spending about 20,000 a year per student; is that correct?
Dr. Johnson. I don't know precisely the amount. I know that in Texas there has been substantial effort to increase the extent to which expenditures are equalized, but there are still--
Mr. Fattah. The school districts in your State, there are some that are spending 2,000, and there are some that are spending 20,000 a year per student. So over the course of a child's K-12 education, we are talking about close to a quarter million dollars being spent more on one child's education than on another, and in the poorest districts there is a strong correlation to the disproportionate failure rate in terms of literacy and a whole lot of other outcomes. And I know there are some who suggest that money is not a factor, and obviously the Federal dollars, in terms of Title I, these are a small part of the dollars that get spent.
Let me ask the superintendent, in your district the percentage of dollars being spent on a student, the percentage of that that is Federal, in terms of our overall budget for your district.
Dr. Wilhoyte. It would be less than 2 percent in terms of Federal.
Mr. Fattah. So the majority of the money is State taxes, State-authorized dollars.
Dr. Wilhoyte. Local property tax.
Mr. Fattah. But the State levies that and gives you money out of the State fund.
Dr. Wilhoyte. We have just gone to two-thirds State funding in regard to Wisconsin schools.
Mr. Fattah. What do you spend for FTEs?
Dr. Wilhoyte. Our per pupil expenditure is 7,900 per student.
Mr. Fattah. And what are the other extremes in your State?
Dr. Wilhoyte. We go from a low of 3,500 to a high of $13,000 per student.
Mr. Fattah. Now at the end of 12 years of a child's education in your State, they all, you know, take standardized tests and try to apply to college and do other things and get high school diplomas. This disparity in spending, does it correlate well in terms of the performance issues, in terms of literacy and other issues?
Dr. Wilhoyte. It not only correlates with achievement, it correlates with other related issues with regard to school success, absolutely.
Mr. Fattah. So as we look at this issue, we come to talk about, you know, the investment of Federal dollars where we are trying to help impoverished students through Title I, and we can talk about the relative merits of the Even Start, the Head Start and the like. One of the big issues here is the bulk of investments that are being made are being made by State governments, on the State school finance laws that continue to invest a substantial sum of money over and above what is being invested in the most impoverished districts in the States, and we are going to continue to see these outcomes.
I do want to thank Dr. Vinovskis, because your last statement was helpful because it did shed light more comprehensively on your view. You thought we should spend more money on education, just focus on where we can more effectively spend it, because we need to be doing more to_I think you said to help poor children; is that correct?
Dr. Vinovskis. Yes.
Let me back up and say something. I think we need to go back and ask ourselves, what has made this country great? If you go back to the early 19th century, it was that commitment to public education and making sure that everybody has that education. I think we all believe in that. The problem is public education is not living up to the promise that it has.
Mr. Fattah. Let me ask you this question because that is really the point. If you have a situation where in a State, say, you have, you know, a hundred school districts in a State, and you are spending vastly different amounts of money inside these various districts, and you are getting vastly different results, and it correlates well with what you are spending. If we continue to do that, don't you think we are going to continue to have disproportionate failure in these impoverished school districts?
Dr. Vinovskis. I agree with you in part. I think disparities in spending are too great among local districts, and I think States need to try to equalize that spending, as the State of Michigan has taken a step in doing. But even with the same amounts of spending, say, in the middle range, people are not getting as much for their dollar across. That is the problem. It isn't that we--we do still need more money, but we have to spend that money wisely.
Mr. Fattah. I appreciate your point. Money is probably not everything, but it is one of the things we can focus in on, because it is important to note that if you have--as Dr. Johnson stated, where you invest a quarter of $1 million in a child's education over and above some other child's education over a 12-year period and then have the two children walk up to the bar or take an SAT and try to be admitted to the University of Texas, you are going to have a situation in which--to be surprised that there is a difference in their abilities, you know, I think really questions, you know, why any of us would be sitting here.
We have to be clear. One of the issues is that these children should have some protection in terms of having an equal opportunity. We talk about Even Start and all that, equal chance to get a decent education. Under these State systems that exist, since we want to talk about Federal intrusion, the real issue is why would the States continue to run systems that disadvantage these children from the outset?
And I want to thank all of you, and I know my time has run out, and I want to thank the Chairman for his leniency.
Chairman Goodling. I do want to commend the State of Pennsylvania, however, for their general equalization formula for general education because they do an outstanding job there. Where they have problems is in the special programs and unequalization for special ed and other programs of that nature. But in my district, for instance, the wealthiest district gets zero; the poorest district gets 63 percent of their help from the State government. But that support is for all other non-special ed programs, and then we don't send them our special ed money from the Federal Government, so we really drive them up a wall.
Mr. Fattah. Mr. Chairman--
Chairman Goodling. Since you were a State legislator, I want to congratulate you.
Mr. Fattah. Mr. Chairman, let me just, if you would, say for a second in Pennsylvania I am not pleased, because we have school districts spending 16,000, and our poorest districts are spending 3,500 per student. And I think that disparity, which is being challenged in the courts in Pennsylvania, with 200 school districts in our State, rural districts mainly, that are challenging that as unconstitutional is a correct model in Michigan, Ohio, and a number of other States. Corrections are being made, but I do think we can continue to talk about the kind of supplement of Federal dollars, but we missed the boat if we don't look at where 90 percent of the dollars are coming from and how they are being unevenly applied throughout the States.
Chairman Goodling. We will do our best not to give you unfunded mandates and we will do our best to make sure the money we do send you is used well.
Let's see, we are up to Mr. McKeon.
Mr. McKeon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
When our distinguished Ranking Member a few moments ago talked about whether you have ever been to a bank and filled out a loan paper caused me to reflect a little bit. Thirty years ago I sold cars for a short period of time, and I remember when I would sell a car we would go inside and take a couple of minutes for you to fill out a paper. Then you moved on, and that was it.
I am buying another car now, and the stack of papers that you have to sign and go through is very high. I am also selling one home and buying another, and the amount of paperwork that you have to go through is tremendous. A lot of that is Federal regulation, State regulation, local regulation, and a lot of these things are a result of a problem that somebody had. You have to write a regulation to fix that problem, and then you have to write papers to cover that. You know, these things aren't ill-intentioned. People don't start out saying, how can I make things harder for people. But it does happen, and over time it gets worse.
You would think we are very adversarial here sometimes, yet each of us comes from a different part of the country, from a different background, representing a different constituency. I had occasion this morning in prayer breakfast to hear one of our members talk about his life and where he had come from, and it is great to learn a little of each other and find out where we are from.
Dr., how do you pronounce it?
Dr. Vinovskis. Vinovskis.
Mr. McKeon. You said if you were a Member of Congress, you would concentrate on certain things. I have to smile because I have only been here a few years, but there are 435 of us, and we can each concentrate on something, but then we have to get through this process--getting at least 215 others to go along with us, and then go over to the humble body next door and get at least 50 people there to go along with us. Then we have to go down the street and get the President to sign on. Then the regulators start to work on it. It is amazing that we don't do more harm than we do.
We were talking about this new America Reads program. One of the concerns I have about it is it seems like things go in cycles. You know, people used to know how to read, and all of a sudden we find out that nobody knows how to read anymore, and that is a big problem. We held a hearing in California, where people talked about one method of teaching versus another method of teaching. I think sometimes we find that a program that works making us want to try something else--not because the students aren't learning, but because the teacher is tired of using that method and wants to find something better.
A big concern I have about the America Reads program is we have teachers that are trained but that apparently are not able to teach reading. So now the America Reads program advocates bringing volunteers in to teach reading. What is going to happen if the volunteers come in without training and start teaching; where are we going to be 10 or 20 years from now?
Usually up here we are pretty far behind the times. When I visit local schools--I served on a school district for years--good things are happening all over the country in local schools and States. What is going to happen if we accept this new program and send a lot of volunteers into the classroom? Are they going to be telling the teachers how to teach? Are they going to tell the educated teacher they are not doing what is right? Can you make me feel a lot better this America Reads program?
Dr. Johnson. Are you addressing that to me, sir?
Mr. McKeon. Any of you.
Dr. Johnson. You are absolutely right. If there isn't adequate training for both the classroom teachers and for the volunteers who would be a part of this program, it is not going to work. And it is important that any new legislation recognize that professional development and training has to be a core element of the program.
In my work with schools in Texas, we have organized and supported programs that have done, in essence, what America Reads intends to do, but on a very small scale, and in those schools teachers have had increased professional development, training, that relates to reading, and then the volunteers, the community leaders, the business folks who have helped in those schools, they have also had training that has allowed them to play an important role in helping make the reading program work.
Mr. McKeon. Dr. Wilhoyte.
Dr. Wilhoyte. I would hope, absolutely, that what was just shared by Dr. Johnson is right on. But before that, at the policy level, we have to define what literacy success means, and then whether it is the teacher, parent, volunteer tutor, we have to focus on the four or five things that child needs to know to reach literacy success and everyone be focused in that direction. And for a volunteer program to do that, that is very, very difficult.
As you stated, not even all of our baccalaureate teachers are able to do that. I certainly wasn't. I went back and got a doctorate to understand how to teach reading to children who didn't automatically read.
Dr. Walberg. I think that given the two facts, that the United States spends more than any other country in the world of the affluent countries, second only to Switzerland, and yet we have the worst reading gains between the ages of 9 and 14, so we are spending the most money, getting the worst results, what is not represented frequently in Washington are taxpayers. People are paying for these things. It is exorbitant amounts of money, and we are not getting the results. Now to also ask citizens to do the job of teachers seems to me absurd and could only come out of this city.
Mr. McKeon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. I don't like to get into comparisons with other countries because of the questions of who do they educate, and who don't they educate, and how are they lined up from the day they are born as to what their education is going to be? So I am always a little cautious.
Mr. Martinez. Hey, Buck, are you still here? I bought one of those used cars and the transmission fell out. And I only had to fill out one sheet of paper to buy it. Today when I buy a car, I fill out a lot of papers, but I get guarantees, and I can take the car back. Then I couldn't take the car back, and I lost my money. That is the difference between paperwork and the bureaucracy we are supposed to create.
Paperwork is still a small percentage of the work that the school district does. The fact is that all of that paperwork is for accountability so that we can show the taxpayers how their money is being spent and whether it is being spent properly. If it is not being spent properly, it goes back to what Dr. Hayes said about how these programs are being implemented.
By the way, I don't want your insight into anything, Dr. Walberg. I have heard enough of your insight, and obviously you have not lived in the real world that many of us grew up in. And when I ask the questions, I will be asking of the more positive people, not the negative people who can only see things in a dark light.
So, Dr. Hayes, you are absolutely right. The ways these programs are implemented determines whether or not they work well. They also need the proper funding. If a program doesn't work, it doesn't work for one of two reasons: it wasn't implemented well or it wasn't funded sufficiently, as Mrs. Wilhoyte said. Without the dollars for Title 1, you wouldn't be able to carry out the programs to the extent you are providing them now.
Mr. Fattah pointed out another big problem. He described the districts in his area and the disparity in per pupil spending. We have the same situation in California, where some students are afforded something like $1,200 per student, and in Beverly Hills they spend something like $20,000 per student. There was a suit, and that case went all the way to the Supreme Court. It came out that, yes, the money wasn't being distributed equally.
What was also said here by the more positive witnesses is that the public school systems are there to teach all the children, educate all the children, make sure they have an equal education. And you said, Dr. Vinovskis, that the public schools are not living up to that promise.
Let me differ with you a little bit. When you say that, you should say not all schools are. I will use your district, Mrs. Wilhoyte. You are the superintendent of schools. You work for an elected school board, I would imagine. Are you accountable more to that school board or the Federal Government for what you do in your school district?
Dr. Wilhoyte. The school board, and I watch school board elections very closely.
Mr. Martinez. Absolutely.
See, what we forget up here is there is State and local autonomy in most of the school programs. The only programs the Federal Government gets involved in are those we mandate, like bilingual education. Incidentally, I have gone in search of the source of the great myth that bilingual education is a crutch for people to speak any foreign language. And it is not just Spanish, by the way. The fact is that in every bilingual education program I visited, the children are not being taught exclusively in Spanish, they are being taught in both English and Spanish. The most successful program I saw taught fluency in both languages. It goes back to what you said, Dr. Hayes, that there are models out there, but the problem is we haven't disseminated the information on the models to all the school districts so they could emulate them or adopt them to successfully serve their needs. If anything, the board of education ought to be a great disseminator of information, disseminating information to all the school districts of successful programs.
The fact is that in my district, and in other districts I have visited, bilingual education is very successful, Title 1 is successful. They are very successful in your district.
Let me ask you something. When Mr. Hoekstra mentioned the district across the way from you in Michigan. I don't know that you would care to criticize any of the school board, but in reality just give me_rather than naming any school district—examples of school districts and schools that are not doing well, and whether that relates right back to who the superintendent is and who the school board members are?
Dr. Wilhoyte. I wanted to share that the schools that are before you today in the testimony were given 3 years by the superintendents and board of education to turn things around, so definite goals were set, and definite expectations, and they figure out how to get there with the children.
Mr. Martinez. Here again it depends on the school board giving the ultimatum and the school board being able to carry it out. I have seen one school board in a terrible school district be replaced with a reform board, which selected a new superintendent, and it turned everything in the school district around.
So I know schools in some places work fine; our kids are getting an education. Otherwise how would all these people be where they are today? They came from public school systems. I came from a public school system. I came from a poor family, 10 children, raised through the Depression. I was born in 1929, right when the Depression started, and yet look where I am today. And I can read and write, and I grew up with a lot of kids who couldn't read and write, in the same school system, but that is because of different teachers. I was a beneficiary of some outstanding teachers.
Earlier this issue was raised regarding what it takes to teach a teacher to teach. You know, it is not just the education the teacher gets, isn't it. From your own experience, Dr. Wilhoyte, wouldn't you say a lot of it is talent, desire and aptitude as much as it is education?
Dr. Wilhoyte. That in combination with their colleagues to figure out what works for children.
Mr. Martinez. That is right. And you know a lot of times, Mr. Goodling is right, we have wanted to be so flexible for the districts, that we have not set standards, we have not set guidelines, because we wanted to give them a chance to develop their own programs for bilingual education. Some good programs have been developed, and some bad programs have developed. Head Start is a very successful program, and I don't care what Dr. Walberg says. The studies show people who have benefited by Head Start have been very successful, contrary to those who didn't receive that benefit.
So the programs do work in some places, and they don't work in other places. I have seen in my own district Head Start programs that were so bad they were actually broken up and given over to other Head Start programs that were successful. But most of the programs I have seen and visited are very successful, and for the one reason that Dr. Hayes referred to: Head Start involves the parents and brings the parents into it. The parents become part of the kids' education.
When I was a kid, it was very embarrassing for my parents to go to my school because they didn't speak English well, and they weren't as educated as the people they were going to be dealing with who were teaching me. The school didn't care whether they came or not. The idea is to go out and get the parents involved, because when the parent becomes involved in the student's education, you see how that child improves in education.
Chairman Goodling. I wanted to indicate that if school board members realize they are not educators, and they hire a good educator to run the school system, that school system will be successful. If the school board members believe they are educators, then a disaster will occur.
Mr. Martinez. That is the autonomy of a school board.
Chairman Goodling. If the superintendent realizes that he can make five of the nine believe that everything you want to do is their idea, then that superintendent is successful.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, and I want to thank the witnesses, and I will just take exception with the Chairman's comments. As a former school board member and two-term school board president, I think it is exactly the other way around. I think elected school board members are ultimately accountable to the consumers, and to the taxpayers.
Chairman Goodling. I was a school board president, too.
Mr. Riggs. I have seen too many examples where passive caretaker boards have empowered a superintendent only to discover later on that they were not listening to the local community.
I want to thank our witnesses. I especially want to thank Dr. Walberg, whose written testimony, I think, should be required reading for elected education policy-makers.
Dr. Walberg, you talk about possibly converting Federal categorical programs into general education subsidies. I would submit that that is exactly what they have become in too many cases. Especially Title I, which has become an operating subsidy many local school districts around the country which Dr. Vinovskis' research has shown.
What I found particularly interesting in your testimony is your emphasis on decentralizing decision-making. I think decentralization and deregulation are--for example, through the charter school movement--are key to instilling more accountability and responsibility in public education today. That is why some of us are such strong supporters of the charter school movement.
