THE IMPORTANCE OF LITERACY
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC, SEPTEMBER 26, 2000
Serial No. 106-127
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education
and the Workforce
Table of Contents *
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN BILL GOODLING, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC *
STATEMENT OF DR. DONALD N. LANGENBERG, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF MARYLAND, ADELPHI, MARYLAND. *
STATEMENT OF MS. LINDA BUTLER, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST, NICHD EARLY INTERVENTIONS PROJECT, WASHINGTON, D.C.; ACCOMPANIED BY MIKEA BRANDON, THIRD GRADE STUDENT, SEATON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WASHINGTON, D.C. *
STATEMENT OF MISS MIKEA D. BRANDON, THIRD GRADE STUDENT, SEATON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WASHINGTON, D.C. *
STATEMENT OF MRS. PAM BARRET, TEACHER, TOVASHAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, MURIETTA, CALIFORNIA *
STATEMENT OF DR. CARMELITA WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL READING ASSOCIATION, WASHINGTON, DC. *
STATEMENT OF MS. JAQUELINE MARTINO, TEACHER, YORK EVEN START PROGRAM, YORK, PENNSYLVANIA; ACCOMPANIED BY PAM NEIFERT, DIRECTOR OF FEDERAL PROGRAMS, CITY OF YORK, PENNSYLVANIA. *
STATEMENT OF MR. ENRIQUE RAMIREZ, FORMER ADULT EDUCATION STUDENT, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA *
APPENDIX A --WRITTEN OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN BILL GOODLING, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC *
APPENDIX B -- WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF DR. DONALD N. LANGENBERG, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF MARYLAND, ADELPHI, MARYLAND *
APPENDIX C -- WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MS. LINDA BUTLER, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST, NICHD EARLY INTERVENTIONS PROJECT, WASHINGTON, D.C. *
APPENDIX D -- WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MISS MIKEA D. BRANDON, THIRD GRADE STUDENT, SEATON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WASHINGTON, D.C. *
APPENDIX E -- WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MRS. PAM BARRET, TEACHER, TOVASHAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, MURIETTA, CALIFORNIA *
HEARING ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LITERACY
Tuesday, September 26, 2000
U.S. House of Representatives,
Committee on Education and the Workforce,
The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Bill Goodling [Chairman of the Committee], presiding.
Present: Representatives Goodling, Roukema, Schaffer, Hilleary, Ehlers, Fletcher, Isakson, Kildee, Owens, Payne, Scott, Hinojosa, McCarthy, Kind, Sanchez, Kucinich, Wu, and Holt.
Staff present: Linda Castleman, Office Manager; Dan Lara, Press Secretary; Sally Lovejoy, Education Policy Coordinator; Patrick Lyden, Professional Staff Member; Lynn Selmser, Professional Staff Member; Jo-Marie St. Martin, General Counsel; Bob Sweet, Professional Staff Member; Kent Talbert, Education Policy Counsel; Kevin Talley, Chief of Staff; and Holli Traud, Legislative Assistant.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN BILL GOODLING, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC
Chairman Goodling. The Committee on Education and the Workforce will come to order.
I want to start promptly because I understand we have one vote, possibly, at 10:00, and then who knows when the next one will be, so we will be running out interrupting you in the middle of your sentences.
We are holding this hearing today to hear testimony on the importance of literacy, and I am eager to hear from our witnesses today, so I am going to limit the opening statements to myself and, I suppose, Mr. Kildee. If any other members have statements, the will be included in the hearing record. If anybody has anyone they want to introduce, just let me know.
I am happy to have this hearing. There are many things, which can destroy us internally, and most great civilizations fall from within. However, I think that functional illiteracy and illiteracy in the 21st century could certainly destroy any hope for us to continue to be an outstanding leader in this world.
We now have as many as 100 million adults in this country who are functioning either on level 1 or level 2 as far as the literacy scale is concerned. Level 1, in my estimation, there is no hope of getting a piece of the American dream in the 21st century and level 2 it will be very difficult.
Things have not changed that much. When I graduated from a one-room, eight- grade school, only two of us went on to ninth grade and high school. The others went to work. Of course, most people could get a job, keep a job, and support a family and, above all, they did not want anyone to believe that they could not read. And that has gone forever. That will not work today.
Therefore, if we are going to continue to be a leader, we are going to have to have a well educated and a well-trained workforce. I have worked to ensure that a wide range of federal education programs address problems related to illiteracy, including Even Start Family Literacy Program, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Reading Excellence Act, Title I and Head Start and several of our witnesses today will testify to the merits of these programs.
It is, however, no secret that I believe literacy programs that involve the whole family, such as Even Start, provide the best possible solution to our problem. I do not know it took us so long to understand that if you do not deal with the entire family you do not break the cycle. We must have been asleep somewhere, I am not sure.
Parents are the key to a child's academic success and it is our hope, of course, to make sure that the parent is the first and most important teacher the child will ever have.
We must also ensure that we have qualified teachers in the classroom who have been trained to teach reading using instructional programs based on scientifically based reading research. We have gotten into an awful lot of trouble with different fads at different times that are kind of typical education.
In the 105th Congress, we enacted the Reading Excellence Act and we hope with the passing of that we will make sure that we have the best research. We also included this particular year in the Lift bill additional money for research for adult literacy because we do have a good bit of research in relationship to how children learn to read, but we do not have enough research at the present time on how adults learn to read.
Having said all that, I will now recognize the gentleman who has worked with us constantly on these programs from Michigan, Congressman Kildee.
WRITTEN OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN BILL GOODLING, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC—SEE APPENDIX A
Mr. Kildee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be brief also. I want to hear the witnesses here.
Your commitment to literacy has been at least 26 years here in the Congress and many years prior to that before you came here to the Congress and I have enjoyed working with you for 24 years on that.
I can recall, too, you mentioned people leaving the eighth grade and going to work, I can recall in Flint Michigan where one could quit school on Tuesday, quit high school, and go to work for Buick Motor Car Company on Wednesday. And years ago, about 15 years ago we were retraining our workers and found out that many of them needed more than retraining, many actually were functionally illiterate.
So those days are gone forever. You cannot quit school on a Tuesday and go to work for General Motors on a Wednesday. There is really a need for literacy, just to read the manuals that are necessary for that type of work.
I have always believe, and it is kind of a cliché, but I think much is contained in that of truth, in kindergarten through third grade, one learns to read after that you read to learn. And if you have not learned to read by the end of the third grade, you are going to have very, very severe problems thereafter.
So I commend those who are involved in literacy and I am anxious to hear the witnesses this morning.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. Is there anyone that wants to introduce any of the witnesses?
If not, then I will do it.
Dr. Langenberg is Chancellor of the University System of one of the greatest institutions in the country of Maryland. He served, as chairman of the President's Council of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the National Reading Panel, is a nationally recognized leader in higher education issues, particularly K through 16 education partnerships, and information technology.
He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley and is the author or co-author of over 100 papers and articles and has edited several books.
President Jimmy Carter appointed Dr. Langenberg to serve as Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation from 1980 to 1982. He was awarded the John Price Weatherill Medal of the Franklin Institute and the Distinguished Contribution to Research Administration Award of the Society of Research Administrators.
Ms. Linda Butler is a professional development specialist with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Intervention Project in Washington, D.C. She is also an adjunct instructor of graduate courses at Trinity College.
Prior to her current position, she was an educator in the District of Columbia Public Schools, holding various positions from 1988 to 1997. Ms. Butler has been an education consultant in Chicago public schools for Educational Dimensions, Inc. and in New York for Scholastic, Inc.
Ms. Butler earned a Master of Education in reading from Howard University and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education in special education.
Dr. Carmelita Williams is president of the International Reading Association and a professor in the Department of Early Childhood Education in the School of Education at Norfolk State University. She has been director of the Reading Partners Clinic for Children in grades K through five and a reading and classroom teacher in public schools in New York and Missouri.
Mrs. Pam Barret is a first grade-reading teacher at Tovashal Elementary School in Murietta, California and has been successfully teaching reading for over 20 years. She is the National Right to Read Foundation Teacher of the Year and has received commendations from Governor Gray Davis (D-California) as well as Barbara Bush.
Ms. Jacqueline Martino is a teacher with the York Even Start Program. She is also a teacher and youth coordinator with the Crispus Attucks Association and a minority affairs advisor at York College of Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from South Carolina University in psychology.
Mr. Enrique Ramirez is a former adult education student. He first recognized his need to learn to read and write in 1986. He works for United Airlines as an airfreight operation controller, where he is responsible for handling all the freight that comes into or goes out from San Francisco International Airport. He has worked for United since 1989, but has just recently been promoted to his current position.
STATEMENT OF DR. DONALD N. LANGENBERG, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF MARYLAND, ADELPHI, MARYLAND.
Mr. Langenberg. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good morning to you and all the members of the committee. I am Don Langenberg.
I was privileged to serve from 1998 to the 2000 as chairman of the National Reading Panel, which was established by Congress. I would like to present to you a very brief overview of some major points from our work.
You gave the panel four very specific tasks:
You asked us to assess the status of research-based knowledge, including the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching children to read.
You asked us to report on its readiness for application in the classroom.
You asked us to develop a strategy to disseminate our findings to make sure that they did not sit simply on a few bookshelves here and there.
You asked us to recommend, if warranted, a plan for additional research.
The panel was made up of a diverse array of experts, professors whose research areas cover the area of the teaching and learning of reading, schoolteachers, school administrators, parents and grandparents, some of us did double duty in that respect, and me. And I should say a word about me.
I am a physicist; I am not an expert in this field. I was a little surprised to find myself asked to chair the panel, but all I can say is that I have been very active in the state of Maryland in developing one of the nation's leading K through 16 partnerships which is based on the premise that education is or should be a seamless web from K-16, cradle to grave. Sometimes I say postpartum to postmortem.
And I think perhaps as a result of that and the result of the fact that for many years I have practiced getting diverse groups of experts, faculty members together and to try to lead them to a useful result.
The task that the Congress gave us was a formidable task. You asked us to assess the research literature and within the field of reading, we found something well over 100,000 research reports published in that literature since 1966.
It was clear that if we were going to respond in the time available to us that we had to make some choices. We made those choices on the basis of the expertise of the panel, consultation with many educational associations and organizations and on the basis of a series of regional hearings that we held all over the country to hear from students, faculty members, teachers, school administrators, parents and political leaders.
The topics we picked in the end to focus on were: Alphabetic which includes phonemic awareness, awareness of the different sounds in the language, and phonics instruction, how you connect those sounds to written letters and words. Also, fluency, how one develops fluency in reading and comprehension, including vocabulary instruction, instruction in the comprehension of full text and how you prepare the teachers with the skills necessary to develop the right strategies in students. The larger topic of teacher education and reading instruction.
And then because we are all aware of the transformational change in education and just about everything else that is being created by the information technology revolution, we took a look at what the literature had to say about the uses of computers and information technology in teaching and learning reading.
Probably the most important thing the panel did was to develop a rigorous methodological standard for the research that it looked at. They are essentially the standards normally used in medical and behavioral research for clinical trials to assess the efficacy of behavioral interventions, medications or medical procedures.
Just a couple of highlights about what the panel found. The panel did find that certain instructional methods are demonstrably better than others and that many of them are applicable now in the classroom.
There is, for example, overwhelming evidence that systematic, and I underline systematic, phonics instruction does enhance children's success in learning to read and that such instruction is significantly more effective than instruction that teaches little or no phonics.
I want to underline the word teaching here because one of the clear findings is that systematic teaching is necessary. You do not absorb the ability to read by standing around in the middle of a library. This is a lesson, however, that is not fully appreciated in any, every and all schools.
Second, we found that literacy instruction ought to begin early, in kindergarten, preferably even before. We find that children at risk of reading failure for a variety of reasons especially require direct and systematic instruction in these skills and that that should be integrated fully with the full kindergarten experience.
Third, we concluded that all research in this subject worthy of use really must stand up to critical scientific scrutiny. No reputable physician would normally prescribe a treatment or a drug to a patient unless that treatment or drug had been fully tested in rigorous scientific testing and we should expect no less of teachers subjecting a student to curricular content or teaching methodology. Without a proven knowledge base, we can expect our schools to continue to be besieged by education fads and nostrums.
And, finally, teachers are key. Teachers need to know how children learn to read, how their brains work when they are learning to read. They need to understand why children learn in different ways and why some children have difficulty in learning to read and they need to know and to know how to apply different strategies and approaches for different children.
We did find that there are opportunities for additional research that ought to be exploited. One of those has to do with the applications of information technology in the classrooms. This is just in its infancy. I would remark that on the horizon, fairly near horizon perhaps, are instruments that in fact can translate written text into speech and speech into written text. One would imagine that that would be useful in the classroom, but we have very little information about exactly how that might work.
Let me conclude with just a couple of personal observations.
I am a physicist and I would assert that, one, I learned an enormous lot about this very complex field in the course of chairing the panel. I came in as a non-expert, I came out as a non-expert, but I am a little more knowledgeable non-expert now.
There is a recent report called ``Teaching Reading is Rocket Science,'' and I want to say that in my opinion that is a gross underestimate. I am an experimental physicist, I have done many things rather akin to rocket science, and I will tell you that the teaching and the learning of reading are far more complex and far more difficult.
The knowledge base, our knowledge base, about the human brain and the mind that it embodies is really quite rudimentary and so is our understanding of how to translate that knowledge into effective teaching and learning.
I am reminded a little bit about the evolution of my own field in quantum physics in the early part of the 20th century under people like Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schroedinger and the like. That long, slow fitful evolution of basic knowledge exploded in the second half of the century into the information technology revolution. And I very much hope that in the 21st century something like that will occur in our knowledge of the human mind and how it learns.
Finally, let me say most of what I believe we learned about literacy, about reading, in the work of the National Reading panel also applies to the learning of other fields like math and science and I would very much underscore the need to keep that in mind.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF DR. DONALD N. LANGENBERG, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF MARYLAND, ADELPHI, MARYLAND—SEE APPENDIX B
Chairman Goodling. Thank you.
Ms. Butler? And I understand Ms. Brandon is going to share the stage with you.
STATEMENT OF MS. LINDA BUTLER, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST, NICHD EARLY INTERVENTIONS PROJECT, WASHINGTON, D.C.; ACCOMPANIED BY MIKEA BRANDON, THIRD GRADE STUDENT, SEATON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Ms. Butler. Good morning. Good morning, committee.
First, I wish to thank Mr. Goodling for the opportunity to speak to this committee. I know firsthand, day to day, what a difference the investment Congress has made in our ability to reach and teach children in the District of Columbia. Congress' support of reading research and Congress' support of the Reading Excellence Act and the leadership of key officials in government who support high quality teacher preparation are making a significant difference in our schools today.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funds an extensive research program to understand how our children learn to read and why some of our children fail to learn to read and what can be done to prevent this reading failure.
We have been working in nine of the low performing schools for more than three years under one of the NICHD grants. Dr. Barbara Foorman in Houston and Dr. Louisa Moats in Washington, D.C. are the directors of this program. Dr. Moats and I work daily to instruct and support teachers as we gather the extensive data that is needed on the causes of reading success and reading failure.
This has been very hard work. In the beginning, teachers were very, very frustrated, demoralized and skeptical. They blamed the children, their families, their instructional materials and each other for the fact that over 70 percent of our fourth grade children in the District scored below basic on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAE test.
We had to prove to these teachers that we were offering them something more than superficial ideas, empty promises or worthless gimmicks. Indeed, we had to persuade teachers to learn a lot of new and sometimes challenging information and to try out these new methods.
Over these four years, our teachers have risen to the occasion. More than half have taken graduate courses with us and those who study and learn tend to get the best results with their students. Many of our teachers have seen immediate and dramatic improvement in their classes when they apply the research-based methods.
A very important focus of course work has been an in-depth study of phoneme awareness, phonics and the structure of the English language. Another has been role-play and rehearsal of new teaching strategies, including questioning strategies designed to deepen comprehension.
We have provided books and materials to them. Teams of teachers have collaborated with each other. Observers and reading coaches have been in classrooms to help and instruct. Principals have been involved and informed. We knew when we began that with well designed materials, effective building leadership an strong professional development based on reading research we could reverse the tide of reading failure.
Now, in year four, we are very proud of the changes we have accomplished. Seven of the nine schools have met all or most of their improvement targets. The first grade at Seaton Elementary School, whose lead teacher is with me today, showed an average reading achievement score above the seventieth percentile on the Stanford-9 Achievement Test last year. Only 5 to 10 percent of children are below basic in grades where the instruction is strong. And in many of our schools, teachers have commented that they the difference in students who are now going into third and fourth grade. They are saying they can read; they can finally read.
Our research data are showing that at the end of the second grade in 1999 our students on the whole were achieving slightly above the national average in reading comprehension. The students who had achieved the most explicit training in phonological skills were well above the average in basic reading and spelling.
And once again, the research is showing that students who are taught well and early in kindergarten and first grade about the speech sounds and words and who are taught phonetics, systematically and explicitly, reading fluency and comprehension make better progress than children who not get the best instruction.
Today, I have brought one of these students with me and she would like to read to you. Mikea Brandon is now in third grade at Seaton Elementary and she had the benefit of research-based instruction for the total four years. She started with us in kindergarten. She is now in third.
I am also accompanied by her kindergarten teacher, Mary Hailes, and her parents. And Mary Hailes is here to also answer questions for the committee, if need be.
WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MS. LINDA BUTLER, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST, NICHD EARLY INTERVENTIONS PROJECT, WASHINGTON, D.C.; ACCOMPANIED BY MIKEA BRANDON, THIRD GRADE STUDENT, SEATON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WASHINGTON, D.C.—SEE APPENDIX C
STATEMENT OF MISS MIKEA D. BRANDON, THIRD GRADE STUDENT, SEATON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Miss. Brandon. Good morning. My name is Mikea D. Brandon. I am eight years old. I attend Seaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C. and I am in third grade.
Why reading is important to me. Reading is important to me because as a little person I am quite curious and I need to know what is going on in my world. Being able to read allows me to be able to do things for myself and not have anyone to read to me.
Being able to read has taught me that there are many things about the world that I need to learn. Being able to read gives me the chance to see the world through my own eyes and not someone else's. Also being able to read allows me to form my own opinions as I grow up.
I like to read because it allows me to use my imagination and fantasize about what I would like in my life. Also, I like to read because I am able to comprehend and pass my tests in school so that I can be promoted to the next grade.
I enjoy reading about the different adventures with various characters in books like my good friends Arthur, Barbie and Harry Potter. Being able to read is so much fun.
WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MISS MIKEA D. BRANDON, THIRD GRADE STUDENT, SEATON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WASHINGTON, D.C.—SEE APPENDIX D
Chairman Goodling. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MRS. PAM BARRET, TEACHER, TOVASHAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, MURIETTA, CALIFORNIA
Mrs. Barret. How do you expect me to follow that wonderful reading?
Thank you, Chairman Goodling, for inviting me to testify before your committee today. I have to tell you that I am in awe of this town. I teach my first graders about patriotism and we talk about Washington, D.C. and I am standing on this very soil, so I am very excited to be here.
As a first grade teacher at Tovashal Elementary School, wife of a high school special education teacher and mother of five children ranging from sixth grade to college, I have had a variety of experiences that have helped me to arrive at my conclusions about successful reading instruction.
I am not a rocket scientist, so I could not begin to put someone into space, but you do not have to be a rocket scientist to launch a child on an academic course of achievement that will enable him or her to reach their highest potential.
The process does not cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It does take hard work, patience, perseverance, courage and use of a curriculum that follows the current research on how children learn to read.
In my opinion, based on the performance of my students and the students of the teachers that I have trained, when students are systematically taught to read fluently by the end of first grade, not third grade, they have the greatest chance of being successful in later years.
It is so obvious to me how we can solve the educational crisis we face in this country, but you must understand that there are administrators and teachers who have not yet learned the proper method of teaching reading. Some do not want to change and others let their egos get in the way. You would think our colleges and universities would be leading the charge to effectively train new teachers, but this is slow in happening.
Just last year, Jenelle Eady, a first-year teacher, was hired at our school. I had the thrill of training her to teach first grade. Fresh out of college, she had learned to teach whole language, not phonics. She bravely put the whole language method behind her and was willing to learn to teach phonics. By year's end, all of Jenelle's students learned to read and passed our district's literacy assessment. Jenelle is a glowing success story and is confidently helping to train two new teachers this year on our first grade team.
But imagine the teachers who have been teaching for years. These good people were trained in whole language, a miserable experiment that taught children to guess at words by looking at pictures and cues instead of sounding out words as in phonics instruction. Change for these people is difficult. They believed the lie that whole language would enable their students to be lovers of learning, lifelong lovers of learning and authentic literature. Instead, many of their students slipped through the cracks, not reaching their potential, and they sit in our nation's elementary, middle and high schools as well as remedial English classes today. They do not love learning or reading because you cannot love learning or reading if you cannot read.
I do not fault these dedicated teachers and administrators because they were only teaching what they were taught to teach. However, I do fault educators today who refuse to change and who disregard the current research and proven programs. Sadly, there are still those in the state of California and in the nation who are in a state of denial.
The reflection I share with you today is not only my story, but parallels the experiences of many Americans across the land. Like me, they have been in the trenches fighting on behalf of literacy.
Recently, I spent the day with a panel of teachers from several districts in California. As we shared our stories, we were amazed. Change the names and the faces and our testimonials were the same. Each district had a grassroots group of parents and teachers spanning the political spectrum who realized that students were floundering. When we approached our districts with concerns, the response from district officials and other teachers was almost scripted. We were dismissed as uninformed non-educators.
My daughter was a whole language victim. Five years ago when I asked administrators why she could not write a paragraph on a topic using correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, I was told that the children now have spell check and are learning to be creative authors. And I responded with another question, what if they want to be editors? I was then instructed to let the professional educators handle it.
But I was a professional educator. I received my teaching credential in 1977 and I taught and tutored students for years using phonics, so I knew that something was terribly wrong. Even though I volunteered daily at my children's school, campaigned for school construction bonds and was honored by the PTA and nominated for citizen of the year, I became public enemy number one when I raised concerns about the lack of student literacy in our local schools.
So we kept pointing to the research. It continuously revealed that the solution was systematic, explicit instruction. Soon more parents as well as our local school board members were supporting phonics.
Concurrently, Tovashal Elementary School opened in 1996. Under the leadership of our Principal Chuck Jones, I was hired as a first grade teacher and we were allowed to pilot Open Court, a successful phonics-based language arts program. Tovashal's first grade and kindergarten scores that year were too high to be ignored.
Our district then adopted Open Court in kindergarten, first grade and a portion of second grade. Teachers eventually came around as they saw their students succeed using phonics because nothing breed success like success itself.
I believe in my heart of hearts that you, too, want our nation's children to reach their highest potential in order to be productive citizens. We must keep the spotlight on literacy and make it our highest goal. We cannot have the pendulum swing back to the days of unproven methods. Our children's education and the nation's future are at stake.
At Tovashal, we ask our first graders what readers become and they confidently shout ``Readers become leaders!''
I would like to extend an invitation to each one of you to visit our campus and see some real success stories and hear some future leaders read.
WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MRS. PAM BARRET, TEACHER, TOVASHAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, MURIETTA, CALIFORNIA—SEE APPENDIX E
Chairman Goodling. Congressman Scott?
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just wanted to give a special welcome. I know you have introduced Dr. Williams, but I noticed on the witness list she is listed as being from Washington, D.C. That is the organization she is representing, but, of course, she is a professor at Norfolk State University, which is one of the largest historically black colleges and universities in the country. We are just delighted to have her here today.
Dr. Williams, good morning.
STATEMENT OF DR. CARMELITA WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL READING ASSOCIATION, WASHINGTON, DC.
Dr. Williams. Good morning and thank you, Mr. Scott.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. I am indeed delighted to be here.
I am Carmelita Williams, President of the International Reading Association and I am also a professor in the School of Education at Norfolk State University. There, I direct a program for children reading in grades K through 5 and I also direct a Title II grant for our university faculty. This faculty is involved in helping children to learn phonics, as well as whole language strategies and helping children to read well. So some of us are not as slow as you often hear.
In terms of Norfolk State University, being one of the largest predominantly black institutions in the nation, we are very proud to have an expanding role in serving the increasingly diverse community in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Under the leadership of Dr. Marie V. McDemmond, our president, Norfolk State continues to be a leader in providing outstanding education for many young people today.
Again, I want to thank you for having me here to discuss literacy issues and the reading readiness of our nation's children.
However, before I focus on that, I do want to take a minute note the long-term commitment of you, Mr. Chairman, to reading and literacy and to Mr. Scott, to his commitment to equity and excellence in this endeavor. We will miss your services as you retire to the lifelong literacy commitment that you have shown throughout your career, Mr. Goodling.
Literacy is a lifetime process of learning how to take meaning from text. This is a complex process that is always changing as each individual brings new experiences to interact with the text.
When we talk about reading, readers construct meaning by interacting with the text so what readers bring or take to the printed page will impact what they get from the printed page.
Reading readiness or emergent literacy is a critical stage in the process of developing a fully literate person and it is important to understand where our kindergartners are in relationship to mastery of these essential skills and abilities.
If you will look at the chart in the text, you can see that many children come to school with some of the readiness skills. In other words, they come knowing the letters of the alphabet, some of them will come to school knowing the sounds represented by these letters, some will come to school having some knowledge of some sight words and some will be able to read a few sentences. But for the most part, many children will come to school without having these particular skills. And when you want to have children to be able to be good readers, there are some very important things that are very helpful for children coming into kindergarten.
If they know their letters, if they know the sounds represented by these letters, if they have been read to, if they know how the printed page works, and if they have access to reading materials, if they have access to parents who have been educated, they do much better when they come to school.
We know that all of these things are not possible for all children.
The challenge is to understand what the situation is and what needs to be done. For example, simply constructing another set of tests to assess a child's knowledge of the alphabet will not yield us the change that we are looking for. Some children develop skills at different rates than others and this is true of skills required in learning to read.
Perhaps this is clear if you watch a group of five-year-olds play tee-ball. Some can hit the ball, others cannot. And just as in school, the child who cannot hit a ball on top of a tee at age five may grow up to be a star ballplayer. To take this metaphor a bit further, the child who is growing slowly at age five may by age eight have developed a rate of growth that is faster than their age peers. The difference is that in baseball we expect different rates of growth, but somehow in schools and our education system, we sometimes forget that.
America's growing diversity is reflected in the many different languages our children hear and speak at home. This puts an added demand on our nation's schools, as teachers and administrators are faced with the task of meeting a wide range of needs that frequently they have not been trained to expect or understand. This can mean as fundamental an issue as the way different cultures perceive direct eye contact between children and adults. In some cultures, the child is taught to respect adults by not looking them in the eye, while in other cultures this is an insult.
To take this point further, it is also important to understand that teaching is not just about curriculum. Reading instruction alone requires complex and sophisticated knowledge by the teacher, but teachers are also working with students with wider and more complex social and educational problems than ever before.
What a child brings to the school, the background knowledge, his culture, his special attributes, all contribute greatly to his ability to learn in a classroom setting.
In many schools, we know children come into class with social problems that go beyond language and development. When you look at the complexity of helping children to be good learners, you are looking at the content, what it takes for a child to be a good reader, but you are also looking at what the child brings to school, the culture, the background, and you are looking at the instructor, the teacher, what that teacher knows and does for that child when that child is in the classroom. You are looking at that.
Then, finally, you are looking at the school-learning environment, what kind of learning environment is represented in the classroom? In other words, is it a welcoming environment, is it an environment where all children are being addressed, all children are being helped? Is the classroom size such that each child can have the opportunity to move and to learn to the best of his or her ability?
So you are looking at all those complexities when it comes to helping a child to be a good learner, a good reader, and the idea is not to leave any child behind.
As we look at how can we equip schools with reading programs that will meet the needs of all of these students, the International Reading Association has put together a set of recommendations entitled ``Making a Difference Means Making It Different: Honoring Children's Rights to Excellent Reading Instruction.''