But to you gentlemen and lady, I have a couple of specific questions. One is now a set aside in the bipartisan budget agreement, which passed the House of Representatives yesterday, $260 million for a new literacy initiative that is along the lines of the President's America Reads proposal. Yet when I look at the President's proposal, I see no component ensuring that $260 million would be well spent; that is to say, requiring rigorous assessment and evaluation of the results from the investment of $260 million more on top of what the Federal taxpayers already spent.
So two questions. One, if we traded places, and you had a say in how we would best spend $260 million, how we would best utilize it to get the most bang for the buck $260 million of hard-earned Federal taxpayer money, how would you do that? Number one, where would we spend that $260 million? Number two, how would we ensure that we are making progress; if we are not getting the results we want, how do we at least get some idea of determining if this money is well spent? Because colleagues, it absolutely amazes me that we could be talking about leaving so many of our young people behind. I cannot fathom for the life of me how, if we had a system of competency-based advancement in local schools, based on high expectations and standards of teachers, students, and parents alike, so that many of our children aren't reading well. I don't understand how they can advance from grade to grade. I don't understand how they can graduate and get a high school diploma and be practically illiterate. I just don't understand that. So you can see that I come to this discussion as a real skeptic, and I worry we are going to put bad money after maybe good money.
I have said this before to colleagues on this side of the aisle who I respect and admire, who have taken great exception to my remarks. I am not intending to impugn the efforts of local educators. I am asking how will we determine if we are making progress, and how do we measure the results? How would you spend $260 million, and how would you assess the expenditure of that $260 million?
Dr. Vinovskis. I think you have a basic philosophical question, and it is probably too late to do anything about it because it is in the budget, and the budget is about to be passed.
I think my basic bias would be to--
Mr. Riggs. May I interrupt you for a moment to point out that, yes, it may be too late to start, except that the budget proposal has this unique contingency language saying that the Congress must act, beginning in this committee, to approve the release of that $260 million by April 1st. So in this case we do have a shot at trying to craft good legislation that gets the results we want.
Dr. Vinovskis. So, first of all, my basic bias would be to make existing schools work well. I am very concerned about a series of small categorical programs or large categorical programs piled on top of each other. Let's work with Title I, let's get Title I working, and that would be where my emphasis would be.
I don't think that is going to be allowable, but within the $260 million, then, one, I would be sure to say I want a review of the literature and see where it could be well spent. For example, summer learning may be very important, so I wouldn't just put it all necessarily into the schools, I would look through public libraries and other kinds of programs. Rates of return may be even higher there, and I can elaborate on that.
Your second question is how can I make sure it is going to work? What you have to do is set up an independent panel, and I mean independent, of people who are supportive, but critical, of these programs, to see if they work. And I might run that through the National Academy of Science or National Academy of Education, by putting some kind of a group like that to work with it, to both monitor it, evaluate it, and offer guidance, which is not expensive. They are going to do a better job.
The tendency in the Federal Government is spend the money, send it out there, and some things work, and some things don't. We need feedback. This is an ongoing problem, so I would try to put it with a group like the National Academy of Science, National Academy of Education and ask them to work with this program and to evaluate and monitor and make suggestions as it goes.
Dr. Walberg. I think if you would have asked me that question a quarter century ago before we had enormous growth of Federal categorical programs, I would have said this is a crisis; don't just stand there, do something. I think 5 years ago I would have said, don't just do something, stand there. Today I would say to you, don't just stand there, undo Federal programs.
I think to assume the $260 million is best spent by the Federal Government could be a very questionable assumption, but if staying with that assumption, I would say, number one, block grants would be a better way to do it. If I couldn't do that, maybe the best way of all, I would say voucherize it and give it to the people who are presumably the ultimate beneficiaries; that is, poor families or families that have children with reading problems. If that can't be done, I would give maximum freedom to States to experiment with programs to use research results in various ways to research and evaluate them and to base their findings so that we could learn from the diversity of programs that would be used in the States.
Dr. Johnson. I think that the program needs to put forward very clear goals, and States should be asked to define how they could develop accountability systems to demonstrate that schools within their State were attaining those clear goals. So if the focus is on getting all students to read by the end of third grade, then that should be the issue that we are tracking. That should be the issue where we are collecting data to determine if, in fact, it is happening. And then it is important that school districts have substantial flexibility in determining how they can use that resource in coordination with all of their other Federal resources, their State resources, their local resources to put together programs that can make it happen.
Dr. Wilhoyte. What we need right now at the local level is a clearinghouse for best practices, so that research that has been mentioned today, the evaluation by an external source, is critical. For third grade reading goals, let's define what we want to measure, comprehension, decoding, vocabulary, and let's give the money to those with a proven track record.
The other day, two gentlemen told me I could save three quarters of $1 million in my energy budget, and if I didn't save at least $453,000 the first year, they guarantee me a check. I say go with those that can guarantee us a check for our Carolyns in the third grade reading proficiency.
Dr. Hayes. I would say, first of all, let's not proscribe method from the Federal level; and some of the things that are in the reading program, such as use of volunteers, is a method, so let's not proscribe method, let's set goals, clarify the goals, help the field develop sound measuring systems for those goals so that it has the capacity to provide you with the information that you actually ask.
I think one of the things that I would suggest, even to continue to be positive, is that even in the schools where--school systems where there is a tremendous discrepancy of money in the low side, that is they have very little resources available, a very large proportion of the children are succeeding well in schools.
I am doing research in schools all over this country and all over the United Kingdom, and one of the impressive things when I go in day after day after day are things children are doing that, sorry folks, we weren't doing when we were in schools. We just were not. Schools have developed to the point that most of the children are doing things that are absolutely wonderful.
Unfortunately, we start focusing our attention on the lower quartile--or perhaps even less in many cases—those who are not doing what we often think that schools ought to be doing, or that children ought to be doing. But within that context, I think we recognize the capacities that are there and the barriers to changing those capacities.
For example, if we were physicians, in dealing with physicians, and a new disease came up, among the physicians they would assume that research, experimentation would be one of the major ways of finding solutions to the problems associated with that new disease and ways of correcting it. That is not a part of the culture of schooling. It is not a part of the culture of schooling to assume that if there is a problem that we have, that research is a way to provide information for it. Now, common knowledge, experience, practice is the way to know. So we have a very difficult time disseminating information within the field of information because it is not a part of the culture of the field.
So what I would strongly encourage you to do is to recognize that one of the programs being considered here today, the one dealing with comprehensive family literacy programs, the Even Start Program, involves a fundamental shift in the nature of service delivery in the sense that it involves the collaboration, the integration of services across agencies that have traditionally worked independently to serve groups with their particular single goal. That program, in my judgment, offers a potential for our field to result in some fundamental shifts in schools at the local level and school systems at the local and State levels.
I encourage us to try to shift OERI, for example, the question of how do we go about getting these systems disseminated, how do we actually go about understanding the nature of the population, to understand how they can have these changes that we try and help them make are actually made, and then get--help those systems make the fundamental changes.
So don't proscribe methods at the Federal level, and help develop the systems that would allow us to make some of these fundamental changes.
Mr. McKeon. [Presiding.] Mr. Hinojosa.
Mr. Hinojosa. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank all of the panelists for participating in today's very important hearing. The efforts don't often grab the national headlines, but as far as I am concerned, it is one of the most important of the areas of our committee and our committee's focus.
I applaud Dr. Cheryl Wilhoyte. I applaud your successes with special populations and with the disadvantaged students.
But for Federal programs, and similar Federal mandates of Title I, I would not be in Congress. You see, I come from a very small rural community. I come from the delta area of south Texas, where the superintendent and the school board felt that they had to have a segregated school district. The district where I grew up is one of the five poorest of the 1,050 school districts in Texas that my colleague Mr. Fattah was describing. I served on the Texas state board, and I know the numbers. We have over 3-1/2 million children.
So much of what I heard was something that I could relate to, and I am going to dedicate the few minutes I have to address some questions to Dr. Walberg, because I take exception, for two reasons, to your characterization of transitional bilingual education as an inefficient educational method. You say that transitional bilingual ed denies students the very experience they most need, practice in English.
First, I take exception to the thought that English is the most important objective of these programs. Academic content learning is equally important, as far as I am concerned. I also take exception to your charts that transitional bilingual ed denies the students practice in English. All federally-supported bilingual programs include a strong component of English as a second language. Research shows this program enables students to simultaneously develop English language and academic competencies and, in the best cases, achieve full bilingualism and literacy in English and a second language.
In your statement you say research shows categorical programs, during their long history, have seldom worked. You go on to say that they clearly have done considerable harm at great public expense, and that they violate the American heritage of State and local control of schools. What research are you talking about? The research I have, the research I have read, documents an impressive record of local educational accomplishments made possible by Federal categorical programs. Can you tell me what research you are talking about?
Dr. Walberg. Well, I would contrast two kinds of things that could be called research. You can have program advocates that run programs that claim success for them. If you go back to--you ask the question, though, what about objectivity and independence, and also what about scientific research that requires control groups? That is, we have one group that may be in a categorical program and another group that is not in that program. We measure what they know ahead of time and what they know afterwards, whether it is science, mathematics, English, Spanish or whatever, and we measure the results across time, then we gather the programs together.
The person who has done that, the best job of that, of independent evidence, is Christine Russell of Boston University where she brought all studies with experimental groups, with transitional bilingual education and control groups together, added them all up, and asked the question, do they work or not? What that indicated is the kids were equally well off not being in the programs in contrast to those that were in the programs.
So I think that is the largest body of research, and I think it is very dangerous to take--if we have 1,000 instances, to find two or three that are working and then make a conclusion that the programs work in general. Sometimes they work, but you have got to have a scientific survey and take random instances or study all instances in large programs, and in my view, you cannot ask program administrators about the things because most of them are self-interested in the programs.
Mr. Hinojosa. I can only tell you that what Mr. Fattah was talking about, that many of the school districts, especially in rural and some urban communities, there isn't enough money being spent on the children who are disadvantaged and poor families, and I come from that environment. I can speak to it because I lived it, and I can tell you that this is a very complex problem that we are dealing with.
But again, the most important thing I heard from this panel is that we are going to have to find the exemplary programs and focus on those, shift the monies, and make more of that available to them, to those exemplary programs, so we can serve more of the students and have more successes.
And finally, I want to say that when you take a look at what is working in America, and that we only have $10 million being spent on Hispanic-serving institutions in higher education as compared to what is being spent to other groups, then you will understand why I can be so strong and so passionate in fighting for increasing the amount of money for exemplary programs that are working; not to create new programs, but just to serve more of those who qualify.
Mr. Riggs. [Presiding.] Mr. Owens, you are recognized.
Mr. Owens. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to have this dialogue with such a distinguished and experienced group of educators who are leaders in the education world out there.
And before I get to my question, which I would like for all of them to comment on, I want to make a few observations, and hopefully they will provide some leadership in dispelling this myth that there has been an exorbitant amount of money spent on education. That is a myth. Compared to modern expenditures, modern costs, a very limited amount of money has been spent on secondary education.
We just voted twice in the last 3 weeks to spend $28 billion on B-2 bombers that the President says we don't need, the Joint Chiefs of Staff says we don't need, the Air Force Chief says we don't need, and yet we are going to spend $28 billion on B-2 bombers and $100 billion for overseas bases in countries that could pay for their own defense. So in terms of modern expenditures, what the Federal Government spent on education is a tiny amount.
Also, you know, only about 7 to 8 percent of the total expenditure on education is Federal, and of that 7 to 8 percent that the Federal Government spends, the smallest portion goes to elementary education. The largest amount goes to higher education. So if there is something wrong on education, and 90 percent of the money is coming from State and local governments, that means 90 percent of the control also is invested in State and local governments; 90 percent of the blame for what is going wrong has to be at the State and local government level.
So it is great to have this dialogue about Federal programs and what they are doing and not doing, but understand, whatever is going on in education is basically under the control of State and local governments, and we should recognize the Federal role for what it is. It is a stimulant, and it may be stimulating things in the wrong direction, but it is still a small player.
I also want to comment on the statement you made about OERI. We do need more research and more compilation of the results of research, a number of things in a number of places. What we have done at OERI is taken the politics out of the process and given it to educators and researchers, and my great problem is it has been a failure of imagination in the last 3 or 4 years, a failure of imagination, a failure of energy, a sense of urgency, and I hope you as educators will look at OERI as a tool that can be utilized to resolve some of the problems and talk to your colleagues and get things going. There is no excuse for OERI not being involved in addressing the problems we are focused on.
Let me ask you a less political question and a more research-oriented question, and that is in the past few years we have had clear recognition, even popularizing of the recognition of the fact that the early years of a child are critical. We are talking about literacy and reading, and teachers tell me every day that if kids don't read by the time they get to the fourth grade, it is hopeless after that, especially with boys. They get frustrated, and things go downhill from the fourth grade on. So we are addressing the right subject, literacy, reading, et cetera.
But even before you get to the fourth grade, what the recent research has been substantiating and sort of magnifying, the White House conference on early childhood development, is the early years, which maybe shouldn't be called education in a traditional sense; it is kind of a human nurturing, it is a part of education, but it is a human nurturing, and by the time they become 1 year old, a lot of things have happened. And recent developments that have gotten so far as to be popularized on Nightline with relation to Eastern European children, Russia and the Ukraine, being adopted, blond, blue-eyed children who genetically one would say had all the right material, if you dismiss some of the racist arguments against children who misbehave in our schools, they have tremendous problems, and as they look back, they find the problem is an early nurturing was not there, the kind of relationship of adults to babies wasn't there, and damage sets in. Their physiological equipment is damaged early on. Environment takes over, and it is not about what they inherit or what their genes were, something in their heads begins to happen very early, and it is hard to reverse it.
So you as educators, I think you ought to, in order to protect yourself, but that is not the most important thing, you ought to sort of look at this problem and draw a line between where the institution of education or the education world takes over and where something else has to happen. What is happening now is it is all being dumped in your lap.
The basic problem in schools in New York City, I am told, is discipline. They can't get around to teaching because even in the first grade, even in kindergarten, they have children who are damaged, crack mothers, grandmothers who had to take over when the crack mother was arrested, and they couldn't cope, or just put out there a nobody. They go from foster home to foster home, and the damage has taken place because the nurturing wasn't there.
So is it not in your interest to draw a line as to where you should take over and where something else should happen? And I am asking you to do this because I don't want to keep dumping it on the schools. I want the schools and educational world to make a strong statement to throw it back where it belongs and say, you should watch your welfare policy that takes away mothers from children at an early age, which cut them off. Could you please address that? I think they should all be given a chance.
Dr. Vinovskis. Let me start.
First of all, I agree with you. I think early childhood education is very important. We certainly need to sustain it thereafter, but the early years are crucial, and you need to balance the approach. It is not just education, it is nurturing.
I think the basic problem is one of poverty. There are many people in America who still don't have access to the kinds of goods and services they need to grow up healthy children. And I think the difficulty--and I will be honest. As an outsider I am discouraged when I look at Republicans and Democrats, because you are all fighting with each other to see who can give the most tax breaks to the middle class. I understand why you do that, because you run for office. I don't run for office, but the poor people in this country need more help, and they need general hope, not just educational, but a way to raise the children in a meaningful way, and issues like child health insurance, things like that, are as central as educational issues.
Dr. Walberg. I would add to that. I think there is a tendency among educators to blame families, that families are deteriorating, or there is some defect in the child. The research I cite in my Brookings paper, which I have made available to the committee, suggests that family income has been going up in the last 20 or 30 years. Families are smaller. There are more early childhood education programs of various kinds, and, in fact, American students, were compared--where we take the first few grades of schooling, American children stand pretty well. It is during the school years they fall behind students of other countries.
So rather than blaming families, I think the schools are much in question. I think we have to keep a focus there, and I think we have to guard against educators that blame society.
Mr. Owens. I wasn't blaming families, I was blaming public policies, yes.
Dr. Johnson. Consistent with what you just said, I would suggest that the issue is not drawing a line that separates and says where we should focus blame, but, instead, drawing a circle and recognizing that we as a society have to join hands around our children to ensure that they have all of the supports that are needed to ensure their success in life.
Mr. Owens. Some would be above and beyond the school budget, and other kinds of services that may have to be administered by the school, but they are not part of the education budget.