We have developed this position paper because meeting the challenges of teaching children to read and write in the 21st century will require a fundamental change in how policymakers, parents and school professionals look at improving schools. Just to give you an example, when we work with parents, we are helping them to understand that they are important to helping their child be successful in school.
I remember the days when I was growing up when parents thought, okay, I do not have to do that, let the school do it, let the teacher do it. And now we know that parents have to play a real important part in helping their child to be successful and helping parents to be aware of that is part of our task in making sure that no child is left behind. Parents have a job to do.
The association believes that the ten specific principles which are listed on your copy, and I will not go into them, but one of the first principles is that children have a right to appropriate early reading instruction based on their individual needs because we know that they have special attributes. They are coming to school with special knowledge, we know they are coming to school from homes where reading makes a difference, where education is important, but we also know that homes exist where education is not important and they are not being encouraged to read.
So I am going to go right to the recommendations that we have listed here.
The first one is that all parts of the early education system, and especially schools and community care programs, need to have teachers who are well qualified to teach reading. This includes the preschool programs where teachers need to have training in how to teach reading. Even at a three-year-old, a four-year-old age now, they can do this.
When we look at brain research and how a child's window of opportunity for learning begins very early in their lives, there are a lot of things that parents can do to ensure that that child is ready for learning when they enter kindergarten.
Then, secondly, more materials need to be developed for use by children from different language backgrounds and these materials need to be in the classroom in sufficient quantities.
We have a position that it is best to teach reading in the child's language that they bring to school from home, but we know that is not always possible. We know that there are parents who feel that they want their children to be immediately immersed in English-only classrooms, even though in their home life they are teaching a different language. We respect that.
We respect those self-determination propositions coming from parents, but we also know that children need in this country to become fluent in English. So it is an issue we are still looking at, how do you deal with second language learners?
We know that there are some parent-school partnership models that have been created and that they are very excellent for helping children learn to read, so we are trying to help parents to also learn best how to help their children.
We need more information about developmental differences and how this information can be disseminated to everyone so that the children can be successful.
We know that students who are developmentally delayed or have related problems need to have access to reading professionals who can help them to learn when the regular classroom situation has not worked. Reading specialists are important. Reading specialists are people who know how to teach reading. We need those people in the classrooms and we need that kind of training that they have to have in order to do well with each child.
Especially important, schools need to have time to teach reading. There are so many things happening during the day that sometimes a teacher of reading may go by the wayside. In some research, they say that there are only seven minutes devoted to the teaching of reading, seven minutes a day, seven minutes a day when a child has the time to read a book, to enjoy reading. Because enjoying reading is one of the most important things that we can help our children to do.
It is all right to know how to read, but if you never read, you are not going to improve in reading. It is not going to come to them by osmosis, you have to be taught, but it is one of the things that you have to do in order to become good at doing it. You have to read. So access to books and all those things are very important.
Finally, we need to understand that our nation faces an enormous challenge in areas of high concentration of poverty. Poverty means not having food, shelter and safety. The impact of poverty cannot be minimized. In our nation, poverty is concentrated in our cities. We cannot continue to build national programs that do not allow cities to create the mechanisms they need to help their kids. We need to spend money to educate teachers about the needs of urban children and how best to make sure that these kids are able to read well.
The ideas that have been developed in our suburban environments are inadequate to the task of educating all of these children. The frustrating part is that we do have the knowledge of how to reach these kids, to reach them early and to make a difference in their lives. The question is do we have the will to make a difference.
Each child should have the opportunity to be taught by a good teacher, as well qualified teacher. There should be time to teach reading each day. Children should have access to print, plenty of books to read. They should be in a privileged environment and we should also adequately assess children so that those kids who are not getting it by third grade as you talked about the fact that in third grade many kids are reading to learn, we need to make sure that by third grade that we do not have to continue to talk about adults not reading because we did not leave any child behind, that all children are able to read.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I look forward to your questions.
WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF DR. CARMELITA WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL READING ASSOCIATION, WASHINGTON, DC.—SEE APPENDIX F
Chairman Goodling. Thank you.
Some members have left to vote, and they will come back so that we can keep going and then we will go and vote.
Next is Ms. Martino. She is accompanied by Pam Neifert, who is the Director of Federal Programs in the City of York and I have worked with Pam for a long time.
Ms. Martino also is involved with Crispus Attucks, and I wish you all had a Crispus Attucks like the one we have in York, run by a Bobbie Simpson, who is a no-nonsense person who runs the show.
STATEMENT OF MS. JAQUELINE MARTINO, TEACHER, YORK EVEN START PROGRAM, YORK, PENNSYLVANIA; ACCOMPANIED BY PAM NEIFERT, DIRECTOR OF FEDERAL PROGRAMS, CITY OF YORK, PENNSYLVANIA.
Ms. Martino. Thank you, Chairman Goodling. Thank you for the invitation, and I appreciate the opportunity to address the committee on the impact of family literacy programs.
I have worked in Even Start since May of 1993 with families from all walks of life. Members of these families have had real educational needs. These needs have been in life skills, parenting skills, high school diploma or GED attainment and language acquisition.
A few of the stories from those families are:
There is a Hispanic father in our program who spoke a little English. He felt like a failure as a father and an outcast at his job. Within a year, this father learned English. He was able to communicate with his co-workers, explain situations to his supervisor, and he was able to read stories to his daughters and help them with their homework. You can imagine the pride and sense of accomplishment this man felt after learning to speak English.
An African-American mother who came to our program with a negative attitude, low self esteem and very little parenting skills earned her GD. That same mother entered a training program for nurses and is now working in a nursing home. In Even Start, she practiced mock interviews, learned to teach and play with her daughter and gain confidence in herself. Her daughter is now an honor roll student.
A Cambodian family who could not speak any English came to our program. We were able to talk to them using signs. Both parents learned enough English to start work and the parents earned their driver's licenses and bought a car. Their children are now doing well in school.
A family from France who could not speak English came to our program. The mother and daughters were in the Even Start program for a year. The mother learned enough English to help her older daughter be successful in school. Her younger daughter left our program as a real true conversationalist.
A Mexican family who came to our program presented a challenge to us. The children were so shy it was difficult to communicate with them. Their mother was also shy and not sure of herself. After participating in our program, the mother volunteered in the Summer Migrant Program. She now writes stories in English and helps fellow students with translations. The children have just started school and are doing well. Her oldest child is in the gifted program.
A family from Argentina. The mother was a college graduate, but did not speak enough English to obtain a job. She was going to go back to Argentina until she found our program. She took ESL and parenting classes. She received her work permit and now works in the public library system. She is now helping those who were in the same predicament that she was in.
The last story I share with you is that of a young lady with a learning disability who had her first child at the age of 14. She came to the program to learn to read since she dropped out of school when she had her first child. She was very frustrated because she could not read and was worried that she could not help her daughter when she started school.
The mother got a tutor from our program and learned her basics. Her daughter is doing well in school. She reads to her mother and helps her mother with difficult words. They work well together. And even her small son that had a problem with the high level of lead that diagnosed during a screening at Even Start is doing well and learning in leaps and bounds.
I could share many more stories that would touch your heart, but my intent is to assure that you understand the important impact family literacy programs have on people and communities. It must be understood that parents are their child's first teacher. My job is to assist the children in these families to achieve their full potential. Since the parents are their child's first teacher, it is imperative that the parents are involved in the educational development of their child.
Parents who participate in our program, however, were students who dropped out of school for many different reasons. Parents have told me reasons such as pregnancy, family finances, lost interest, language barriers, self-esteem issues, peer pressure, et cetera, et cetera. Many of the parents do not have a positive experience of school and have major educational needs of their own. This results in a lack of confidence in their abilities. Therefore, how can he or she teach a child to do well in school?
Many parents do not speak English at all. They need to listen and adjust and they need things modeled for them. Whether it is reading or writing or participating in conversation, how can one teach their child if they cannot understand or speak English? Remember, they are still an individual with rich cultural price and they come bringing something with them, their hunger to excel for a better life for their children.
And then there are the parents who cannot read at all and I am talking about the ones that were born in the United States. They never mastered the skill or they were just pushed through school. How can this person teach their child? How can they support their education? How do you build the confidence or the self-esteem of a parent who has been told continuously that he or she is dumb and will always be dumb and your children will be morons, too? If this person is told this enough he or she begins to live it. It begins a vicious cycle which carries on in families through generations.
I feel that York Even Start Program has a positive effect on families who have utilized the program. Parents and children learn to speak English, parents have earned their GEDs, and parents have improved their parenting skills. Our parents are taught and encouraged to read to their children have their children read to them every day.
Two parents in the program could not read at all when they began the program. The parent educators helped them create books to read to their children. If you could have seen the faces of the two adult students as they first began to recognize letters, then words and finally the first time they read to their children, it is a sight that I will carry with me all my life and their faces were beaming with pride.
Parents in our program are taught to take trips to the library regularly. They are encouraged to check out books for themselves as well as their children and to participate in activities at the library. Our field trips and opportunities are made available so that the parents can learn age appropriate expectations.
Parents participate in PACT. PACT is our Parent and Child Time. This is the time that the staff stresses the importance of the parent being the child's first teacher. Together, the parent and child do literacy activities, hands-on activities, and they play.
In parenting classes, parents are taught to become part of a team. They are empowered to be involved in their child's school experience. Parents are encouraged to volunteer in school and to talk to their child's teacher whether there is a problem or not. Some parents are intimidated by teachers and/or feel it is a sign of disrespect to question a teacher. They are taught that it is their right as a parent.