Dr. Johnson. Right. And I think that that concept, when we relate that back to this notion of reading, one of the comments that I made earlier was about the importance of having parents and community members working with schools in helping children read, and I think that might have been misinterpreted in a way that suggested that I am talking about having parents or volunteers serve as teachers. That isn't it at all.
What we have seen in really successful schools, real schools, that are getting all students to achieve at high levels are situations where parents are--parents and community members are coming into schools, sitting down with children, and in some cases just listening to children read, or in some cases spending time reading to children, showing children that this is something that is important and meaningful. That kind of partnership where parents and community members are working with schools to make a difference can be extremely powerful.
Dr. Wilhoyte. The superintendent's job has become building community capacity for learning, and I have direct responsibility for one part of that capacity, but until we, as cities and villages, regardless of your partisan focus on it takes a whole village, for me to have a strategic plan in the school district and the city and county to have a different one, we need one plan about building community capacity for being learners. Children and adults as well. We need family-friendly policy, whether it be welfare reform, education, or higher education.
So I would encourage you, and I so appreciate your comments, to have the policy that enables us, in the cities, in the rural areas, to build learning capacity, to build on what we know about little ones. I am a new grandmother, and I check and make sure the music lessons and reading lessons have happened every day for the 10-month-old. We know what it takes to be a good learner, and we must collaborate across boundaries to build community capacity for learning.
Dr. Hayes. Thank you, Dr. Wilhoyte, for saying so well what I would like to have said.
I would like to thank you, Mr. Owens, for saying to us some things that we may not have wanted to hear. But I had a thought when you were talking about a statement that a colleague of mine, Jerome Kegan, has stated once about the position of children in contemporary society and essentially there is no role except that of being drone. That usually is not too nice for most of us, but essentially there is nothing important that they have to do to contribute to society on a day-to-day basis.
They can at least see the importance of it, so to speak, so the children who come into our family literacy programs as early as 2, 3, 4 years old are often reflecting the culture--the context of the homes. If they are in an abusive setting in which problems are solved by fighting and so on, that is often what they come in like. High-quality programs can help them deal with that.
But I think we have to do several things. One is we have to give families who have extreme desires to make improvements in their lives hope that those improvements can actually be made, because when I talk with the families in the Even Start programs, I have never met one who did not have a high-level desire for self-sufficiency, for personal accomplishment, for personal development, for responsibility for families, for achieving children, but most of them did not have any idea at all that those goals could actually be accomplished. Many of them had no experiences within their own families, or even in their own communities, of people who got jobs and sustained jobs and so on.
And one of the things that bothers me quite often with young children, and in the Even Start programs, especially the little boys you talked about, is that they often see going to school or coming to school as an indicator of being grown up, and schooling is really important to them because it is an indicator of being grown up. But my concern, when I think about what is likely to be available for them to do that is really important over the next few years, unless we can make learning and schooling important to them for intrinsic values, demonstrated to them through the families, that as soon as other symbols of being growing up are accessible to them, like being a member of a gang or selling drugs or entering a variety of crime, that they are just as likely to shift into that.
So I think one of the things we have to do is focus our attention as much as we can to give the families hope; not just continue the desire, we have got to give them real accomplishment and real demonstrations of hope, and some of these programs have the capacity to do that.
Mr. Riggs. Congressman Payne, your questions for the witnesses.
Mr. Payne. Thank you very much. Let me also the thank the panel and the Chairman of the committee for calling this very important hearing.
I think literacy is something we hear very little about. It is a tremendous problem. Years ago when we could sponsor resolutions, we had a practice here in the House where if you got 218 cosponsors, you could bring a resolution to the floor, and from 1990 to 1994, up until 1995, when the practice was ended by the new Majority, I had a resolution calling for National Literacy Day, and it was just to bring the people's attention to the number of illiterate people in our country. The number has grown to maybe 35 million. It is growing by about 2.5 million annually, with new immigrants and with school dropouts. We had people who, if they got a job, they would be unable to read directions to the job, or mothers who cannot read the directions on medicine.
For the last 6 or 7 years, at the Congressional Black Caucus, well, the last 9 years, I have had a special panel on literacy. It is something that doesn't draw a lot of attention because it is not sexy, it is just something someone else has, but it is such a tremendous problem. And it was only 2 or 3 years ago that our first bill on literacy was ever passed in the Congress. Tom Sawyer was the prime sponsor of the bill of the National Literacy Act, which talked about National and State literacy groups, and we encouraged States to have a State literacy council.
So I think all of you are really doing God's work when we talk about this question of literacy, and, Dr. Hayes, I really appreciate much of your conversation about Even Start, and I think it is so important we do invest. And for that regard, I agree with Congressman Owens. Just this year we spent two and a half times as much on defense as we spent in--as Dr. Walberg brought out this $100 million, we spent 2.5 times that this single year, on the defense, than what we spent on the Federal Government in the last 25 years.
And so it does bother me a little bit, I think. The acting chairman might know my disdain for this taxpayers' money question that we hear about when it is generally used for something that seems to help, as has been indicated, the poor, or that isn't talked about anymore. You don't talk about homeless people when you run for office, you don't talk about shelters, you don't talk about down and out. You start with middle income if you are running, even in poor districts, because poor districts' people are no longer fashionable, they do not exist, they are just pushed off the Earth.
So I do take a little exception to this $7 billion a year for poor and low-achieving students which taxpayers have paid. You know, it kind of sends a little message that it is wasted money, you know, no one complains about. And I wish I were a college professor, because if I were, my children could go to that university free of charge. Taxpayers' money goes into the overall budget of the university, poor people paying their tuition. And you didn't start the practice, it was there. I am sure if you had children, if you had good sense, you took advantage of it, but we don't hear people coming to criticize you because your child could go to your college of your instruction free of charge, as a benefit. And so I kind of take a little exception when we highlight poor people and little benefits they may get from Title 1 or Title I.
Let me just ask a question, I guess, in the form--I should ask a question. There has been a question about phonics, and the whole language, and I just might fill out the question to each of you. I don't know if you are reading specialists, but if you have any knowledge of the subject, which do you think--since reading is a real stumbling block in our school systems, what do you think is the best approach, or is there a similar--a single approach to the problem of teaching reading? Any of you.
Dr. Wilhoyte. I am a reading specialist, so I guess I will venture forth.
I think it always depends, and I go back to diagnosing the student need and then prescribing the program that works. And I would share with you that both of the methods are important in different times in a child's development. There is never one single answer, as with you at the policy level, and for us it is whatever works. But it is a combination of very direct instruction for children who don't have an ease with reading when they begin, and finding out where their strengths are, diagnosing those with a very highly trained person, and structuring a program that works so they, too, are literate by the end of grade 3, and they don't decide to act out or drop out because they don't have the literacy skills in grade 4 or grade 8 or grade 10 to keep going.
Dr. Johnson. In Texas, we recently concluded a study where we looked at 26 schools in our State that were schools where there was a high level of poverty. Many of the schools had high percentages of minority students. Many of these schools had high percentages of students that did not speak English as their first language. But these were also schools where they had very, very high achievement among the top 10 percent of all schools in the State, and when we looked at these schools, we assumed that we would go in and we would find schools using certain types of reading approaches.
And quite frankly, we were wrong. We saw that these schools were using a wide range of different approaches, but what was consistent was those schools, those teachers, were taking time to understand the specific reading needs, the specific reading strengths of their students, and they were tailoring programs to meet the needs of their students. That is the critical issue, I believe, in helping make sure you have a reading program that is successful.
Mr. Payne. Thank you very much.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Payne. I do simply want to point out to my friend and colleague that in questioning the expenditure of Federal taxpayer dollars, I don't necessarily mean to be critical. However I think it is our role and responsibility as elected decision-makers to ensure the proper expenditure of dollars. We have a fiduciary responsibility, for lack of a better term, for the expenditure of hard-earned Federal tax dollars and investing--I do view it as an investment, and I think we could get bipartisan agreement on that--investing up to $260 million dollars more to improve literacy in the primary schools of America. Again, we want to ensure that we get the most bang for the buck and get real measurable results.
Related to that, though, I wanted to ask one more question, and if has to do with Head Start. We are considering in our proposal. Our proposal competes with the Presidents proposal but we do hope we can move it through the committee on a bipartisan basis, we are looking at possibly requiring local schools to work in collaboration with local Head Start providers. My question, and I believe I should address it to you, Dr. Wilhoyte, given your testimony, is what type of pre-reading and pre-elementary-school instruction or early childhood education do you believe should be provided to Head Start programs: and should local school districts, in general, work more closely with local Head Start programs so that there is a continuum of learning for children that begins at the earliest ages and then, of course, obviously, extends up into primary and secondary education?
Dr. Wilhoyte. I have worked in school districts where both the Head Start was under the direction of the school district, and a school district currently where it is a separate entity with very defined turf, separate from the public schools. Certainly, from infancy to adulthood, there is a continuum of literacy learning that should be constantly in progress. For those of us who do not direct the Head Start or preschool programs, both with child care as well as with preschool programs we have what is called Start Smart in Madison, and it is an opportunity for all of us to sit at the table.
The one thing I would share with you is we agree on developmental milestones for early literacy reading and that Head Start be required to be accountable for including those and producing the results that are required so children are ready for school.
Mr. Riggs. Children like Carolyn.
Dr. Wilhoyte. Children like Carolyn.
Mr. Riggs. All right. Very good.
I want to thank all of our witnesses for their testimony and stress that we want to continue to work with you as we develop legislation which we hope will help teach children to read as early as possible. Legislation that will focus on getting more dollars to the classroom to support quality reading programs, as well as promoting and taking advantage of sound scientific research and supporting quality training, both pre-service and in-service, for classroom teachers.
So with that I want to thank all of our witnesses and my colleagues. This concludes the full committee hearing on literacy. The Committee on Education and the Workforce stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:28 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]
TEACHERS: THE KEY TO HELPING AMERICA LEARN TO READ
Wednesday, September 3, 1997
House of Representatives
Committee on Education and the Workforce
The Committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:30 a.m. in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, The Honorable Bill Goodling [Chairman of the Committee] presiding.
Present: Chairman Goodling, Representatives Petri, Barrett, Hoekstra, Riggs, Norwood, Clay, Kildee, Martinez, Roemer, Scott, Romero-Barcelo, Fattah, Hinojosa, Kucinich.
Staff Present: Lynn Selmser, Professional Staff Member; D'Arcy Philps, Professional Staff Member; Andrea Weiss, Legislative Assistant; Dr. June L. Harris, Minority Education Coordinator; and Alex Nock, Minority Legislative Associate.
Chairman Goodling. Today's hearing will explore one of the key components of teaching children how to read: the pre-service and in-service training provided to teachers in how to teach reading.
As a former educator, I know from experience there are several factors which must be present for children to learn to read as early as possible once they enter school.
First, it is key that children come to school with a love of reading, nurtured at home by parents who read to them and instill in them the importance of reading -- both for enjoyment and for learning.
Second, it is important that each and every teacher who teaches children how to read knows how to teach beginning reading.
In this regard, we have to be sure that our teachers are well prepared to teach reading. As such, we must ignore the fads and instead base reading instruction on reliable, replicable research on how children learn to read.
While the Administration has placed an emphasis on tutors as the key to teaching every child to read well by the end of third grade, I believe you have to look first to the foundation on which children build their reading skills. We need to ensure each child receives the best possible reading instruction as soon as they enter school, and before if possible. We also need to work with the parents of children to ensure they themselves have the literacy skills necessary to read to their children and to help their children learn to read in the home setting.
While volunteers can help children learn to read by building on the reading instruction provided by the classroom teacher, we need to ensure that each classroom teacher is doing their job to help each child learn to read. This best can be accomplished by ensuring they receive the best possible training regarding how to teach children to read -- both before they become teachers and while they are teaching.
I look forward to hearing from today's panelists who will provide us with the benefit of their personal experience with respect to the importance of professional development for teachers of reading.
I would call on the ranking member, Mr. Clay.
Mr. Clay. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, since many of our nation's children are heading back to school this week, I am particularly pleased to join you and the Committee in the third of a series of hearings on child literacy.
The aim of these hearings is to develop a framework for producing bipartisan legislation consistent with the President's literacy proposals. I commend you, as Chairman, for today's particular focus on the role and responsibility of teachers.
Today there are more than 3 million elementary and secondary school teachers in our schools. These individuals have the unique responsibility to empower our children with the knowledge and skills they Need to compete in today's global marketplace. The ability to read is one of those vital skills. Obviously, to be effective, teachers must first have the proper knowledge and experience to teach reading effectively.
Fortunately, President Clinton has exhibited true leadership in combating low literacy rates through his "America Reads'' proposal, which my Democratic colleagues and I are proud to have introduced the Clinton proposal earlier this session. Through this legislation, the President has put structure to a consistent vision of our Administration: accessing the power of individuals and their communities.
"America Reads'' would use parents, volunteers, and community-based organizations to supplement the existing efforts in our nation's classrooms aimed at enabling children to master reading. Through the partnerships that are being developed in the fourteen "America Reads'' pilot projects, we have already seen the positive benefits of this comprehensive community network approach. The President has raised the nation's awareness of these issues and created the framework for our discussion today.
The Republican majority has begun the process of developing a legislative proposal that would receive the funding reserved for the "America Reads'' program in the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill. And I want to commend you, Mr. Chairman, for reaching out to our side to develop a bipartisan literacy initiative.
So, thank you, and I look forward to the testimony from today's witnesses.
Chairman. Goodling. Thank you. Will you come to the table and I will introduce you as you are coming to the table.
Mrs. Ann Mintz has served as the Instructional Facilitator of Elementary Language Arts for the Howard County Public School System in Howard County, Maryland, for the last five years. A former classroom teacher, the responsibilities of her current position include: interviewing candidates for elementary teaching positions in the county; observing non-tenured teachers; and supervising 40 elementary reading specialists; planning for and managing the implementation of the elementary language arts curriculum.
Mrs. Debra Wakefield, who will be introduced by Mr. Riggs.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I hope you didn't forget my name during the August recess. It's good to be back. Good to see my colleagues. And it is indeed a real pleasure to introduce my constituent, Debra Wakefield. Debbie is a long-time, very experienced classroom teacher. I must say that I think her perspective and the perspective of teaching professionals in helping us craft a new federal literacy initiative is going to be extremely helpful.
I was able to host two literacy summits in my Congressional district during the August recess. In fact, Lynn Selmser of our staff was able to join me at both of those summits and I found the input of our participant witnesses, including Ms. Wakefield, to be very, very helpful as we turn our attention to crafting the Republican alternative, which I hope will become the bipartisan vehicle to authorizing the, the money that is already been set aside by the budget agreement for a federal literacy initiative.
As I mentioned, Debbie has been teaching primary grades in California for over 20 years. She has taught kindergarten through third grade and is also a Reading Recovery Specialist. She has been a Mentor Teacher, a Master Teacher, and is currently the Literacy Coordinator at her school site in Del Norte County, in far northwestern California, right up there by the Oregon border. Ms. Wakefield graduated from California State University at Chico with a degree in Psychology. She received her teaching credentials from Cal State-Chico. She received her reading recovery training from St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, which I also attended, and is currently a part of the California Early Literacy Learning Project at California State University in San Bernadino. In 1991 she was selected by her peers as a S.T.A.R. Teacher, and that stands for Superior Teachers Are Recognized. In 1995 she was appointed to be a member of my Congressional--the First Congressional District Council on Education. This committee advises me, as Subcommittee Chairman for Education of primary and secondary education, on educational issues. In 1996 she was recognized by her school as their Teacher of the Year and was also recently presented with a Congressional Recognition Award for her work with literacy in Del Norte County. So, we welcome her to Washington, D.C., and look forward with great anticipation to her testimony. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. Ms. Kimberly Wilson is currently working toward a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership at American University. She is also the Clinical Director for the Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes Center here in Washington, where her responsibilities include conducting outside training for education professionals in the Washington area; evaluating and diagnosing the educational profile and learning potential of clients, and coordinating the treatment of children and adults with learning disabilities. Welcome.
Dr. Laura Fredrick will be introduced by Mr. Norwood.