Parents are also taught positive ways to discipline. Parents in the program form and maintain connections within the community and their resources. Speakers from different organizations come and give informative speeches on topics that are offered in the community. Whether it be health, housing, nutrition, safety, this is a way that parents build resources in their community.
Parents learn to teach their child as an individual. All children do not learn in the same manner and they should not be compared to each other. Parents also learn the importance of supporting and not just talking to their children, but also listening.
Parents become part of an advisory group that functions to plan educational and hands-on activities, field trips and special events.
And, now, on behalf of these families, I thank you for the programs such as Even Start, which changes lives forever.
WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MS. JAQUELINE MARTINO, TEACHER, YORK EVEN START PROGRAM, YORK, PENNSYLVANIA; ACCOMPANIED BY PAM NEIFERT, DIRECTOR OF FEDERAL PROGRAMS, CITY OF YORK, PENNSYLVANIA—SEE APPENDIX G
Mr. Petri. [Presiding] Thank you.
The shuffling going on, there is a vote on the House floor. I was able to go over and vote and come back, so the chairman is now voting, but he will be back in just a minute, as will some of the other committee members. This enables us to proceed rather than interrupting the very interesting testimony.
The last witness is Mr. Ramirez.
STATEMENT OF MR. ENRIQUE RAMIREZ, FORMER ADULT EDUCATION STUDENT, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Mr. Ramirez. Hi. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, members of the committee, for having me here today.
I am sorry right now I don't have a written statement to give to you, but what I have, it does come from the heart and it is reality, what's going on in our country.
I couldn't read and I couldn't write and in 1983, when my son was born, I could not even find where he was at in the hospital. It bothered me, it hurt me, but I had to find my way to find my son and my wife.
As time went on, there's a special bond between a father and a son and a parent who wants to read to their child. As you know, it is important to read to your child. As a young father at the age of 25 at the time, I could not do this. I could not perform a simple task by reading a bedtime story to my son.
It hurt me and it hurt him. Night after night, I would send my son to bed crying because his father couldn't read to him. He thought his father was just a grouchy old man.
Well, not only was he crying, I was hurting and crying inside. You see, my father, he never read to me. He was an alcoholic, but we were never close. I didn't want this to happen to my son.
I knew at this time I had to make a change in my life. I had to build a bond between my son and I. I did not want a distance like what happened with me.
I remember it was late one night, about 1:30 in the morning, something like that, I seen an advertisement on TV about a gentleman who went through a reading program and was able to learn to read, learn to write and move up at his job. And I went, wow, that's cool. You know, I was a janitor, I was not really going anywhere, and I said I am going to check this out. I was excited.
So I called, 1:30 in the morning, I am ready to learn now, okay? However, nobody was there, I got a number. However, it took a little while for me to get the courage to call.
When I did call the program, they asked me to come downtown to this address in San Francisco. I went down there and I go, wow, look at this, a library, who would have thought? I just saw the buildings from the outside.
I went inside and I saw a different world. I saw a world of people in this literacy program who were willing to take time to help adults like myself and I am going, this is cool. I like this. I'm going to be in there by 9:00 and out by 1 o'clock, learning how to read.
Well, it didn't take that little short time, but it did take a long time. But I tell you one thing, within four months, I did read that bedtime story to my son. And I did start building a bond between my son and I, the way it should be. And all those years I've hidden from my wife that I couldn't read and I couldn't write, and that's something that I couldn't do any longer, so I had to tell her, too.
My son never looked at me and my wife never looked at me as a person who failed, who was weak, because I was encouraged by my son to do better for myself. And as I continued on in the literacy program, my jobs got better.
I improved my reading skills a lot, and one of the most important things that come out of this was that I was able to provide for my family, buy a home, and be really close to my son. And in '87, I was able to find where my daughter was born. I was able to find my way around and do things.
And then I got promoted at United Airlines. Prior to that, I used to just handle the bags, the cargo. I became a trainer. I traveled across the country; I traveled to Japan and to London, to train people how to use a hand-held PC to scan the freight. I was an instructor. I have gone to Washington to speak on this before, to tell you the importance of literacy.
Years ago, you invested money into a program of literacy, a library program, adult education. In return, I am able to get a better job. Your investment is working. I just want to let you know it does work. You are pulling people off of welfare. You are getting people out there to work, where they need to get to be. People need to be a part of this workforce. Correct. I know it is right.
Your investment is working. That's the best investment you have ever made. I am here today to tell you that.
Thank you for what you've done. You've changed my life. I feel that you've made me a better father, a better husband. I have strong support from my family, and I'd like to make one note. What I have to say is a challenge for you.
This country has an illiteracy problem. If you can take the ill out of the illiteracy, make this country more literate; I think this will be a better place if you can do this.
Your investment is working. We're here to tell you that. It does work. People are becoming more literate, and I'd like to thank you very much.
Mr. Petri. Thank you. And now we turn to questions from members of the committee, starting with Mr. Kildee.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you very much. I appreciated all the testimony. It was very, very helpful. I apologize for the interrupted vote there.
Dr. Langenberg, you talked about the evolution of our knowledge and application of physics in the 20th century. In the last ten years or even less, we have discovered enormously more about the physical development of the human brain and the effect of external stimuli on that physical development of the brain.
Are we in education ready to apply this new knowledge of the development of the brain to our teaching of reading? Or how unprepared are we? What is our teaching training institutions doing with this new knowledge we have of the physical development of the brain?
Dr. Langenberg. I am way outside my field here, but I think it will take quite a while before we're fully ready to apply what we are learning.
In this field, as in many others, there is a very interesting iterative feedback in which new technology is used to do new experiments to learn new things, which then can be turned into new technology. I do have the impression from the literature that progress is becoming more and more rapid in the neural sciences. I am aware that many people, one of the members of the National Reading Panel, Dr. Shaywitz, actually does research on children learning to read in MRI machines, so in fact she can see brain changes and brain operations going on.
All of that ultimately, I think, will lead to significant applications, but it will take a long time.
Mr. Kildee. I ask that question because I have living with me now my two-year-old grandson. Since I have learned from the reading of the physical development of the brain, which depends a great deal upon that external stimuli, I read to him regularly and it is incredible. He's been with me for about six months now and, of course, those are a very critical six months in the development anyway, but it is amazing the almost miracle that keeps unfolding in his reading skills and his verbal skills. It is incredible.
I as a layman am trying to apply what I have learned from the field on the physical development of the brain, but I think you as a physicist can see things from a scientific point of view and know that when Einstein did his E=MC2 eventually that became something very, very practical. It was very theoretical at first. And if we can make that quantum leap in the field of reading from our knowledge of the development of the human brain, it would be a marvelous thing indeed.
But I really appreciate your coming. We very often have_and the educators did an excellent job, too, in explaining this, but someone from another field very often can see things and see the potential for development. I very much appreciate your testimony.
Dr. Langenberg. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Kildee. I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. Petri. Thank you.
Mr. Schaffer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My question is for Dr. Williams initially.
In your testimony, you outlined these ten rights that the International Reading Association has identified. Would you agree that children who are being taught to read have a right to have their teachers follow the findings of the National Reading Panel as outlined by Dr. Langenberg today?
Dr. Williams. I do agree that teachers should definitely look at the latest research so they can work with making sure that they implement the best practices coming out from the report and I can say that many teachers are.
We know that comprehension of the reading text is very important and we know that strategic comprehension makes a difference, helping children to be able to read the printed page.
Have you ever read a page and you got down to the bottom of the page and you didn't know what you had read? What did you do when that happened to you?
Helping children to understand that they have to move the information some way besides just rereading it, they have to put it in their own words, they have to map it out, but they have to be strategic learners and they have to be able to monitor their reading to be able to be a successful reader. That is coming out from the panel.
Plus, we know that fluency is important. Many times I tell people that I want the children to read lots and lots of easy materials because that is how you develop fluency. That is one of the ways that you will have children to read every word in a book, to be able to get a book that they can read and they do know the words.
So, yes, we think all of the information coming out of the reading panel report is very important and that we are encouraging all of our teachers to use that information to the fullest.
Mr. Schaffer. I do not know whether you had a chance to receive the written testimony from all the panelists as we do here.
Dr. Williams. No, I have not.
Mr. Schaffer. We can make sure that occurs.
Dr. Williams. Okay.
Mr. Schaffer. Dr. Langenberg mentioned in his written remarks that certain, and I'm quoting, ``certain instructional methods are better than others and that many of the more effective methods are ready for implementation in the classroom. For example, there was overwhelming evidence that systematic phonics instruction enhances children's success in learning to read and that such instruction is significantly more effective than instruction that teaches little or no phonics.''
And so my question is what is the International Reading Association doing specifically to ensure that direct systematic phonics instruction is an essential component of reading instruction?
Dr. Williams. Well, that is definitely an essential component. Being able to systematically teach phonics is important. It is one of the major components of helping a child to read because what it does it helps the child to be an independent reader, to know the sounds represented by all the letters. So to teach it systematically rather than having the children to guess at which letter or sound you are teaching is much better, so we definitely agree with that.
We also have a position statement on the teaching of phonics. We know that phonics is important, it is an important component, along with phonemic awareness, but we know that there are several components to having a successful reader, not just phonics and phonemic awareness. We also believe in reading to children, reading aloud to children. We also recognize the fact that shared reading, guided reading, language experiences, all of these are important in having an engaged reader because we know that children do not get turned off by knowing just "bh", "dh", and "kh", they also need to understand about the pleasures and joys of reading.