Mr. Norwood. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman and Members, I take great pleasure in introducing to you Dr. Laura Fredrick of Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Fredrick is an Assistant Professor at Georgia State University and is presently doing research with at-risk students in the Atlanta metropolitan area. She has years of experience as an early elementary school teacher and was also was a writer for "Performance Management Magazine" and a private consultant with the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Her Ph.D. is in Education Psychology, which she received from Georgia State University. I was privileged, Mr. Chairman, to have Dr. Fredrick testify at the Education at a Crossroads hearing held in Milledgeville, Georgia, earlier this year. She has a very keen understanding of how children learn to read and is also quite knowledgeable on the existing scientific research into these matters. I can report to my colleagues that this is one university professor whose testimony you will find very clear and telling. Laura, we are delighted to have you in Washington today. Thank you. Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. Mrs. Beth Check will be introduced by Mr. Scott.
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you for holding this important hearing on teachers and how we can help America read. I would like to take the opportunity to welcome Beth Check, the Supervisor of Reading and Language Arts for the students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade for my home town of Newport News. I have mentioned several times in hearings how well we have been doing in several of the schools and I am delighted that she can come to share our success. Mrs. Check has worked with the Newport News School System for many years. She has worked with the Newport News system in the capacity as a classroom teacher, a reading resource teacher and, most recently, for the past four years, Supervisor for Reading Programs. In addition to her service in the Newport News Public Schools, she has also dedicated her time and energy in mobilizing the community to help students become better readers. She was one of the original founders of the Newport News Tutoring Consortium, a community-based partnership between neighborhood churches and schools. Since 1989 this program has helped train over 250 tutors and now serves 19 elementary schools. Indeed, one of the members of the consortium, Hidenwood Tutoring Team, received recognition from President Bush as one of his 931st Point of Light Award. I look forward to Mrs. Check sharing with my colleagues what we have learned. We have done an extremely good job in Newport News. Magruder Primary School, for example, in 1991 to '92 had one percent of the second-grade students at or above grade level. Today 80 percent of the second-grade students are reading at or above grade level. McIntosh Elementary School students at grade level went from 42 percent to 93 percent. So, clearly there is something going on in Newport News that we need to learn. So, I look forward to Mrs. Check's testimony as she shares with the committee some of the things that Newport News has done to improve test scores, particularly for at-risk students.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back the balance of my time.
Chairman Goodling. Dr. Louisa Moats is Project Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development DC Early Interventions Project. The DC Early Interventions Project is a five-year study of early reading instruction funded by the NICHD. She is also the Director of Teacher Training at the Greenwood School in Putney, Vermont, and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the International Dyslexia Association. Her specialty is in language, reading, learning disorders, and the identification, understanding, and treatment of reading difficulty and development.
I welcome all of you and we will begin with Mrs. Mintz.
STATEMENT OF ANN W. MINTZ, ELEMENTARY LANGUAGE ARTS FACILITATOR, THE HOWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, HOWARD COUNTY, MARYLAND
Ms. Mintz. Thank you. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to present information about what one public school system is doing to assist both beginning and veteran teachers with staff development related to reading instruction in order to help ensure that our students become strong readers in elementary school.
My name is Ann Mintz and I am a former primary teacher. I currently serve as the Elementary Language Arts Facilitator for the Howard County, Maryland, Public Schools. This school system, located between Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., includes 35 elementary schools serving over 19,000 children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
The information I am sharing today is based on my personal views and experiences from both my past and present positions. I am not here to officially represent the Howard County Public School System.
Every school system, large or small, has children who enter its doors with a wide range of literacy experiences. Some of these students will learn to read no matter what their teachers do. These are the children who come to our kindergarten classes with lots of experiences that have prepared them to make sense of our alphabetic system of letters and sounds, who have had many experiences with different types of print, who understand that reading and writing are purposeful, and who have the motivation and confidence to learn to read. Studies have shown that these children have already had over 1,000 hours of literacy experiences before they even enter our public schools. Unfortunately, even in Howard County, a good number of children come to school without these rich experiences. These are the children who must depend on their kindergarten, first, and second-grade teachers to help them to learn to read fluently.
Reading is only one of the four language arts. However, teaching reading is probably the most important job facing every teacher, especially in the primary grades. Teaching reading is not like teaching content areas such as mathematics, science, health, and social studies. For example, with mathematics instruction there is generally a scope and sequence of skills to follow. In science, health, and social studies there are unit plans that describe a course of instruction. Reading, however, is not a content to be mastered but a process to be learned and, as such, requires the teacher to know how each child is currently achieving and what needs to be done to further his or her progress. This requires background knowledge about the reading process, practical steps for identifying each child's current strengths, appropriate materials and the ability to select the ones most closely matching student need, and skill in knowing which strategies and skills to introduce and reinforce at the optimum moment. Looking at it from this perspective, teaching reading is an art, one that requires a thoughtful teacher who can move each child from point A to point B in a timely, developmentally appropriate manner.
Now to the heart of my testimony. I am troubled by what I see as a lack of preparation, at the pre-service level, for many of the teachers I encounter. I do not believe that this is indicative of the knowledge level of teachers entering the Howard County Public School System. We are privileged to be able to select the best and the brightest candidates available. I sense, instead, that there are too many beginning teachers overall who lack an understanding of what good reading instruction entails.
I think that the reason I was asked to address this Committee is because it is important for you to know what a public school system must do to help its teachers more fully understand how to teach reading. One of the initiatives my office has implemented over the last several years is to provide a variety of courses related to reading instruction. These classes are offered in addition to having one language arts resource teacher available for every eight or nine schools whose role is to provide demonstration lessons, workshops, and individualized support to all staff members working with students in the area of language arts.
For the current year, I have already begun teaching a course where our school system is paying over 20 first-year teachers to attend 18 hours of instruction on primary reading. During the first class, I asked these teachers to respond to the following statement: "Please share any comments that describe how prepared you feel as you embark upon your first year of primary reading instruction.'' I would like to share some of the comments that they wrote.
The first one: "I feel that I can get by, but to me that is not good enough. I want to be the best teacher I can possibly be. And by that I mean to be able to reach the needs of every child in my class. I do not see that as being possible unless I get help and that is why I am taking this class. First year teachers need as much support as possible. If it were up to me, I would like to see a program come about where each first year teacher has a mentor to follow for one year.''
Another said: "I don't feel extremely confident. Reading, to me, is the hardest subject to teach no matter what grade level you are teaching. I get scared that I won't do the right things to get my children reading, or that perhaps due to my inexperience I will hold them back. When I think back to college, I was taught a lot of theory, but no one taught me specifically, that I remember, what to do. It worries me -- I really want to do a good job and be an effective teacher.''
After submitting my prepared statement to you last week, I had an opportunity to read the September 1997 issue of "The School Administrator,'' a journal published regularly for school principals. Four articles were included that pertained to reading instruction.
One was entitled "Addressing Our Shortcomings,'' written by two directors from a public school district in California. After interviewing their newly hired elementary teachers, they stated that it was evident that these teachers lacked background about teaching reading skills. Based on this information, they then interviewed all elementary teachers who had been hired during the previous five years. Most of these teachers identified a need to be better prepared to teach reading. The authors of this article saw this as a pending instructional crisis just over the horizon. With many experienced teachers retiring and the replacements poorly prepared to teach reading, it then went on to describe a three-year initiative to assist their teachers with reading instruction.
Another article entitled "Whose Claims Are Valid?'' stated that the converging evidence on the importance of teacher expertise often is ignored, even though research routinely indicates that teacher quality is more critical to early literacy success than curriculum.
A third article describing what research and best practices say about eliminating failure among beginning readers concludes by calling for massive retraining of teachers, stating that a high percentage of those who have graduated from university teacher training programs in the past 10 years have minimal understanding of linguistics, spelling, and teaching the alphabetic code.
I am not here to suggest solutions to the problem. That is a job for more knowledgeable professionals. Nor is my role to condemn all colleges and universities who are preparing today's teachers. Many, I am sure, do a fine job. I am here, however, to describe what I am witnessing first-hand and to speak on behalf of parents and other taxpayers who believe that all of the teachers working with their children know how to guide and instruct them in the crucial area of beginning reading instruction. I truly believe that we have a number of what I call instructionally impaired children within our schools who should have learned to read in their primary years and are still struggling in middle and even high school. If all beginning teachers had a strong understanding of the reading process and the knowledge to help all of their students achieve this common goal, our children would, indeed, be well served.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have.
See Appendix U for the written statement of Ms. Mintz.
Chairman Goodling. I also found out this morning that Mrs. Mintz came from a very excellent school system in my district.
Ms. Mintz. That is right.
Chairman Goodling. Ms. Wakefield?
STATEMENT OF DEBRA WAKEFIELD, PRIMARY GRADE TEACHER, DEL NORTE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, CRESCENT CITY, CALIFORNIA
Ms. Wakefield. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. It is an honor to be here today to share my thoughts and concerns about professional development for teachers of reading. You will find that I am going to echo a great deal of the things that Mrs. Mintz has shared with us.
I spend most of my time and energy every day dealing with literacy and I feel that teaching children to read is the most important role of our schools.
I would like to draw your attention to two points this morning. Number one, new teachers are coming out of our colleges and universities woefully unprepared to teach reading and, secondly, we need to invest in the continued professional training of our teachers.
First, I would like to say that 20 years ago when I came out of college and my teacher preparation courses, I was not prepared to teach reading. I was not given the background knowledge that I needed, and I feel the same is true today. The philosophy at that time, and maybe today, in the colleges seems to be if you can read, you can teach children to read. And I am here to tell you today that is not true. Teaching reading is a very complicated task.
When new teachers come out of the colleges and universities, they should be very well-versed in the reading theory and how to apply that in the classroom. They should know exactly what current research tells us about how children learn to read. They should know how to apply that knowledge to classroom situations and, above all else, they must know how to assess and diagnose reading difficulties. The time to learn how to teach reading is when you are in training, not when you are facing your first classroom of children.
In my 20 years of teaching reading, I have seen many programs come and go. And each time many, maybe even most, of the children learned how to read. But in each case, there were always a number of children that did not learn how to read. No matter what the program, there were children who did not learn how to read. It was the assumed through most of my years of teaching that the program was the important part and not the skill and knowledge of the teacher.
In my district there have been as many as 20 to 30 percent of the children who did not read at grade level, and I believe that you will find that number is representative of the rest of the nation as well. The manuals do not tell you what to do when children are having difficulties and the teachers have not been well enough trained to meet the needs of those children.
This last year I had the opportunity for two different kinds of reading training: Reading Recovery training and the California Early Learning Literacy training. They made a critical difference in the way I now teach. These training sessions were intended to equip me, the professional, with the skills and knowledge that I need to teach children, not to rely on a manual or a commercial program. I want to point out that I am not necessarily referring to a specific training program, but rather I want to talk to you about the elements that a teacher training in-service must have.
The practical steps in my training that made the big change for me after so many years in the classroom were, number one, reading current professional material and research with my colleagues; discussing these meetings to find out how they applied to a first-grade classroom, a second-grade classroom, and so on; going back to my actual classroom, practicing those things that we talked about, working with real kids, seeing how they worked; coming back together the next week and discussing where any misunderstandings were or difficulties my children had, sharing with my colleagues how these things went.
We coached. We tutored. We modeled for each other. And we supported each other. Most importantly of all, this training was ongoing throughout the year and will continue as soon as I return to my school. With the explicit, systematic and on-going training I received, I am now skilled and knowledgeable enough about reading to tailor my instruction to the specific needs of all my students.
I believe that virtually all children can learn to read if given strong instruction that is tailored to their needs. It is extremely unfortunate that it took so long to receive the training I should have had when I stepped foot in my classroom 20 years ago. I am asked daily by my colleagues how they too can receive the training that I have been through. This in-service training should be on-going and they should be mandatory in every school in America. I believe that funding teacher pre-service and ongoing explicit in-service is critical. Without proper training we are seriously hampering the efforts of our teachers and jeopardizing the future of our children.
If I could leave you with one thought today, it would be that the most important thing we can do to improve the literacy rates of our children is to invest in the professional training of our teachers. All of the components of reading are important. Phonics is important, the love of literature is important, comprehension is important, but the skill and the knowledge of our teachers is key. Thank you.
See Appendix V for the written statement of Ms. Wakefield.
Chairman Goodling. Ms. Wilson?
STATEMENT OF KIMBERLY WILSON, GRADUATE STUDENT, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Ms. Wilson. Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure for me to be here today to testify before your Committee. My name is Kimberly Wilson and I am a graduate student in Education at American University and the Clinical Director of a learning center that remediates reading, spelling and comprehension deficits. The subject of today's hearing on teachers, "The Key to Helping America Read,'' is of great interest to me both professionally and academically.
As a graduate student in Education, I have spent a great deal of my time examining the theories and philosophies behind our educational system. I have come to see how important it is that education is part of the democratic system. In the United States we have many diverse cultures and communities and therefore our educational system must provide common links and educate children to continue our tradition of responsibility.
Unfortunately, as our children travel up the educational pipeline toward employment many students are not garnering the skills that will make them productive members of our society. One hundred years ago reading was a luxury, something to be done at the end of the day when the animals had been stabled and the machines shut down. However, we are experiencing an information revolution more dramatic than the industrial revolution. The factories of today are computer driven and require that operators not only be able to read but to think critically. Reading is no longer the luxury it once was; today it is the requirement for success.
It is not that the educational system in the United States is doing a worse job of teaching reading than it was fifty years ago. Fifty years ago the same number of children in the United States did not learn to read. However, because of this change in the economic system, it is not okay that a percentage of children do not learn to read today. Furthermore, Fortune 500 companies continue to raise the benchmark on reading ability and are finding it difficult to hire employees who meet their reading standards. And while we have relied on dependable research to influence the course of technology, we have not held education to the same standards.
We need to stop expecting teachers to be able to teach all children to read using the same methods. There will be some children who need direct instruction. Over the past ten years substantial research has been done to tease out the underlying factors as to why all children do not learn to read by the time they reach third grade. We are now seeing that underdeveloped reading skills are both a health and an economic issue. Because of this, the National Institutes of Health have made major expenditures over the last five years to research the underlying neurological and sociological causes of reading dysfunction.
Phonological awareness, the ability to translate the identity, number and order of sounds, has been researched in numerous studies and linked conclusively to reading ability. The existence of phonological awareness is not up for debate any longer. There should be no more vehemence over reading instruction than there is over the positive effects of aspirin. Most students develop phonemic awareness on their own. Some, however, must have phonemic processing stimulated directly.
The problem now is that we must make sure that the practitioners who need this information have it and know how to use it. There are a great many variables in teaching children to read and the most important is their teacher. But if a teacher is unprepared for the specific task of teaching reading, children will slip through the cracks, as they have in so many schools, in so many different environments.
As a graduate student I have had the opportunity to speak with undergraduates just entering the field of teaching, teachers with considerable experience, and my own peer group. I hear the same frustration from all of these groups. They tell me that they do not have the information they need to teach reading and that there are so many quick-fix programs that they do not know how to begin discerning the appropriate methodology.
I also see my peers so frustrated with the educational system that they are leaving the field of teaching after three or four years to pursue other more lucrative and often less frustrating positions. I am greatly saddened by this, as youth and energy are required to make any substantial change in the educational system. But, teachers will continue to be discouraged until they are provided with the information and research equipping them to be successful with all students. Professional development for teachers is the key to reading success. Through professional development at both pre-service and in-service levels, research can be synthesized and disseminated to the practitioners.
There are school districts that are using the current research and taking initiatives to provide professional development for teachers. These districts have become creative and developed partnerships with philanthropic organizations. Government needs to follow this lead and provide incentives for partnerships between research institutions, teaching colleges and people in the private sector so that we can maximize collaboration. If we are able to work together with the best available research, we can eradicate reading disabilities.
In conclusion, I would like to share with you one of the stories of my students. Abby will be in the sixth grade this fall and at the beginning of this summer was reading at the first-grade level. After applying a program that stimulates phonemic awareness intensively over the summer, Abby is reading at the fifth-grade level. This fall she will be able to go into her classroom with her head held high knowing that there is not a word she cannot decode. Over the summer, two of her teachers visited us at our center. They were thrilled and amazed at her progress. They admitted that they had no prior knowledge of phonemic awareness and wanted desperately to know everything I could tell them. They talked of other students at their school who had Abby's difficulty and how much they would like to provide appropriate stimulation for them. I hope that for all the Abbys this becomes a reality. Those of us that teach reading do so because of students like Abby. We live for the look in her eye when she has conquered the reading battle. It is now time for legislators and administrators to provide avenues for teachers like Abby's so that they may provide appropriate instruction. It is time to give them the resources to teach reading effectively to every student.