Mr. Schaffer. Mrs. Barret indicated in her prepared remarks that whole language, and I'm quoting again, ``Whole language is a big reason for illiteracy today. Now that the cry for phonics has swept the nation, the whole language believers say they have embedded phonics and systematic contextual phonics. They claim to provide a balanced reading program. In truth, these aren't systematic or direct, but rather implicit phonics where phonics is implied. These are counterfeit balanced reading programs,'' she says.
And I want to know do you agree with Mrs. Barret?
Dr. Williams. I do not agree totally that phonics. I agree with Mrs. Barret in that phonics should be systematically taught. Whenever we have very good whole language programs, those teachers, and I am a former first grade teacher, those teachers taught phonics systematically. Even though the whole language strategies have proven to be those kinds of strategies that encourage children to want to read, good teachers always have known that they needed to also teach phonics, they also need to make children aware of phonemic awareness, so there are some strong components that each program needs to have in order to be an excellent reading program. And phonics is definitely one of them, but phonics is not the only one.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Scott?
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Langenberg, you indicated, as I guess several of you have indicated, the importance of research. Where do the state school system and 15,000 districts across the state, where do they get that research? Do they have to kind of sift through it and figure out on their own what is best?
Dr. Langenberg. Boy, is that a big question. Where does the research come from? Well, it is performed within universities and other institutions.
What happens to it when it is done? It is reported in the scientific literature. And often, too often, that is the end of the responsibility of the researcher, as they see it.
But the transition to application of that knowledge is very hard, very complicated. That is true in education as it is true in other areas like my own, physics, and so teachers want to be taught how to analyze and judge research, but they also need a lot of help from the researchers themselves.
Mr. Scott. Does the Federal Government have a role in helping to kind of compile and present the various options so that a small rural school district does not have to figure out everything on its own?
Dr. Langenberg. I think it does. I think it can. In that regard, as in many others, I think the Federal Government has important roles right from the beginning, the early support of research right through assisting in the mechanisms for transforming it into applications.
Mr. Scott. Well, let me ask any of the witnesses, including you, Dr. Langenberg, how is the Federal Government doing in that role, in helping present research so that people know what they're doing?
Dr. Langenberg. I would say not as well as it might.
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
Dr. Langenberg. I think further emphasis would be appropriate.
Mr. Scott. Good.
Does anybody else have a comment on that? Dr. Williams?
Dr. Williams. At Norfolk State University, we do have several grants. One is a Title II grant where we are working with helping teachers to understand how to use technology as well as how to implement the latest research on best practices when it comes to helping new teachers going out into the field to know what the report says coming out of the National Reading Panel, coming out of preventing difficulties.
We also have a Title III grant that encourages using technology, that promotes the use of technology in working with teachers, present teachers, in-service teachers. So we have several grants that focus coming from the Federal Government that helps us to focus on preparing teachers to do well when they go out into the field.
Mr. Scott. After you have done all that good research, what happens to the information?
Dr. Williams. In terms of the information? It is reported back to you on a regular basis.
Mr. Scott. I guess it is our responsibility, then, to figure out what to do with it.
Chairman Goodling. Mrs. Barret wanted to respond
Mrs. Barret. I was going to say, this is like a draft form of something we have in California called ``Learning to Read'' and it is components of beginning reading instruction, K to 8. And I will tell you, I am real happy about what is happening in California. There has been a huge fight there. If you read my testimony, I have left a ton of information out, but these different methodologies fighting together and when the research came out, California has it published in something that is a much nicer copy than this, but it talks about all of the components and what all of the research says on what is the most effective way to put those together in a classroom. That is real helpful for teachers.
I know that is not coming from the federal government, but I am saying, boy, why reinvent the wheel? There are states doing this now and there are standards in place.
Mr. Scott. Thank you. I do not mean to cut you off, but I wanted to get in one more question before that red light comes on and that is what effect the student/teacher ratio has on all of this effectiveness.
Mrs. Barret. I will tell you that it is much easier, of course, to teach with 20 in the classroom, but this was never about how many kids are in the classroom. It has always been about what are you teaching the children, what is the curriculum, what is the methodology that is being used. And I had 32 in 1996 in my classroom and I worked just as hard as I am working now. Yes, it is a little easier, but it is always about the methodology. It is always about most effective instruction, not having them guess at words.
We have in our elementary schools, as I mentioned, we have kids who were victims of whole language who were, you know, immersed in literacy. They had the rich print all around them, they could guess through all these books. But if you gave them a new text with no pictures, these children had no clue what was on that paper.
Furthermore, they could not spell. I will tell you when the doctor was say methodological, I went, oh, that is a word by November my first graders will spell because they know the symbols that I have taught them, they know the rules how that is put together. Man, I am going to put that on a spelling quiz.
My point is that, you know, all the fluff was in there. My fourth grade daughter cooked all of first grade, oh, that was fun, thought she was reading recipes. Let me tell you, she was not. And I was too much of a chicken then to take a stand until things got tough for her in fourth grade. We cannot go back to that.
You know, I read rich literature to my children. They are learning to read; they are reading these little first step stories. Decodable text. That means there are words in there that are based on the lessons that have previously been taught. For example, this ``Grab a Star,'' if I took a glass here and if I had a felt pen I would put an A-R on there and we teach the children that the A-R is like gargling apple juice or something, AR, AR, AR. And so they all take their little hands and, you know, do the little AR, AR, and then we have added this new sound so they are reading a story.
This story is a story about a mother and a child and the child is looking at the stars and he says, ``Gee, I want to touch that star.''
And just like I am wearing stars here today, I want my children to reach for the stars. He cannot reach for that star, it is impossible, but this mother is very smart and he says to her, ``Mom, you are smart. A-R says AR.'' So the kids read that. And we put these flashlights on and we turn it on and we are shining stars all over the kids. We are giving them a star that they can touch. We are helping them to be a star in whatever it is their potential_
Mr. Scott. Mr. Chairman_
Mrs. Barret. Am I over? I am sorry.
Mr. Scott. Could I get Dr. Williams just to say a word about the student/teacher ratio and the effect that might have? Just a quick word?
Dr. Williams. Thank you, Mr. Scott. One of the things we have discovered is that the student ratio does make a difference because one thing about having the small class size, you are able to hone in on each child and you are able to make sure that each child is learning so that no child is left behind. In a class of 30 or 35, it is really difficult to make sure that each child is getting what that child needs to be successful, because you know coming into the classroom, each child is coming with special attributes, coming from special cultures and being able to reach and touch each child to ensure that he is successful makes a difference. And smaller class size can help do that.
Chairman Goodling. Dr. Williams, I am sure you will be happy to admit in this political debate that we have, if you cannot put a quality teacher in that classroom, it really does not matter what the size of the classroom is. You will probably say if you only have 15 and you have a lousy teacher you are going to save the other 15 that do not have to be in that classroom.
Mr. Ehlers. It is hard to follow that wisdom, Mr. Chairman.
I apologize for missing most of the hearing, I was across the hall in a hearing about Sierra Leone, but I do want to just pursue Mr. Scott's question to Dr. Langenberg on the issue of research.
We have had substantial testimony in the past year both in this committee and in the science committee indicating that the research done on education in the United States and perhaps worldwide is just by and large not first rate quality. The figure that was tossed around by a number of speakers is 20 percent is very good, solid research, 80 percent is questionable. The question is if that is true, how can we improve that situation?
As you well know from your research work in physics, there is a good cadre of excellent work out there and everyone tries to reach that level and the peer review process works very well, but how can you do it when the peers are not very good? In other words, how can you pull yourselves up by your bootstraps when you do not have boots to begin with?
And I am wondering how you as a university president view that. Would you agree with the testimony?
Secondly, if you were at a university where you did not have the quality of research, how would you address that and how do you think American universities in general should address that problem?
Dr. Langenberg. Like many non-experts, I have exactly the right answer. First of all, let me note that of the 100,000 or so research reports that the panel dealt with, perhaps 10, 20,000 or so might cover some of the larger, more heavily studied subjects.
When the panel members came to applying those methodological standards, that basically the research be soundly scientifically based to, let's say 10,000 reports, they very frequently found themselves winding up with several hundred that they could really use as a basis for deriving conclusions.
I am not sure that is so much a matter of quality but of character, of kind. Teaching and learning is, in my view, like many problems in the hard sciences. They are interdisciplinary. In order really to understand who children learn to read, it seems to me that we want to have research performed by interdisciplinary teams that might include a neuroscientist, a psychologist, a linguist, an educator, and maybe in this day and age a computer analyst as well.
In addition, the large-scale clinical trial style research that is necessary in the end to determine whether a proposed methodology or a skill really does work has to be large and long-standing. Typical for a biomedical clinical trial might be five years, 5 million bucks for a moderate-sized trial; big ones are ten times that.
We are not really equipped, either with the interdisciplinary researchers in our universities nor by the funding mechanisms in our Federal Government that fund that research to do the kind of jobs that need to be done in that area.
What I would do on my part and, in fact, what I am planning to do in the odd moment, is to see whether I can create some interest in my institution in such a large interdisciplinary research. Call it a center or an institute that might in fact do the kind of research I think needs done. But if we could create that, the question then arises where are you going to get the kind of funding required to do research on that scale? That is your side of the job.
Mr. Ehlers. Yes. Thank you.