See Appendix W for the written statement of Ms. Wilson.
Chairman Goodling. Dr. Fredrick?
STATEMENT OF DR. LAURA D. FREDRICK, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, ATLANTA, GEORGIA
Dr. Fredrick. Good morning, Chairman Goodling, Members of the Committee. I am here today because I believe America can read. And teachers are the key to helping America read. However, for the key to effectively unlock the world of educational opportunities for all children, it must have three will defined grooves: knowledge, skills, and tools, the best available knowledge, skills, and tools to teach children to read come from scientific research.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has identified six principles of effective reading instruction that can be used to guide the knowledge, skills, and tools we give our teachers. According to NICHD, we should (1) "begin teaching phonemic awareness directly at an early age (kindergarten),'' (2) we should teach each sound-spelling correspondence explicitly, (3) we should "teach frequent, high regular sound-spelling relationships systematically,'' (4) we should "show children exactly how to sound out words,'' (5) we should "use connected, decodable text for children to practice the sound-spelling relationships they learn'' and (6) we should "use interesting stories to develop language comprehension.''
These six principles should be infused in all teacher preparation reading courses where teachers should (1) learn what we know from scientific research about how children learn to read, (2) learn how to read and interpret research and have to translate what they read in the research into the classroom, (3) learn how to assess reading to determine where and how to begin teaching the children in their classes -- not everyone is ready for the same instruction at the same time, (4) learn how to assess reading on a regular basis, such as with daily or weekly rate and accuracy tests for fluency so that we make necessary changes immediately if the instruction is not effective, (5) learn about the many reading programs currently available and how to critique them to determine their possible effectiveness with different groups of children, (6) learn how to implement several different reading programs that have been found to be effective and (7) they should actually teach a child to read.
We must realize, however, that regardless of how knowledgeable and skilled teachers are when they begin teaching, it will not be sufficient. Teachers must also have effective programs to implement. These reading programs are the teachers' tools, and teachers deserve the best tools available. Tools, reading programs, should only be purchased if there is empirical evidence of the program being effective with similar students. If it is difficult to find such programs, look for programs that include at least the six principles of effective instruction identified by NICHD. Purchase these programs in small amounts so pilot testing with children in a particular school. If the programs are effective, expand. If not, abandon them.
I would like to close with seven suggestions for getting scientifically based research disseminated to the teacher training programs and textbook adoption committees and for continuing to generate scientifically based research.
(1) Establish an "Expert Reading Panel'' that would synthesize research-based knowledge about reading and advise the Administration on a continuing research agenda in reading. I understand from the National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators that there is already a possibility of establishing such a panel.
(2) Challenge this Panel with disseminating their research findings to the more than 760 Federal education programs that currently exist in 40 agencies, departments, boards and commissions.
(3) Based on reading research, have teacher preparation programs establish standards for content knowledge and pedagogy with an externally administered exit exam to assess mastery of the content knowledge and pedagogy.
(4) Publish results of these exit exams, much like colleges of law publish the pass rate on the bar exam.
(5) We need to rate achievement gains of the teachers' students as a measure of each teacher's competency as well as a measure of that teacher's training.
(6) Establish Federal grants to conduct the research to demonstrate the effectiveness of different reading programs already available, to compare the effectiveness of two or more reading programs currently on the market, and to develop and/or revise reading programs. This research should be conducted in partnerships between colleges of education and local school system.
(7) Pass legislation that only allows the purchase of instructional programs that have empirical evidence of effectiveness.
Volunteers are not the key to helping America read. Parents are not the key to helping America read. Teachers are the key to helping America read. Give teachers the best available knowledge, skills, and tools based on scientific research and they will teach America to read. Thank you.
See Appendix X for the written statement of Dr. Fredrick
Chairman Goodling. Ms. Check?
STATEMENT OF BETH S. CHECK, SUPERVISOR OF READING/LANGUAGE ARTS PK-5, NEWPORT NEWS PUBLIC SCHOOLS, NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA
Ms. Check. Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to come and share the excitement and the reading success stories that are happening daily in the Newport News Public Schools.
Yesterday was our first day of school. I stopped at Yates Elementary as the afternoon kindergarten buses were arriving. Standing on the curb was a very proud mom and toddler, dad in his Air Force summer blues, video camera in hand. They had obviously put their first child on the school bus, jumped into their car, and proceeded to rush to Yates to be ready to video the moment when their youngster got off the school bus and entered school to begin his formal education. Over 17,500 elementary students in Newport News came to the bus to 30 elementary schools where over 1,000 teachers stood in classroom doorways waiting to meet them.
I have come today to share with you the reading programs, the special reading teacher staffing, and the volunteer programs that are in place in our schools that are the reason our fourth grade reading scores have jumped from 41 percent to 71 percent of our students reading at or above grade level. The success we have had has been in large part due to our early intervention philosophy.
One of our more early intervention plan is called "First Step.'' Title I funds have been instrumental in creating this five-day-a-week program that prepares four-year-olds for kindergarten. Each class of 22 students has a teacher and assistant, so children receive a lot of small-group and individual opportunities to share stories with an adult. When we walk into a First Step class, you see children playing school, telling stories with paperbag puppets, reading books to stuffed animal friends, and matching upper and lower-case letters. A very important teacher skill is kid-watching. Teachers take this very seriously, have been doing measuring and recording on an assessment card early reading behaviors, such as how to hold a book, letter recognition, and ability to retell stories. Kid-watching provides the information that teachers need to plan and read, or read aloud and share book lessons. Information on this assessment card is used to document reading growth tracked to the second grade. Children who have had First Step go onto kindergarten with heightened awareness of reading and writing. Some First Steppers actually start kindergarten as readers. Our young kindergartner getting off the bus at Yates could be reading too. If not, he will have many reading and writing opportunities daily in our kindergarten program. When children come to first grade, their reading assessment card has detailed information about their progress in learning to read.
Let me tell you about Carlos. When his first grade teacher saw his reading assessment, she knew that he was probably going to have a difficult time in first grade. He only came to Newport News halfway through kindergarten. He was recommended for our early intervention program called reading recovery. I selected a supervisor to take this year-long training course required to be certified, because my 27 reading recovery teachers _ my 27 reading resource teachers were also going to be taking the course. This five-day-a-week program for grade one students reading at the lowest 20 percent of their class is usually sponsored by Title I in the Newport News Schools. Carlos and I worked together for 30 minutes a day. At the beginning things were a bit tough. Carlos had a hard time remembering his letters. He was not familiar with many words and his vocabulary was week. A bird was a bird. He did not know a robin, a crow, or a bluejay. He worked very hard. Carlos had 80 Reading Recovery lessons. I saw Carlos again last May when I visited his second-grade class. He was buddy reading with a friend. He came running up to me and told me he was reading in the next to the top reading group. His teacher told me he was willing to try any paths introduced. He sees himself as a successful reader and writer.
Reading Recover success stories happen in all our elementary schools. Over 355 students in grade one had Reading Recovery last year through 65 Reading Recovery trained teachers. Eighty-six percent of our Reading Recovery students finished the year reading at or above grade level.
Each year about 28 percent of our school system population is new. If new students cannot be served by an early intervention program, they are helped by trained reading resource teachers, acceleration enrichment teachers, and our very active volunteer program. Can you imagine the excitement of a fourth grader being tutored in the front seat of a fire truck? Last year over 190 firefighters volunteered to come to the schools in their fire zone to tutor children instead of watching television, playing cards, or reading alone. Most were tutored in the cafeteria or in the hallway of their school, but they all knew an important fact: this very important person wants me to learn to read.
Community church volunteers have been working with neighborhood schools since 1989. I can walk through the Hidenwood cafeteria any morning of the week and I will see five or more volunteers working with students at all grade levels. Here sits Andy with his rainbow suspenders. He came five years ago to substitute for his sick wife. He has tutored twice a week since. Melba is working with a first grader. She has a grandchild in California in first grade. She only sees her once a year at Christmas time. And Audrey can tell you every student she has tutored the last seven years. She can not wait till the honor roll is published in the "Your Neighbor'' section of the daily press every nine weeks. Her students are usually listed.
Because of the commitment of our teachers, volunteers, and parents, our students have excelled. Our schools have been nationally recognized. Magruder Primary School won the U.S. Department of Education Title I Distinguished School Award. Their second-grade reading scores have risen from 1 to 80 percent at or above grade level in four years.
Marshall Elementary won the International Reading Association Exemplary Reading Award last year. Their second-grade scores have risen from 43 to 66 percent.
McIntosh Elementary is this year a Blue Ribbon School. They have raised their reading scores from 42 percent to 93 percent at the fourth-grade level.
Our tutors and tutoring programs have also been nationally recognized. The Hidenwood Tutoring Team won President Bush's 931st Point of Light Award and Reverend Harold McKeithen, President of the Newport News Tutoring Consortium, was named by President Clinton as the 1997 President's Service Award from the Points of Light Foundation.
It indeed takes a village to raise a child. Newport News and its 185,000 people can hardly be called a village, but the commitment to its children is evident in our reading scores. We have a long way to go, but we know we are on the right path.
See Appendix Y for the written statement of Ms. Check.
Chairman Goodling. Dr. Moats?
STATEMENT OF LOUISA C. MOATS, Ed.D., D.C. DIRECTOR, NICHD HOUSTON/WASHINGTON D.C. EARLY INTERVENTIONS PROJECT, WASHINGTON, D.C., AND DIRECTOR OF TEACHER TRAINING, THE GREENWOOD SCHOOL, PUTNEY, VERMONT
Dr. Moats. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I am the Director of the D.C. Branch of an NICHD Early Interventions Project in reading, that is taking place in Houston and D.C. schools over the next five years. Last year I spent the year as a consultant to the Sacramento County Board of Education developing materials for the California State Board of Education to support the Reading Initiative in California and educate the public and the educational community about the provisions in those laws. And I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that things are bad all over when it comes to the preparation of teachers of reading.
In my opinion, teacher preparation in reading is going to require a systemic overhaul to reach every part of the problem. That is, pre-service and in-service training; teacher textbooks and state credentialing standards; instructional materials; the design and operation of departments of education; and the ways in which information is disseminated into the field. Only systemic rebuilding is likely to establish a profession that is informed by science, a profession that will meet every child's need for reading success.
One of the questions I'm asked most often by reporters, parents, and students is why there is such a gap between reading practice and the knowledge that has emanated from a lengthy program of reading research that has taken place not only through the NICHD supported efforts but elsewhere as well. And one answer is that reading education is currently informed by textbooks that lack content, scope, or grounding in linguistics, reading psychology, or reading pedagogy; by publishers who sell slogans instead of substance; it is informed by college and inservice instructors who are accountable to no standard whatsoever.
Prior to this hearing, I reviewed four of the most popular textbooks used in reading education courses. At an earlier hearing you heard from Dr. Reid Lyon of the NICHD regarding the scientific findings on the nature of reading development, reading difficulty, and reading instruction. These findings have been being reported for a number of years in the professional literature, so you might expect that the information that Dr. Lyon has been sharing with you would be reflected in these textbooks. Unfortunately, none of these popular texts contained accurate information about phonology and its role in reading development, and none of them explained with depth or clarity why many children have trouble learning to read or what to do about it. Evidently, the scientific information that has been presented to you has not yet made its way into mainstream reading texts or even mainstream reading journals.
Last year, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing in California attempted to gather the syllabi of reading courses in the California State University system to determine what was being taught in reading education and what texts were being used. About 20 percent of the instructors in these courses volunteered their syllabi. (And I learned the first week that I was in California at a meeting of deans and faculty members from the state university system that many professors refused to comply with requests in the name of academic freedom.) On the basis of the syllabi that were obtained, the Commission determined that the components of reading development and instruction named in the laws of the California Reading Initiative were not adequately addressed in the courses' content or readings, and subsequently this Commission has developed explicit standards for course content in reading preparation that are tied to accreditation standards for programs and that are tied to, that are tied to a competency test for reading teachers that will now be given in the state before teachers are allowed to teach. I applaud that effort.
The instructional materials used by teachers do not compensate for what they were not taught in school. The most popular instructional materials in our classrooms are strong on literature, pictures, and motivational strategies, but are very weak or simply misinformed on the structure of our language and how children actually learn to read the words on the page. As Dr. Lyon testified to this Committee, learning to read the words on the page is necessary if one is to gain meaning from text, and learning to read the words on the page is no easy matter for a significant number of children. Learning to read on the page sometimes is left entirely up to chance by many of these materials that are popular and are being used in our classrooms.
There are a number of other problems. Particularly, schools of education have been very low on the totem pole in our universities. Professors are not rewarded for expert work in teaching or even for spending time in schools. In California there was no partnership between school districts and universities prior to the Reading Initiative, so students would take courses that had no relevance to the classrooms they were to manage. The Harvard Graduate School of Education -- my alma mater, I am sorry, and which is a fine school -- it has no credentialing program and in fact it has no interest in teaching teachers how to teach. At Dartmouth College the administration recently tried to abolish the Department of Education because they felt it was unsuitable for a school of academic rigor to have such a department. And fortunately the department was saved by the student outcry.
Professors are not prepared to teach the content that is supported by science and they need to be reeducated about the scientific basis for this discipline. Teachers have told me over and over again at the highest levels and the beginning levels that they have not been given the information that has been given to you in their courses of preparation. I find that true with the D.C. School teachers and the California leaders in language arts.
There are professions such as plumbing, hairdressing, auto mechanics, medicine, speech and language pathology, and psychology that regulate themselves through governing boards, accreditation standards, national examinations, and certification requirements. They also reward professional growth and excellence. Reading education in America has a lot to learn from these other professions that -- and needs to regulate itself with standards, accountability, some licensing examinations and a view of teacher preparation that is long-term and that demarcates the knowledge, skills, and tools that teachers need to be effective.
I would say finally that many programs are so superficial that they lead the people who are trained in them to be rigid or method-oriented in their approach to this problem. So, what they develop is a loyalty to a method or ideology rather than a set of skills and basic knowledge of this discipline that would allow them to use any program effectively, and this is something we need to change. Thank you.
See Appendix Z for the written statement of Dr. Moats.
Chairman Goodling. I want to thank you all for coming. It is always important to have those who are on the firing line come and tell us what the real problems are. And that I think you probably said ditto to some of the testimony we had before where we were told that fewer than 10 percent of our nation's teachers had an adequate understanding of how reading develops or how to provide reading instruction, instruction of readers. Less than 2 percent of those teachers had ever seen a professor demonstrate teaching practices with children of diverse skills in a systematic way. Ninety percent of our teachers have never had the theories they had learned, the theoretical information, directly linked to provide instruction to a wide range of children.
When I had a lengthy meeting with the President on education I told him that I thought the proposal he was talking about had two real weaknesses. One was teacher preparation. I did not think we were going to make a difference if somehow or another we could not change the way teachers are taught. And the other area that I had concern with is there probably was not enough emphasis on developing family literacy skills so that the child could have that first and most important teacher at home, if possible.
I am assuming that what I just read from previous testimony, all of you -- at least your testimony sounded like you agreed with that. I was concerned when we talked about standardized tests. We are going through that battle right now, a difference of opinion of how you help children learn, and I did not think one more standardized test would help that 50 percent that we are told are not doing very well in reading. I used to help my wife correct those damnable standardized tests at the end of first grade and I would always -- it is amazing. You have children reading at a third and fourth and fifth-grade level, but your pass scores are not all that positive. But she would always say: an idiot can teach them math if I teach them how to read. I guess there's something to that. I am not sure.
I apologize. I am a math teacher.
So, again, I thank you very much. One of the areas that I was mentioning that I want us to look at is something that is not new, because I did it years ago. I get very concerned about a first grader who fails. But the first grader did not fail, and I am doubly concerned if the first grader is socially promoted. And I tried to deal with that issue by having a transitional first grade for when a kindergarten teacher says a child is not reading-ready. When I began teaching we thought there were a large number of young people who could not learn to read who actually learned to read very well. And we realized that most of them can learn to read and learn to read very well, and they will tell us when they are ready. We will not tell them at age five-and-a-half or six: you will learn to read. That is not the way it works.
So I have been looking at the issue to see whether we can take that 90 million they want to spend for some other reason, move it in the direction where we would help the children and the parents, who I have been told a million times are not doing very well.
Mr. Clay, I understand you want to yield your time?