And that leads to my second question, which in my experience and in the testimony we received as well, but also as I say my personal experience, that one of the biggest difficulties in teacher training is the divorce between the so-called academic departments and the schools of education. And I am convinced we cannot do a good job of preparing future teachers unless we bridge that gap and bring them together in some systematic way. It is happening on an individual basis, but not systematically or frequently enough.
That might well tie in with your idea of interdisciplinary research and perhaps the issues that every university president should be encouraging their schools of education to work closely with the so-called academic departments, not just in teacher training, but also in research, and not just in research, but also in teacher training.
Dr. Langenberg. Yes, I agree completely.
Mr. Ehlers. Does that seem reasonable to you?
Dr. Langenberg. I agree completely.
Mr. Ehlers. How would you envision the federal government playing a role in encouraging the universities to do that other than through research funding? Or is that the only mechanism?
Dr. Langenberg. Well, that is certainly the principal mechanism. Education in our country is by and large a local matter and it is very difficult for the Federal Government to get into the middle of such things as teacher training, but in the standards which increasingly are being considered such as the Title II standards, reporting standards for teacher certification that are now coming into place, there is a mechanism that could encourage institutions to make sure that their young would-be math teachers actually know some math and their young would-be science teachers actually are adept at science. That's a possible mechanism.
Mr. Ehlers. We have one other hook; if I may just, Mr. Chairman, mention this.
That is we have many loan forgiveness programs here for various means and one way to use a loan forgiveness program would be to provide loan forgiveness for teachers who do fulfill that and get that type of curriculum.
Dr. Langenberg. That is correct.
Mr. Ehlers. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. Mr. Kind.
Mr. Kind. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This has been a very interesting panel and I want to thank all the witnesses for coming and testifying before us today.
I want to especially thank Ms. Brandon for your outstanding job in appearing before us and testifying. Did you prepare that statement yourself for us today? You did a wonderful, wonderful job.
Also, Mr. Ramirez for your inspirational testimony. It is always great getting some feedback on programs that are working and working well, but I, too, believe we have a great untapped potential that exists out there with adults and their literacy skills, that if we can upgrade them, make them more productive members of our society as obviously you have been able to achieve, better members of society, but also better parents and fathers and husbands as you have testified, we would be a lot better off.
I think it requires an incredible amount of courage for adults to recognize that challenge and then go in and do something about it, as you have.
So thank you for your testimony.
I just want to touch upon a couple of issues and open it up for anyone who has some information on it, but maybe we could start with Dr. Langenberg.
In regards to the use of computer technology in teaching literacy skills, what is going on out there? Is that becoming more and more frequently used? Since it is so new, I cannot imagine there is a lot of published reports and feedback in that area, but obviously there has been a big ramp up in the education system in trying to get kids access to computers and teachers in using that right now.
That is one area and let me just ask the other one briefly, too, and then we can just open it up a little bit. There has been a huge increase in preschool programs being developed right now. I know I have a school district in my district in western Wisconsin that went to a universal preschool program.
Are we getting some information back as far as the academic component of literacy and reading at the preschool level, whether that makes sense at that level, or if it is too much too soon?
And with that, we will just open it, maybe starting with you, Dr. Langenberg.
Dr. Langenberg. The panel did look at the area of technology-enhanced literacy education and did not find a lot. That didn't surprise anybody. There is some there and some of it is pretty good, but in my view, that is a relatively unexplored area and one that I think ought to be strongly supported by the Federal Government.
Mr. Kind. Thank you. Anyone else? Any information on the use of computer technology for literacy?
Mr. Ramirez. In the program that I belong to, Project Read in South San Francisco, they do have a computer lab for adults because, as we know, the workforce is changing. There are more computers in the workplace and many adults who have been there for 20, 30 years have to learn how to use these computers, such as I had to learn. Without these programs, you know, I would have been out of a job again. I know they have some; they are just starting up in our program. They are very low funded. We get, you know, computers that are used from donors who just want to give them up. But just to let you know, they are working and in our program it works very well, to get people comfortable using them.
Mr. Kind. I imagine a lot is going to depend on the quality of the program. If it is just drill and memorization, it probably is not going to be the most effective teaching tool available to students. And then again we are hearing some of the early childhood development experts coming out now publicly saying maybe we are going too fast too soon in the use of computers, especially with children at very young ages, and that may not be the appropriate exposure that they need at that level at least.
Dr. Williams, did you have a comment?
Dr. Williams. We are working at the university to ensure that our teachers who are going out into the schools have a good working knowledge of how best to use computers in the classroom. There are many ramifications to it and we are not all there yet, however we are doing things like making sure they understand about students, having them to use the List serve, being able to use the computer to make a system, and understanding the language of computers. There are many areas we are working on and trying to make sure that they have the equipment. That is another big, big issue, in knowing what software would be best to help children to read well and so we are making progress there, but we still have a long way to go.
Mr. Kind. What about the greater use of preschool education programs, not an illiteracy component of that? Have you looked into that aspect, how important that is at a preschool level, to get the kids prepared for their formal education careers?
Mrs. Barret. I would like to say that I think it is important. I know the kindergartners that come to our school who have been in preschool, if they have just had a free for all and there is no building of language, there is no word play, no rhyming, no work with phonemic awareness, those children that come to kindergarten are not prepared and then those kindergartners then come to first grade not prepared because they have difficulty blending words because the phonemic awareness isn't there.
So my perspective as a first grade teacher and the experiences that I have had working with kindergarten teachers, those preschoolers need to come in language rich and being able to play with words and rhyme words and that is a wonderful precursor to being successful at decoding words.
Mr. Kind. Dr. Langenberg, did you have something to add?
Dr. Langenberg. I just wanted to add a story that I think is relevant to the computer issue.
Kids do wonderful things and recently in, I think, the Baltimore Sun there was an interesting story about a small agricultural village near Hyderabad in India. Now, Hyderabad, as many of you know, is basically the center of India's Silicon Valley and India produces the second or third largest number of IT professionals in the world. But all around it are little Indian villages, doing agriculture, much the way they have for centuries.
One of the people in Hyderabad installed a computer in each of a number of these villages. They put them in the center of the village behind glass and they knew keyboards and mice would not survive, so they put a joystick and an Internet connection and they went away and left it. And watched.
The village kids started playing with it and lo and behold, one of the first things they did, they did get rid of the Internet, they liked Microsoft Word better, and the next thing you know the kids are downloading music from the web, they're doing all of the things that our kids do, and it is just absolutely amazing. And the teacher is outraged, for reasons that we can go into later, if you like.
Mr. Kind. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. I will take my turn next and then, Mr. Holt, you will be the next one after me.
Dr. Langenberg, if the president at my university gives Dr. Szymanski and sufficient support, I think she will turn that education department around. I reminded him research is not the greatest thing that they have to do. The greatest thing they have to do is prepare quality teachers for classrooms today.
Ms. Butler, I do not envy you your job, but you are doing God's work and I just wish you the very best because if we cannot turn it around in those early grades, I do not know how we are ever going to, as I said before, compete in the 21st century.
Miss. Brandon, do you read magazines and newspapers?
Miss. Brandon. Yes.
Chairman Goodling. And how many books do you think you read in a year's time?
Miss. Brandon. About four.
Chairman Goodling. What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
Miss. Brandon. Harry Potter books and Arthur books.
Chairman Goodling. Are you teaching everybody at home the joy of reading good books and magazines and newspapers?
Miss. Brandon. Yes.
Chairman Goodling. Do they find you a nuisance?
Miss. Brandon. Yes.
Chairman Goodling. Just keep it up.
I would say to Mrs. Barret and Dr. Williams, if we could get as many; if we could fill classrooms with enthusiastic people who are knowledgeable, we could turn this situation around. I watched what was happening in California so many times and it just seems that repeatedly they are the biggest and they have made the biggest mistakes of any. I can say that, George Miller is not here right now, so I can get away with that.
Dr. Williams, I was not indicating that early grade small classrooms are not ideal. I did not come to Washington to ask to do that as a superintendent, I went to my school board and we did that 30 years ago in kindergarten, first and second grade. However, we had a quality person to put in there. The first 30 percent that we hired under this new program from the federal level were totally unqualified. Now, we put them into classrooms where just last year New York News or one of the New York newspapers had headlines ``Parents, do you realize that 50 percent of all of your teachers are totally unqualified?''
And so we have been trying on the Higher Education Act to force these colleges and universities to turn out qualified people for the 21st century.
Last year, we had a hearing here and we asked the first grade teacher what instruction did you have on teaching reading in college and I assumed she was going to say I had a course on how to teach reading and if you do not know how to teach reading, she said I did not have any courses in how to teach reading. She said my professor said that if I could read, I could teach anybody to read.
Well, we just heard from a rocket scientist this morning that teaching reading is a step above rocket science. Mr. Ehlers, we heard that in your absence. You didn't know it, and you did not understand their conversation back and forth; they are scientists and they are above my level.
Mr. Ehlers. Be careful, Mr. Chairman, you are outnumbered here. We have three of us now.
Chairman Goodling. Ms. Martino, have you done follow-ups to see how the children are doing after they have left, in second grade, third grade and so on, when they left Even Start?
Ms. Martino. Yes, we do that through the school district. We track them through the school distract. Every year, that is part of our reporting.
Chairman Goodling. And how are they doing?
Ms. Martino. Most of them are doing pretty well. I know some of the children that I have had are honor roll students. A lot of the students are honor roll students and doing pretty well in school because I know them personally through not only Even Start but at Crispus Attucks.