Mr. Clay. Yes, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I want to commend and thank the witnesses for very excellent testimony. I learned a lot this morning, and so I want to thank you. And I yield the balance of my time to Mr. Scott.
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Clay. I want to express my appreciation for the testimony of the witnesses too. The record is clear that -- I think all of the witnesses have testified that the children can learn if we provide the appropriate education. So, if the children are not learning, it's not their fault. It is ours.
I have several questions that I would like to ask. And, Ms. Check, can you tell us what you think the essential components of a good reading program would be? You have been very successful in Newport News. Just some of the essential elements of a successful program.
Ms. Check. Well, we have what we call a balanced literacy approach. We feel that all children do not learn the same way, but all children can learn. Our approach to reading is that we have to look at the children as individuals. We also make sure that the teachers have those tools and training that they need. Our teacher training programs are --approximately 15 percent of our teachers are new each year in our programs, so we have an ongoing self-development council that works with teachers. We also have reading resource teachers in each building that provide training for the new teachers that come on board.
We have a variety of programs that help work with our children. We have the Reach Program for students that have not quite met the academic standards. This is a program for children that are identified as having deficiencies in reading have an opportunity to work with the variety of personnel that we have onboard in our school systems. We have our Title I teachers. We have acceleration enrichment teachers. We also have our reading resource teachers. We spend a lot of focus on identifying children in need and providing them with the right programs to help them raise their reading potential.
Mr. Scott. Now, I mention Magruder, where three years ago 1 percent of the students were at grade level and now, what, 70 percent or more at grade level?
Ms. Check. It is closer to 80. And we have -- they were entitlement --
Mr. Scott. What did you do in between? Because it is the same demographic group of students: 80 percent at risk, 50 percent live in low-income housing, and at one time 1 percent was reading at grade level. What did you -- what are you doing different now from what you were doing five years ago?
Ms. Check. Okay. -- resources. They have a parent coordinator. Their classroom teachers were each given a teaching assistant. And they were required to provide plans and charts. The children were looked at as individuals. And if the child was having a particular problem, they were provided with individual or group instruction. We put three Reading Recovery teachers at that site. Reading Recovery made a huge dent in raising those children's scores by the time they got to second grade. It was a primary school and our second graders leaving Magruder had made significant gains because of our early intervention.
Mr. Scott. Now, what do you do different for at-risk students that you do not need to do for other students?
Ms. Check. Well, I think that would be labeled as intervention, but sometimes maybe children come to school very ready to learn to read. They have had a lot of opportunities at home. Their parents have provided them with preschool experiences. Many at-risk children -- we have children that live in a tent city at a park. We have children living in cars. We have children that would be at risk for -- not definitely a school failure. We try to provide for them. We can identify them. Our First Step program for four-year-olds brings them in and tries to provide that 1,000 hours of reading literacy experience for them before they get to kindergarten. Because they get to kindergarten, they are already behind. And we are trying to separate them and provide those early intervention programs that they need.
Mr. Scott. And can you say a little bit about what you do, particularly for your Reading Recovery teachers, in terms of the preparation and continuing education?
Ms. Check. We have made a significant commitment in literacy, as I have mentioned. We have 65 teachers. Some schools have as many as four. Our system is what is called "fully implemented.'' We have a Reading Recovery teacher for every 50 first-grade students identified. They work with a minimum of the bottom 20 percent of our students. They work with four students a day and then in the afternoons they can work with literacy groups of first graders, second, third, fourth. Whatever the need in that particular school is, those teachers are then given the opportunity in the afternoon to work with others.
Mr. Scott. And the continuing education that they receive?
Ms. Check. Okay. The continuing education. They have a six graduate-hour credit program that has been specifically designed through Ohio State University, the Reading Recovery Program. The Reading Recovery Council of North America has very specific standards for working with the Reading Recovery teachers, teacher trainers, college trainers, a very hierarchical set of training. Each teacher, to retain their certification, must have what is called continuing contact. So, those teachers have a minimum of six times within each school year that they leave their school and go to the class and training sessions with their teacher leader, and often our university trainer, Dr. Roland Jones from University of North Carolina, who will come up and supervise that continuing contact training.
Mr. Scott. Mr. Chairman, I would reserve the balance of my time?
Chairman Goodling. I would --
Mr. Scott. Of, of my time.
Chairman Goodling. Yeah. I would suggest to Ms. Check that she can deal with her three-year-olds with an Even Start program.
Ms. Check. We would, we would look forward to the funding to make that happen.
Chairman Goodling. You have to apply first.
Ms. Check. We will.
Mr. Clay. Mr. Chairman?
Chairman Goodling. Yes, Mr. Clay?
Mr. Clay. On behalf of my colleague, Representative Payne, I would like to submit for the record testimony from a Ms. Nancy Thompson, who is a project coordinator for a literacy program in this district.
See Appendix H for the written statement of Ms. Thompson.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Norwood?
Mr. Norwood. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, ladies, thank you very much for your testimony. Some of this is confusing to me. I will try to straighten it out for myself if I can.
How many of you are actually in research, doing just research for reading?
Dr. Fredrick. Just research?
Mr. Norwood. Two of you? How many of you actually teach reading? Yeah, that is what I was trying to get to.
Do you agree that we have decided as a nation that we would like to have 100 percent of our children reading at grade level? Is that our goal? I believe it is. I mean, it is to me. But is that sort of what is going on in the academic community?
Laura, do we have the research to do that? Have we done enough research so you can sit here and tell me: I can get that job done with a class of 25 kindergarten children through the third grade? Do we know what to do?
Dr. Fredrick. I think we do. The research is not finished. I do not want to say we can do that and imply that we are finished doing research and learning about how children learn to read. I believe that we have the wherewithal, the research, the tools, the skills to teach at least 95 percent of them to grade level, and there are still children for whom we are _ we need to conduct further research to find out why it is so difficult for them to learn to read.
Mr. Norwood. Research, obviously always is an ongoing thing, but you think we do know now enough to say: doing the right things, we can get 95 percent of the class to grade level reading. Dr. Moats, do you want to comment on that?
Dr. Moats. Yes, sir. I think we know enough to know what the essential components of a program are that will ensure the most children learning to read and that will prevent children from failing if it is unnecessary. I think Dr. Fredrick's statistics and her opinion about our readiness, yes, I think we have the scientific basis to, to know what needs to be done in every classroom and to prepare teachers to do that. Yes, I do.
Mr. Norwood. Does, does the Department of Education in Washington know this too?
Dr. Moats. I can not assure you that they do, sir. I think that the results of the NICHD program, for example, as well as the consensus of the scientific community in reading is making its way into public policy in a way that it is not done before, and that includes the information coming out of the U.S. Office of Education and--
Mr. Norwood. So you are saying there is a consensus on the research?
Dr. Moats. Absolutely. There is a consensus in the research community on basic issues, such as what are the major causes of reading failure, what are the essential components of reading programs that are likely to work, what is the course of reading development, what the essential knowledge is that students need to have in order to read, and so forth. Yes.
Mr. Norwood. How can you and Dr. Fredrick know this and our Department of Education not know this? I mean, you know, I am not that familiar with it, but I think research would be a major, major part of the U.S. Department of Education.
Dr. Moats. Part of the problem here is, is that--
Mr. Norwood. Please be very...
Dr. Moats. Okay. The research efforts have been going on for a long time, but it has recently reached a point of consensus so that most of the researchers in the scientific community are able to state clearly that there are findings that have occurred over and over again. There is a knowledge base that has accumulated over a number of years that is new for many people. All this takes time to disseminate information from the research community to the community of practitioners. So, some of this is just because the research program has taken a number of years to consolidate its findings and to formulate them in a way that people can use them for policy and improvement of practice.
Mr. Norwood. Quickly, does your research indicate that we can take a class of students and get 95 to 100 percent of them at grade level using one teacher? Or does it mean we can by having a teacher per child?
Dr. Moats. The answer to that is somewhat complex in that we do know that even with one teacher, a teacher using a program that is really well-designed and research based will get much better results and ensure the success of most of the students in the classroom, even without tutorial support. But the tutorial support teachers can give students is helpful, but the most essential factor in students' early success is what the classroom teacher is able to do with the right tools.
Mr. Norwood. The problem is not we will never get to the point where we can have a teacher per child. I want to just hear you tell me that reasonably a teacher and an assistant can teach a class to grade level 95 percent?
Dr. Moats. Yes, I can.
Mr. Norwood. That is true, you have the research?
Dr. Moats. Yes.
Mr. Norwood. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am not through, but I will hush.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Riggs?
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I too would like to thank the witnesses for their testimony and, again, especially Debbie Wakefield. My first question is to her, and that is, how would she answer the criticism that intensive programs involving small groups or one-on-one instruction, like Reading Recovery, do not show sufficient long-term gains?
Ms. Wakefield. Reading Recovery is not a new program. Reading Recovery has been around in New Zealand and Australia and other countries for a number of years, over 20 years. I can speak of my personal experience and tell you that when I take one student for half an hour a day and work one-on-one with them, my goal is to assess that student as I go, find out exactly what their difficulties are, untangle those difficulties. So, each day I, I work with the student. At the end of the day I look at what happened. I look at the records I took on that student. I tailor my instruction the next day to that student. And after a certain amount of time, six to eight weeks, or ten weeks in the beginning, I can start to get a feel for how I can get rid of a nature tangle. So when I finish with that child, they go back into the middle of their classroom. They do not go back in the bottom. They are not going to surpass all the other students in the class. They go back in the very middle of the classroom. And it has been my experience, and from the readings that I have done, and I, I shared a book of those statistics with you recently, those children maintain that growth. They maintain that middle of the classroom or above status.
Mr. Riggs. Let me ask this of all the witnesses. Is it reasonable to expect, then, that if we invest in the intensive programs, many times that are conducted at local school sites on a pull-out basis, that these kids will sustain the gain, so to speak? That is to say, we will be able to get them up to grade level and not encounter a situation a few years later down the road where once again they are falling behind and dropping below grade level? That is the question -- I do not want you to respond now, but if you want to respond to that, can get your response in writing? Because I want to go on to some other questions. And maybe we will have a second round of questions as well.
Let me, let me just move on and we will see if time permits that second round of questioning.
For Dr. Moats, I hope at least you like California weather better than D.C. weather. We have focused a lot recently, since these hearings began, on the research that Dr. Lyon and you have done at NICHD. I am wondering what is the best way -- you have talked about the work you did out in California with Sacramento County Schools, I believe it was--
Dr. Moats. Sacramento County and the State Board of Education.
Mr. Riggs. Okay. Well, I am wondering what is the most effective method for disseminating this kind of research, additional research, on best practices? Because that is something we are looking to do in this legislation so we can get this information out, ultimately, to more of the local school districts and more local school sites around the country. What is the most effective way for disseminating scientific research, peer-reviewed researched on best practices?
Dr. Moats. Well, I think there are a number of things that can be done. Encouraging the states to develop standards that are in keeping with, for example, Dr. Frederick's suggestion of an advisory panel of experts similar to the panel that is now assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, a consensus of the learning in the field that has delineated the components of effective instruction and the reasons for being a failure, and for legislators, such as they did in California, to acknowledge the existence of that research base and the consensus that does exist in the scientific community and support policies and standards that in turn reflect acquaintance with that research base would be very constructive. The dissemination process can go on through a number of avenues, but I find what drives the change process is policy makers at the highest level acquainting themselves with the research base that now is just becoming articulating what these basic principles of effective instruction are, whether in legislation or in advisories or panel reports, and using many, many avenues for dissemination.
Mr. Riggs. Let me say that I do agree that we need to emphasize teacher education and teacher training, both pre-service and in-service, in this legislation. However, I have got to believe that there is a clear role for literacy volunteers and for parents. I am wondering what type of training we ought to facilitate? I do not want to say "ought to,'' because it ultimately has to be offered at the local level. But what sort of training for volunteers and parents should be included in this new Federal Literacy Initiative? For anyone who wants to take a stab at it.
Dr. Moats. What has already been done with America Reads is constructive, and that is that a summary of the NICHD research has been disseminated with the basic packet of information for agencies and volunteers who are involved in that program. That is helpful. But I think it is unrealistic to expect to train volunteers at anywhere near the level that a teacher or an expert tutor has to be trained to actually teach reading. What we are accomplishing through these volunteer programs is an improvement in the disposition of students toward reading and the disposition of families and community groups towards supporting reading behavior and motivational aspects of reading. That is very helpful. But it is unrealistic to even pretend that we can train volunteer tutors to employ that level of skill and knowledge that a professional would need to have to teach reading.
Mr. Riggs. Well, it seems to me if we are going to put emphasis on family literacy, there is a clear role for helping parents improve their literacy skills, because I think we all acknowledge that the parent is the first and best teacher. Secondly, it seems to me that there is probably a clear role for literacy volunteers at schools and libraries and at other facilities.
Dr. Moats. Yes.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Martinez? Mr. Kucinich? Mr. Romero-Barcelo?
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. Good morning. Thank you Mr. Chairman. One of the questions that we are talking about, here in Congress, about the need or desirability of having a national test of achievement in reading, and I believe that would be very helpful to determine the needs of the students. Is national testing for reading ability at grade levels a good thing or is it a bad thing? Dr. Moats?
Dr. Moats. I prefer not to take a position on the issue, but I would, I would say that one of the most important aspects of the teacher preparation is to teach each teacher in a class to use simple assessment tools and diagnostic tools in accordance with an understanding of reading development and the components of reading in order to help each child come along and to ensure that no child is falling through the cracks.
Ms. Check. I would like to agree with Dr. Moats on that. I think it is very important. That most standardized reading tests only confirm what a good teacher already knows, day-to-day assessment of her or his students will pretty much tell them that they are going to do well or not do well on the tests. Keep in mind what that teacher does with that knowledge? Information on instruction, not the information unto itself. I think it is very important that testing guide the teacher's plan in preparation for those children within their particular their class.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo Do you believe we should have national goals or tests at the grade levels? Or do you have each community determine them by themselves? Should that not be a national goal, grade levels? Students when they graduate from eighth grade, for instance, should they have achieved something in school reading? When they finish their first grade, should they not all _ all the nation's children have the same basic skill in reading? Should we not have some kind of standards or achievement levels?
Dr. Fredrick. I think there should be national goals, but I think what you have to understand is to get a standardized reading test at the end of the year, it is going to tell you whether or not children have met the goals and nothing more.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. Right. Well --
Dr. Fredrick. And tell you why they have not met it and what specifically they do not know or what the teacher should do the next year.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. That is something, something that the schools should do, teachers should do. And I am talking about knowing whether you have missed the goals or whether you passed that are set up as a nation's goals?
Ms. Wakefield. May I speak to that?
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. Yes.
Ms. Wakefield. I think that perhaps when we are talking about standards and those types of things that we need to think more in terms of like a first/second/third grade block, given that children do develop at different rates and they come from different homes.
I like to think of our past practices of assessment and our current practices of assessment in medical terms. I like to liken what we used to do with testing at the end of the year only to an autopsy. We would look at what we _ what happened. We looked at what went wrong, but it is too late to do anything about it.
Current ongoing assessment we like to look at as a CAT scan. We scan every single day, through assessment and testing, what the child's doing, and we can diagnose those problems and fix them before we lose the patient.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. How can we at the Federal level know what needs to be done if we do not know what is being achieved down at the roots? It does not have to be first grade or second. Would you say --
Ms. Wakefield. I would agree that we do need to have standards in groups, but that is only one small part of the assessment package.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. And that is what happens. To achieve a goal we have to know at least what our goal should be. The other thing I wanted to ask, there has been also, at least in my district, Puerto Rico, discussions of when children should be taught another language. Do you believe that first grade is too early an age to start picking up another language? Or do you believe children, naturally inquisitive, are easier to teach other languages at an earlier age?
Ms. Wakefield. Are you talking about teaching reading to them in their own language?
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. And in another language also.
Ms. Wakefield. There are studies that, that talk about how important it is that children learn to read in their first language.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. Thank you. How about learning to read in another language?
Dr. Fredrick. Boy, that is tough.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. Do you find that -- is it bad to teach children some -- another language?
Dr. Fredrick. I think it is much more difficult and requires a great deal more training.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. Well, is it harder for whom, the teacher or the child?
Dr. Fredrick. Both.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. How come when people go to another country and you have a child, you have a three-year-old, you have a twelve-year-old, twenty-year-old, the three-year-old within a few weeks speaks the language and the twelve-year-old speaks a few words and the twenty-year-old does not know anything?
Dr. Fredrick. Again, I think we are talking about the difference between speaking a language and learning to read a language.
Ms. Mintz. Could I, could I comment on that?
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. Yes.
Ms. Mintz. I think one of the problems that we have right now in the primary grades, if you are looking at typical public school systems, we are asking our teachers to teach a lot of different things. And as a result, some time that maybe in the past had been spent on reading instruction is being chopped away. So, I think that if we were really to look at trying to meet our goal of having children by grade three all reading on grade level, whatever the goal would be, I think that we really need to focus our attention on what we need to do, as far as time goes, in the primary grades. And once we, once we start introducing new curricula, like a foreign language, it takes away from something else that is already there. So, I think it is very nice that children learn. I think it is -- it may be easier for them to learn another language at an early age, but right now I think our initiative is to try to get children to read well. And, so, I think that the focus, we are looking toward that.
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. They seem to do it in other countries.
Ms. Mintz. Pardon?
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. They seem to be able to do it in other countries --
Ms. Mintz. Well --
Mr. Romero-Barcelo. -- teach in several languages at the same time.
Ms. Mintz. I, I would agree with you. But I think right now a big initiative is trying to get all our children to learn how to read English.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Hoekstra? How did I do?
Mr. Hoekstra. You did fine. Thank you. You know, Hoekstra is a very easy name to pronounce, which I am sure you are going to find very soon.
I want to thank the panelists, because I have found your testimony very interesting. The area that I represent has a large number of limited-English-proficient students and we have an acute shortage of teachers. So, I have always been a very strong proponent of early intervention, as is our Chairman. But I had believed that it took teamwork to be able to take those situations that we found ourselves in with the shortage of teachers and that we needed to have volunteers. Listening to the majority of you talk about your experiences and your recommendations that volunteers are not the way to go, but to use all trained teachers, I have a difficulty with that. On the other hand, listening to Mrs. Check talk about the experiences that they had using volunteers and using this kind of team effort, I have been of the idea that: do not tell me why we can not do it, tell me how we can do it. How can we get it done? And until you give me more teachers, more well-trained teachers, it seems to me that in my area we are going to have to try to make that team effort work.
So I would ask you then, Mrs. Check, please expand on why you think the combined efforts of the schools, the communities, and the volunteers is the effective method to use at this time?
Ms. Check. Children come in contact with a variety of people. Many children have loving parents who have the opportunity to read and work with them during the day. Others may have to spend working two jobs, often come home tired. We can not -- those children need additional help from someone else in their "village,'' whether their parent, a neighbor, an older brother, older sister. It does take a team. And when teachers and parents and volunteers, like Melba, who -- their child was somewhere else, far away in California, but she wanted to take her time and her love to a child that she could not give to her grandchild.
We need to round up the support and get these people who need and want to give their time an opportunity to do their part. I feel that it is very important that they be included. Too many people feel not included in the important parts of raising the children who they -- I think if we can include and give those churches and city organizations -- who are just waiting to be asked. When the fire department heard that we were looking for more volunteers, that one of the firefighters went to the chief and said: we can do this; we sit around the fire house all day; we can go and work with these children. And it is, it is not that they taught these children to read, like Dr. Moats said, but they inspired them. They said: here is somebody who wants to help me; I can do better; I can see that.
I think we can round up the support from a wide variety of community people, parents, teachers. But when we work together I think the results do show that we do _ we can make a difference.
Mr. Hoekstra. What I am hearing you say, then, is that these volunteers could possibly augment the interest of the child so that then the trained teacher can move that process a little faster. Is that what I'm hearing you say?
Ms. Check. Yes. But we have our tutors -- we do not send them -- just because you can read does not mean you can be a tutor. We very carefully screen our tutors. We give them in-service instruction. There is always a reading resource teacher or a tutor coordinator to help answer questions, make sure they are selecting the right material. If the teacher has not put the material into the folder, and usually the teacher or reading resource has said: this is what I would like you to use today to work with this child. So, it is not a carte blanche. They are very much guided and the tutoring is a very focused portion of these children's day.
Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you, Mrs. Check. Yes, Mrs. Mintz?
Ms. Mintz. I think there is a great need for tutors. And I am going to speak only within the school system. I just got done for the past week assessing kindergarten students, knowledge of letters and sounds. And being in a typical kindergarten classroom where there may be one teacher, maybe one assistant, maybe not, with children at all different levels of literacy understanding -- if one of the things we think about, I have mentioned the thousand hours of literacy experiences the children have before they come to school, this is done by parents who do not have degrees, people who read, people who care about reading. There are lots and lots of things that volunteers can do to help us. Even more so than instill a love of learning to read in children, there is lots of things that they can do. I think it is a multi-pronged effort. But I certainly agree with you that tutors -- you know, all you have to do is walk into a public school and you see one person perhaps with 25, 30 kids, and you know the, the level of differences. There are lots of things that tutors can do, and they do not need a lot of special training to make a difference and to raise the literacy level of these children. So, it is very valuable.
Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to ask some questions and I give up the balance of my time.
Chairman Goodling. Thank you. Mr. Norwood?
Mr. Norwood. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. Mintz, you had said: teachers graduating in the last 10 years are having a problem in teaching, et cetera. Ms. Wakefield, you said new teachers are unprepared to teach reading today. I do not question any of that. But I do question this thing about volunteers. If our teachers are unprepared to teach reading, then we need to find volunteers. I think there is a place for them too. And especially, Ms. Check, I think it is a great idea to use them for motivational purposes. But if reading, or teaching reading is not easy, I do not think it must be or we would not be doing it as badly as we are, then I think perhaps we need to focus our attention on having our teachers learning how to teach reading and make sure we understand what volunteers are: they are there for motivational purposes. Now, if I am wrong, then it is easy for volunteers learning how to teach reading and the teacher is not learning how to teach reading. Dr. Fredrick, do you want to comment on that?
Dr. Fredrick. First of all, I agree. I am a little -- I think we need volunteers in the classroom. I would not be one to say: do not bring volunteers in the classroom. And I think we need to be very careful what we ask them to do. If possibly you are running very good small-group reading instruction in your room and you need another adult who can answer questions and guide the other 15 first-graders who are not in your reading group at that time, that is a wonderful purpose for them. And even at that, they need to be trained to be able to do that.
If you are expecting the volunteer is going to come in and take out one child or two children at a time and teach that child how to read, I think you are placing unreasonable expectations on your volunteer unless your volunteer is either trained in the teaching of reading or has in his or her hands a very explicit reading program that says exactly what to do and how to do and that he is trained in using that reading program. Short of that, I do not really think it is reasonable to believe or expect that volunteers can come in and do the teaching of reading for us. I do not think they need to do that and I do not think they should be asked to do that.
Mr. Norwood. Let me ask you, Dr. Fredrick, I do not have much time. You were describing how children learn to read and you can show how these practices basically are backed up by research. And if you would submit that for the record at a later date, I would be very grateful for that.
Just a comment about two languages. I have always felt that the more of our young people who speak two languages, the better. But I do not think we want to confuse the issue of half of our kids not being able to read English and be involved in another language. Let us get our situation up to where we have 95 percent of our students reading English at grade level. Then we can worry the next 10 years about how to get everybody speaking two languages.
Any of you, how do you determine if a child is reading at grade level? Anybody?
Dr. Fredrick. In my school, my district, we have reading selections that we call "benchmark selections,'' and we use what is called a "running record.'' So I listen to the child read. I run a record alongside of it. I do the analysis of that. And if they are reading at 95 percent accuracy and fluency and that benchmark is the end of first grade, then I would assume that child is --
Mr. Norwood. Does that mean in California if you are reading at the eighth-grade level you also will be reading at the eighth-grade level in Georgia? Dr. Moats?
Dr. Moats. In the research projects we use tests that have been nationally normed and that allow for comparisons across states or across school populations, and they have been developed using sophisticated technology and sampling item development and so forth. So "grade level'' is defined as the middle of the continuum of reading ability from high to low and grade level actually is the middle 50 percent of a distribution.
Mr. Norwood. So, in effect we have a standard of –
Dr. Moats. Yes.
Mr. Norwood. -- reading at grade level already?
Dr. Moats. Yes.
Mr. Norwood. Well, why can we then not know what we need to know in Congress and in the Department of Education? Why will we need to know the standard, if we already have a standard to determine how children are reading across the country?
Dr. Moats. Well, I do not want to open a can of worms, but one of the problems is that these nationally normed tests are not widely used. So because it has been up to the discretion of the states to determine whether there is even going to be a testing program. Some states have not even evaluated the students across their own states. One of the problems with California, the National Assessment of Educational Progress results were a shock because there had been no statewide testing program. So, one of the reasons one might advocate a --
Mr. Norwood. Did that _
Dr. Moats. -- testing program.
Mr. Norwood. -- you did not know if your students were reading at grade level?
Dr. Moats. That is right.
Dr. Fredrick. As compared to other states.
Mr. Norwood. How do we know, then, that half of our children—students--are not reading at grade level? I have heard that statement made here a lot. How do we know that?
Dr. Moats. The --
Mr. Norwood. We can do better but --
Dr. Moats. Well, one of the most important sources of data we have is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, but participation in that is voluntary by the states. So, about 40 of the 50 states do participate, and actually that source of data has been very important in determining, for example, most recently that children nationwide at the fourth-grade level are not making any progress.
Mr. Norwood. Why would a state not participate?
Dr. Moats. I do not know.
Mr. Norwood. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Fattah?
Mr. Fattah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me thank all of the panelists too. I do want to ask a very brief question. I am aware of what Mrs. Check said, that in the one school _ Magruder, is it?
Ms. Check. Yes.
Mr. Fattah. --you moved from 1 percent to close to 80 percent. I want to ask the rest of the panel whether you are familiar with any other successful implementations with evidence of that level of success that you could share with the Committee? Let me thank you and then let me congratulate you for that work.
Let me ask you, Dr. Moats, on a separate subject. You did a lot of research on reading?
Dr. Moats. Last year I visited where as -- someone -- that is the reason --
Mr. Fattah. Thank you. We only have a certain amount of time --
Dr. Moats. Okay. I am sorry.
Mr. Fattah. -- so I want t to try to get my question out. I am interested in whether there is a correlation between the success of the students and the expectations that the teachers have in their ability to succeed?
Dr. Moats. There is some relationship. But one of the striking things about the research program is that even though teachers may have high expectations and even if students are read to a great deal, that is not enough to ensure that they will learn to read.
Mr. Fattah. I think I need to be more direct in my question. If teachers have low expectations of these children, will that have a correlation in their success?
Dr. Moats. Yes.
Mr. Fattah. Okay. Are you aware in the research that in many instances with disadvantaged children that the teachers who sometimes are in front of them do not always have the highest expectations for these young people's ability?
Dr. Moats. Yes.
Mr. Fattah. And, now, so if we were to rely only on teachers, and if students who are already at a disadvantage end up with teachers who are not enthusiastic, would not we be creating a set of dynamics in which we could never address the issues at hand?
Dr. Moats. Yes. But we can counteract those expectations by telling teachers that what they do matters, that the knowledge matters a great deal, and that most of the prerequisite skills for successful reading can be taught right in the classroom. They are not dependent just on --
Mr. Fattah. That is one thing. I also wanted to ask you about the research, and maybe Dr. Fredrick would like to comment as well. It is my understanding that a child of average ability could be taught how to read even prior to admission to school, that this notion of early intervention is one in which we should be really talking about reading readiness for three and four and five-year-olds. Does your research support this?
Dr. Moats. The research supports that the foundations for successful reading can be laid with three, four, and five-year-olds, five-year-olds especially, but that most children are not linguistically ready to read until about age six.
Mr. Fattah. Dr. Fredrick, can you comment on that?
Dr. Fredrick. I think that, I think that we can teach five-year-olds to read if they have the language base necessary. But without the language base and the linguistics skills, that is very difficult to do. But what we can do is kind of wait for the language skills to come, but to teach the language skills in preparation for teaching the reading skills.
Mr. Fattah. Okay. Can three-year-olds learn how to read?
Dr. Fredrick. Some do.
Mr. Fattah. Can four-year-olds learn how to read?
Dr. Fredrick. Some do.
Mr. Fattah. Okay. And five-year-olds definitely, you both concur, can learn how to read?
Dr. Fredrick. Five-year-olds can learn the prerequisite skills for reading. I would not expect five-year-olds to learn to read, but I would expect them to come into first grade with specific skills we can identify and teach.
Mr. Fattah. Okay. So, let me go back to you, Mrs. Check. Your success, and we have not heard any other stories of actual success that supplant what you have suggested to the Committee, is built partly on the fact that you have involved other people in in this effort, parents and volunteers. That is part of the reason why you have been successful?
Ms. Check. Yes, it is. Plus we have a school board, we have had city council, we have had support from all, all areas.
Mr. Fattah. The yellow light is on. I know the chairman is usually generous with the time but I want to make sure I get this point on the record. What we have then is a proven case of success in which an enormous amount of progress has been made. It has involved other people as tutors and as volunteers in a community-wide effort. And it would seem to me that that might be a model on which we should build, Mr. Chairman, rather than to try to fund some other way to proceed that is yet to show the same level of success.
Chairman Goodling. Are you saying it is already in place and we do not need --
Mr. Fattah. No. No. What I was saying is that --
Chairman Goodling. I am putting words in your mouth.
Mr. Fattah. What I was saying, Mr. Chairman, is that the children who have benefited by having their minds opened to learn how to read, moving from 1 percent reading at grade level to almost 80 percent, what if we share that with the rest of America, using the enthusiasm of the President and the Chairman and others to find a consensus -- we may have one in front of us about how we ought to proceed. Thank you.
Ms. Check. It can be done.
Mr. Fattah. Thank you.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Riggs?
Mr. Riggs. I want to ask two more questions, ladies, and one is do you have any thoughts how we can use this new money, this additional $260 million of Federal taxpayer funds that have been set aside by the bipartisan agreement to balance the budget for this new Literacy Initiative, to actually leverage improvement in existing Federal education programs in our primary schools, particularly Title I, the large Federal remedial program? Is there a way that in this legislation we can actually take this money and use it where we need to improve how those Title I dollars are already being spent? You can ponder that. You can let us know. If you would like to, you can respond in writing, because I am sure we will keep the record open.
Let me go to a second question, and I specifically would like Dr. Fredrick to begin this. It appears now we are going to be sort of proceeding on parallel tracks. We are going to have two simultaneous debates here in Washington -- maybe "debate'' is too strong a word -- but we are going to be trying to craft this new Federal Literacy Initiative, while at the same time discussing or debating the efficacy of allowing or developing a new voluntary national education test.
Now, several of you have said today that you do not believe in social promotion. Do you believe that there should be some sort of standardized performance test or standardized assessment -- and I do not care whether it is Federal, state, or local -- but some sort of standardized assessment in place at that local school site level that assures that child is ready to advance? In other words, do you believe in some sort of competency based advancement system in place of social promotion that would assure that a child would not be advanced from grade to grade or, worse yet, graduated from secondary school without being able to demonstrate at least a basic mastery of English, reading and literacy skills? And I would like to get an opinion from all of you, because my concern is that we appear to be closing the door on the option of allowing the Department of Education and its contractors to develop a new national education test, as the President has called for, to address this problem of social promotion and to promote greater accountability in our schools. As it relates back to literacy and English and reading skills, it just does not seem possible to me that a child could be advanced from grade to grade, much less graduated, without being able to demonstrate a basic level of proficiency on some sort of standardized assessment or performance test.
So, the question is (a) should we have such a test and (b) if so, who should develop it and where should it be administered? Dr. Fredrick?
Dr. Fredrick. I think we should require competency to move children from one grade to the next.
Mr. Riggs. Is that what you meant when you, when you used the term "exit exam''?
Dr. Fredrick. No. The exit exam was for the teacher preparation programs, for the teachers to exit their --
Mr. Riggs. I see.
Dr. Fredrick. -- preparation programs, so that they will be prepared to do this when they come into the schools. I think that many things will have to change for that to happen, and it has been alluded to here this morning already, and that is we will have to change our focus. We cannot do everything in a six-hour school day. And I think it is reasonable to tell our K through third-grade teachers that your first and foremost job is to teach every child to read and write. Okay. That means they need the training to do that; they need the programs, instructional programs, that will be effective to accomplish this; they need a time to do that; they need in-service training in the programs they are using; they need continual technical support in implementing these programs; and then in fact they can teach these children how to read.
Mr. Riggs. Well, you have made that point and all of your fellow panelists or witnesses have made that point effectively. But my question goes back to whether a child should be advanced from grade to grade or graduated from school without demonstrating at least a basic or fundamental knowledge of the subject matter? Dr. Moats, or someone, referred to the NAEP. The drawback with the NAEP, of course, is only 33 of the 50 states are participating in the NAEP. The NAEP only gives us a representative sampling of student performance. It does not give us individual student results.
So, again, do you believe that we should have some sort of standardized assessment or performance test? And if so, who develops it and who administers it? And if we do not have one in English, I can not imagine what subject we would have it in.
Ms. Check. I would like to address that a minute. We in Virginia have had our literacy passport tests in place now for six years. This past June was the first graduating class that a student did not graduate because they did not pass the literacy passport test, which was given in, in their sixth-grade year, and then they had sixth, seventh, eighth -- they had until they graduated to pass that competency test. It has served Virginia well.
We are in the process of looking at standardized testing in grades three, five, eight, and eleven, and that is in the process. We gave them a pilot this past spring. I think it focuses our attention on the curriculum. We have talked about a lot of variety of things that come into the curriculum. Standardized testing that we have been focusing towards in Virginia focuses us very directly on what has been identified by the Department of Education as needed. So, that focuses teachers and parents and curriculum writers, like myself, to make sure that we include within our curriculum guides those things that will be assessed. I think it gives us focus. Plus then we have names. We have these five children in this class and six in this class. It very clearly identifies the children that need our support, whether that support comes from a tutor or a reading resource teacher, or whomever that might be. I think that is another good part.
I mentioned that testing serves no purpose. It does not give you a pool of children to work with or give you information that is a moot point. I think what we are working towards in Virginia gives us information about what we are supposed to be testing, what we are supposed to be teaching. The tested, the taught, and the curriculum all work together.
Mr. Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I know others would probably like to expound on that, but -- the Federal Government.
Ms. Check. We --
Chairman Goodling. Yes. Mr. Roemer?
Mr. Roemer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to bring us back even a little bit earlier in looking at our opportunities to teach young people how to read. The President recently a few months ago had a conference at the White House where we found, and many people knew this for a long time, that zero to five is a very fertile ground to teach young people some of the basic vocabulary skills and other things to get them off to a good start to learn to read. I guess I would address my first question to Dr. Fredrick, since she is working currently in the university setting. Do you see more of a growing emphasis on this early intervention curriculum in our universities and colleges and are the deans in these schools and are the professors in these schools responding to this growing field of literature that points to the rich potential of young people have to learn the basic blocks, the basic skills for reading?
Dr. Fredrick. I think currently there is a move in that direction. I think the move has been slow to come. I think we are finally moving away from a time when we thought that we should use those early years just to leave them to discover on their own and not try to teach them anything specific towards a time when we are seeing the potential of what they could learn in terms of prerequisite skills for what is coming for them to learn, and are taking an active approach in that in early childhood departments, also early intervention with our children with disabilities, whatever those disabilities might be. Clearly there has been a focus in that direction recently, and supported very much by the colleges of education.
Mr. Roemer. So, Dr. Fredrick, do you think it is a recent trend and do you think it is beginning to turn in that direction rather than having developed a field of literature or having beginning to instruct some of these schools as to how to go back into the field in the schools and begging to work with these young people? This is just a growing trend as far as you are concerned?
Dr. Fredrick. I believe that it is.
Mr. Roemer. Does anybody else have any kind of reference point? Dr. Moats, can you answer the question?
Dr. Moats. I finally accept the idea that early intervention is extremely important in preventing reading and academic failure. That should begin at age three. But what I do not see yet is the level of information that preschool teachers and directors of preschool programs need in order to target the specific skills that we know really prevent any failure.
For example, in a Head Start, it would be very important to train those teachers specifically in how to teach phonemic awareness to children or the beginnings of it and why it is important and not leave it up to chance, not leave it up to a general language enrichment program which can set the stage in a different way that will not have an effect on learning to read.
Mr. Roemer. You mentioned one of my favorite programs, the Head Start program. Let me ask you another question about that. If we reauthorized that program in this Committee, would your recommendation then be for us to be less concerned about the number of children enrolled in that program and more concerned about the quality of what we teach, how we prepare our teachers, professional development, those kinds of issues?
Dr. Moats. Absolutely. I agree with you.
Mr. Roemer. And do you have any other recommendations on the reauthorization of Head Start and what we might want to focus on there in terms of early intervention?
Dr. Moats. I think that is a little out of my context --
Mr. Roemer. All right. Let me ask another question. I thank the panelists for their helpful testimony here this morning and this afternoon. We have heard, you know, different emphasis on teacher preparation and different emphasis on outreach in the communities. What exactly should be the Federal role in these areas? Should we emphasize more in terms of seed money, in terms more of our ability to positively affect these programs, teacher development and teacher preparation, or should we look more, as the America Reads program does, at outreach in the communities?
Dr. Moats. One of the constructive things that I think can be done with Federal dollars is give incentives to university programs and programs that do prepare teachers to work in partnership with school districts and with agencies that are able to disseminate research that is reliable and holds up to a scientific standard. That has been done in California in the past year with some success, even though the change in process moves slowly, but it really has stimulated debate and opening of university professors to information that they were not otherwise familiar with. It is an action in development. It is very positive.
Ms. Check. I wanted to say that Dr. Connolly Williams at Norfolk State University and Dr. Jim Meers at the College of William and Mary have been working very much to create these college programs that are going to help with the America Reads program. Dr. Connolly Williams told me that if I had the opportunity to tell the panel that she needs money to help coordinators. There is money in the funding to pay the students, but there is no money in that particular funding for coordinators or supplies or the particular workshops and things that they have put together to work with the tutors. There are funds for the tutors, but not for the coordination of the program.
Mr. Roemer. Just -- yes, Dr. Fredrick?
Dr. Fredrick. I also think that there need to be funds available for what we call demonstration research. That is, there are programs out there that are good that have for years been effectively teaching children how to read. And we typically do not _ the Federal Government typically does not provide funds for professors to leave the universities, go out in the schools, and let me demonstrate to you that this will work with your population of children. And if it works in your school, it will work in a similar school down the street, and let us get it going that way. Rather, the funds have typically been for development and how the reading process occurs. Not that that should be taken away; absolutely not. But I do not think it is sufficient. I think we also need to go out and demonstrate what is working so that people can learn from that and to compare programs that are available and see where we want to keep our funds and our energies in terms of providing programs for teachers.
Mr. Roemer. My final question would be, and Mr. Riggs has asked you all about how you feel about standardized tests. And there has not been anybody jumping up to the microphone to answer that question. So, let me try and put it a different way.
When we sent money down to the states or out to the local level, we have, among many concerns, we have concerns of accountability and we have concerns about whether or not that money is successful in achieving the objective policy objectives that we have sought. How do we measure, in terms of America Reads or literacy programs, success and how do we ensure accountability?
Dr. Fredrick. Okay. I will say something. I do think we need a national standard. But we need to have that assessment, or an annual assessment. It needs to be developed objectively, independently, bipartisanly, so that it does not become a political issue of what is the best way to teach children how to read. Okay? And unless we get that kind of an assessment, we are going to continue a battle that is going to take us nowhere.
Chairman Goodling. And can you imagine getting that agreement? We have some who believe, in the Congress, that if you just teach phonics that it will take care of everything.
Dr. Fredrick. That is the problem.
Chairman Goodling. Others say that if you just teach whole language that will cure everything. I will guarantee if you do not teach both you will not cure anything.
Dr. Fredrick. Right. Well, that is the idea of making the tests not a political issue, even though the funds come from the Government. I am not sure how you do that. Okay? I am just saying that if there is a political base to this national assessment, it is not going to get us anywhere.
Mr. Roemer. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for extending the time for me, and I thank the panel once again.
Chairman Goodling. I do not know what you use today, but I know when I was in the business we had standardized tests called "California,'' and we had standardized tests called "Iowa.'' I do not know how many more there may be now. I would assume you still have those same standardized tests --
Dr. Fredrick. Yes, we do.
Chairman Goodling. -- that we had back in the dark ages, only upgraded.
Dr. Fredrick. Right.
Chairman Goodling. The last word, Mr. Scott?
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First, I am going to ask the intent to introduce information, news articles, on the Newport News program for the record? Thank you.
See Appendix I for materials submitted for the record by Mr. Scott.
Mr. Scott. Mrs. Mintz, you apparently have the luxury of being able to select from a large number of applicants for teachers. The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Hinojosa, indicated that they are having trouble hiring enough teachers. You also indicated that teaching is an art.
Ms. Mintz. Teaching reading.
Mr. Scott. How do you measure who should be hired to teach and who should not? I would assume you do more than just read the resume, if it is an art?
Ms. Mintz. Yeah. We, we interview all the teachers on several levels. First, they have to have the necessary requirements just to be certified in all those kinds tests that they have to do.
Mr. Scott. Let me add to that, because the gentleman from Pennsylvania also added that the expectations of the teacher is an important factor. Is that part of the interview process, to determine whether or not the perspective teachers care about the students?
Ms. Mintz. Yes, that is part of the questions. It is in the questions that we ask. It is not a blatant question. But we do ask questions and there are several levels of interviews that candidates have to go through. So, it is a multi-leveled process, and this past year we had 5,000 applicants for 250 positions. So, we do have a lot of people to choose from.
Mr. Scott. And what, what are you trying to cull out during the interview process? What skills that are not apparent on the resume are you trying to look for?
Ms. Mintz. Well, actually, if it were just to look at reading, one of the things that we do not look for is how knowledgeable they are about teaching reading, and that is because we have given up on that. So, we look toward other things, hoping that we will be able to help them once they join our school district. If we do have someone who is knowledgeable about reading, I run down to the personnel office and say: give them an open contract. But we do not find people like that very often. So, we look at generally their intelligence -- we do not do intelligence tests, but just from speaking to them -- their attitude about education, how willing they are to continue being learners, things like that.
Mr. Scott. Thank you. Ms. Wakefield, you indicated, I think, and several have indicated that you have to teach different students differently, that the fast students can learn one way and the middle students learn another way, and the slow students learn another way. If you try to teach the slow students the same way you teach the fast students, what happens?
Ms. Wakefield. You lose them in the process. That information or what you are trying to teach, they are not able to take that and work with it. The children that learn real easily, of course, you tell them one time and they take that and apply it to new situations. But the children that have difficulties need you to work one on one with them and take your teaching directly from what they are doing each day. You have to tailor exactly what you do to what their needs are. You can not generalize with the children having difficulty.
Mr. Scott. And, Dr. Fredrick, I think you also mentioned that you have to teach different students with different techniques. Do you want to say anything more about that?
Dr. Fredrick. No. Maybe some clarification. Our most advanced students only need to practice something eight or twelve times and they have got it. Our very slow students might have to practice it a thousand times before they have it. So some of it is an issue of how much repetition they have and how much practice they have. And, so, when we look for good instructional programs, we look for programs that have built into them enough practice for the very lowest children and in fact do not require our highest children to do the same practice.
I think it is a mistake to think that they need different skills, however. They need the same skills and they move them at a different pace and they may be ready for them at different times, but I would not want to skip over some of the skills for some of our students.
Mr. Scott. Okay. I yield very briefly to the gentleman from --
Mr. Fattah. Thank you.
Mr. Scott. -- Pennsylvania.
Mr. Fattah. Thank the gentleman. Let me ask you a question on that, Dr. Fredrick. What happens in reverse? What happens when you have a very gifted student, but who is being taught as if they were behind the curve?
Dr. Fredrick. They might do a number of things. They may tune out. They may become disruptive.
Mr. Fattah. You are aware that in much of the research that has been done, we now know that minority students, for instance, are disproportionately tracked into slow-learning categories, who ought not be there. And our teachers misinterpret at times things that they can not explain out of their own cultural backgrounds?
Dr. Fredrick. And some of that misinterpretation comes from the fact that they have not been taught the reading skills necessary to be successful, either the prerequisite skills for reading and/or the very beginning, explicit, systematic instruction they need to crack the code, if you will, to get them started. Not the end, but to get them started.
Mr. Fattah. Let me thank the gentleman from Virginia. I have to yield him back his time. But thank you.
Mr. Scott. Thank you. Dr. Moats, from a research point of view, is Reading Recovery in the research?
Dr. Moats. It has been researched, both by the people who have designed it and by independent people.
Mr. Scott. Does it work?
Dr. Moats. The simple answer to that is that it probably does not work for as many students for as long a time as the proponents of the approach argue, but that it does work for many students, at least over the short term. One of the things we need to do in this field is to look at programs such as Reading Recovery from an independent scientific perspective and ask a more refined question, which is for which students does one approach work, under what conditions, and try to instead of embracing one particular approach, sort out what students of different needs and different developmental levels need and which components of reading instruction are going to be the most powerful and at which point in their development.
Mr. Scott. Does the research show that it costs more to educate children at risk than middle-class students?
Dr. Moats. It costs more to educate children who do not come to the reading process with the proficiency that allows them to teach themselves. In other words, it does require more hours, more expertise to reach those children. But those children are in all socioeconomic levels, not only those who are disadvantaged.
Mr. Scott. But do you find more in the disadvantaged socio-economically disadvantaged groups?
Dr. Moats. Those children are more at risk for a number of reasons, and certainly some are from the lack of resources available to them, in many situations, yes.
Mr. Scott. Now, if you do not intervene early, K, maybe first grade, and the student gets to the third grade without having the reading skills, is it more expensive to catch them up after they have passed the third grader?
Dr. Moats. Yes, it is.
Mr. Scott. Now, Mrs. Check, for Magruder, are the teachers specially selected and the principal specially selected for Magruder?
Dr. Moats. All of our principals and teachers go through a selection process. I feel that the principal that was chosen for Magruder at that critical time was especially chosen for her people skills, her organizational skills, and her vision. So, yes, she was specially chosen for that program. And then as a principal, she, as well as all the principals in Newport News, had the opportunity to interview candidates and select their staff. I am sure she had a lot of people that were there when she came, but she also certainly over her tenure had a chance to select those people that would meet her needs.
Mr. Scott. Okay. Dr. Moats, you have heard that this school had a 1 percent at grade level and now almost 80 percent at grade level. They have teacher assistants, tutors, volunteers, significant work on parental involvement, plus Reading Recovery. Do you think we can reproduce that 1 percent to 80 percent in other schools?
Dr. Moats. Yes, I think so, but I would also ask from a scientific perspective. I have wanted to look at studies that answer more specific questions about which components of reading instruction were the most powerful in producing positive changes that would last. I would want to compare the approach that was used in that school system with other possibly even more powerful approaches that might get even better results. We need to ask the question objectively. We need to look beyond individual programs that --
Mr. Scott. Results. The question was asked whether or not people had seen changes over a four or five-year period at the same schools from 1 percent to almost 80 percent and no one responded. Can we reproduce this?
Dr. Moats. We know a great deal about general characteristics of programs that ensure better performance in early reading skills, but we need to ask a more refined question, which is: compared to what other types of programs do we get the best result from certain types of children over a long period of time? I do not know what to say or what comment to make about this particular program, because it was not done as a controlled scientific study.
Ms. Wilson. Excuse me. I think there are programs out there that are making the same kinds of gains. I am not sure that those increased over eight weeks from the first grade to the fifth-grade level. That is a substantial gain. I worked with Chicago highschoolers in the tenth grade who were reading at the second-grade level, and over 12 weeks increased to the fifth-grade level. Now you know, that I know about from the first to the eightieth percentile that there are now substantial gains to be made.
Mr. Scott. Well, the first to the eightieth is 1 percent were at grade level, and then 80 percent were at grade level. And I think what you have testified is that outstanding improvement is not unusual if you have assigned the right technique and teach them to the right students.
So, that, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your flexibility with the time. But I think all of the witnesses have suggested that children learn and we can do a lot more --
Chairman Goodling. I think they all indicated teacher preparation. Well, I want to thank all of you. You were outstanding witnesses. As you noticed, you were kept a long time. I imagine if I did not rap the gavel they would keep you longer. But I do thank you very much. It is very important testimony.