Chairman Goodling. And Mr. Ramirez, you are the example that we need to show on television and movies and everything else to make sure people understand, you know, how you get ahead in this world and reading is certainly a very, very important part of that.
So I thank all of you for your testimony. It has been an enlightening experience. Now all we have to do is keep, as I tell this committee and they are tired of hearing it, talking in terms of quality instead of quantity and results instead of process. I think we are moving in the right direction. I just wish there were more we could do once they get beyond first, second. I do not even buy this third grade business that everybody talks about because I think there are dropouts_if they are not reading at a first grade level, they are pretty much dropouts by the end of first grade, not physically.
Mr. Holt. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this hearing. It is timely and important and you have been not just a leader_
Chairman Goodling. Another scientist, I might say.
Mr. Holt. You have been not just a leader, but the leader in this fight for literacy and I hardly need to repeat that literacy really is the primary tool for lifelong learning. It opens up doors for new opportunities and experiences, it makes possible, I believe, learning in science and math and art as well.
One of the things that seems clear to me is that we cannot wait until these children start school. Reading to young children in the early years and before school and during those early school ages clearly has a profound effect.
I wanted to mention a piece of legislation that Mr. Upton and nine other members of this committee and I have introduced called the Book Stamp Act, which will help provide children with their own books. It would authorize money to issue a special postage stamp, which would be sold at slightly more than 33 cents, the additional revenues would be distributed through childcare and development block grants to the state child care agencies in each state. The state agencies would allocate the funds so that books would end up in the hands of children.
These non-profit agencies work with established book distribution programs such as First Book, Reading is Fundamental, Reach out and Read, you know some of these.
And since the youngest children cannot read on their own, these agencies will also work with the parents and the child care providers to educate them on the best ways to read to children and the most effective use of books with children at various stages of development.
So I have a couple of questions. Let me first start with a question that I would address to any or all of you. What role do you see for such non-profit agencies for the earliest years, the preschool years, in seeing that children actually have books to treasure?
I would open that up to any of you who would care to speak.
Ms. Butler. It is a very important role and we need it. I must add that I first started in education in early childhood, I started with the Head Start programs back in the early 1970s and back then there was a need then for us to start giving enriching literacy events for children, having lap readers to come in, the foster grandparent programs to come in and read to these children and also to hand children books.
We have a real big RIF program that we have in the district, I know, and RIF is Reading is Fundamental, it is a very important entity in the District schools that get the books into the hands of children and for parents.
I want to also address the early education programs that we have in the District because we are very unique in having full-time, full-day pre-kindergarten programs. Our children start at 2.9 in the District and they are going to school all day long. So we need lots of books. We need lots of literacy programs. So we have introduced programs such as the Letter People to our children and we have in this project, the NICHD project, we are trying to reach down to our pre-kindergarten programs and we are giving them phonological awareness activities, the phoneme awareness, because they need to hear the sounds and all of that. But most and more importantly they need books, like you said.
Mr. Holt. Ms. Williams, Mr. Ramirez?
Dr. Williams. I would just like to add that having access to print is very important for early readers and if a child is able to select a book to be read to, to have a book of his or her own, that is very important. And as a RIF coordinator for the past 21 years, having programs where we have children who are age 3 on up to be able to select a book, it really makes a difference. And it is another book into the home where there may not be lots of books already. So I think when children are able to access, have access to books, they learn how the printed page works, they learn about words, they learn about ideas and concepts, so having books in the home and having their own books, that is very important.
Mr. Holt. The time is flying and I did want to get one other question in.
This is perhaps redundant from what my friend the other physicist on this committee addressed to our physicist panelist here. I am pleased to see my friend here from the University of Maryland.
In your remarks, Dr. Langenberg, you have, I think, said quite clearly teachers are the key and we should expect no less of a teacher subjecting a student to curricular content or methodology than we would expect a doctor to use a doctor that has been tested for efficacy.
What we need to know and since my time is running out, I guess I would ask you for a later discussion how we can establish the environment in the schools and the system in the schools so that we can continue to keep teachers up to date on what we learn. We are learning a lot about how children learn and we will continue to learn a lot about how children learn and I gather from your report from the reading panel that there is no one way of doing it, that combinations of these programs that so many tout are often better than any one of them alone.
I am so concerned that we find a way to make every teacher_to expose every teacher to the current research, to involve them in applying that new research day by day. And if any of you would have five or ten-second comments on that, I think perhaps we could squeeze that in.
Dr. Langenberg. Maybe ten plus five. The president of the National Academy of Engineering has been going around lately saying that the half-life of a good engineering education these days is about five years. What that means is you get it and in five years you are going to lose a large part of it.
Teachers share with engineers and many other professions the increasing need to be continuously educated throughout their working careers and we ought to give attention to how we do that for every profession. There is a lot to be said for online, web-based ways of reaching working professionals.
Mr. Holt. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. Ms. Brandon, I understand your parents are in the audience. They must be awfully proud.
We should recognize the parents.
Chairman Goodling. Very good. You will discover when you are 21 that your parents are pretty smart. You will not know that until you are 21.
Mr. Isakson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, an observation. If every first grader had Ms. Barret as a teacher, as evidence to the chairman's statements, class size would not make a whole lot of difference. Quality teachers make a lot. And I am sure that applies to Ms. Butler and Ms. Martino just as well, I just happened to catch Mrs. Barret's animated example of how to pronounce A-R, and it just made an impression on me.
And I commend, too, Miss Brandon being here, because I have a fundamental belief that while we're all talking about solutions and research we really do not talk enough about the difference it makes to a child from the environment they come from, whether they are read to, whether reading is important, whether they are exposed to music in the home. And I happen to be one that thinks the brain research makes a lot of sense in terms of the stimulus from birth to age three.
Would you comment a second, can you almost spot when you get a first grader the one that came out of an environment that was supportive and encouraging of reading and one that did not?
Mrs. Barret. You bet I can. And I was going to say to the gentleman over here about the books, you can have a gazillion books in your home, and some of those kids, I mean, they come and there's a wealth of language there, but it is also because the parents are talking to them and verbalizing about everyday occurrences in the home. And I have also had students who come to me whose parents have read to them since they were in the womb and they have had difficulty learning to read. And we have had to go through the process and the system of teaching them the sounds.
Yes, I would love to say that the home is just the most important aspect of this, but you have to understand that there are circumstances where there are perfect homes and the parents have done everything and the children cannot learn. And I wish you could visit Kelso or Bennett Q Elementary Schools in Ingelwood. They have a lot of kids on the school lunch program. Those kids learn to read and they have single parent moms and those kids learn to read because of systematic instruction. So we cannot lose that.
I mean, yes, it is wonderful to have all the frills. You know, gosh, I play every week we a different composer, we have Mozart and Vivaldi and Johann Strauss and so I know for many of them that is new. But please do not lose sight of the instruction that the research shows.
Mr. Isakson. No, not at all. In fact, your answer leads into the question I'm going to ask the chancellor in just a second. But I do think sometimes we put so much blame, and I use blame as the word, on teachers when in fact the support from the home in many, many cases can make a fundamental difference.
Now, in the case of developmental disabilities and learning disabilities, I think that leads into my question to the Chancellor with regard to research. I think those key areas in terms of identifying how to deal with specific problems where instruction and systematic instruction can really make a difference, and I bring you greetings from Dr. Steven Portch.
Dr. Langenberg. Thank you.
Mr. Isakson. He brags about you, he says you are a very engaging, intelligent gentleman. So I want to ask you a question. With the exception of the University System of Maryland, do you think the colleges of education in the United States of America are doing a good job of training our teachers today, not only with regard to reading, but also with regard to just teacher training for the 21st century classroom?
Dr. Langenberg. Including those of the University System of Maryland, not nearly good enough.
Mr. Isakson. The reason I made that; that was an unfair question and your answer was great, I agree with you on the research. From everything I have seen, I am a salesman, I am not a physicist, but I did chair a state board of education for quite a while, and it seems like that the variety of techniques, particularly as it relates to reading that are so critical to instruction don't appear to be taught. More often than not, we see teachers who taught a system or an approach, maybe it is whole language, maybe it is phonics, and maybe it is something else, as the way. In fact, in reading, which I read your testimony and I would agree that I do not know how to do rocket science, however I know teaching reading does not have the constancy that you would have in any scientific experiment. I think we really have to focus on getting our colleges of education much more aware of teaching the variety of instruction that is out there for dealing with reading, both from a standpoint of encouraging as well as disabilities, and take advantage of what research we already have, much less the research that we need. If we are not teaching the teacher that comes out more than one way to skin the cat so to speak, then it does not matter what else we are doing. That is just an observation that I wanted to make, but I think it is so important, our university systems focus on that training because if they can read, they can do anything. If they cannot read, they cannot do anything. And nothing else, to me, seems to matter, particularly in K through three.
Dr. Langenberg. I agree with you. Among the things I learned working with the panel is that there really is no one silver bullet.
We have a terrible tendency in this country to treat life and everything in it as though it were a football game. There is A and there is B and they butt heads and we see who wins. And the panel was widely touted as arriving at as one of its results the proclamation of the winner in the great battle between whole language and phonics. But the fact is if you look at the panel's outcome, you will find elements of both. Phonics is clearly very important in fluency and comprehension acquisition. There are elements of things that some people would say were part and parcel of the ideology of whole language. You do have to know and be able to use lots of different ways to approach lots of different learning situations.
Mr. Isakson. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Goodling. I am going to ask Mr. Ehlers to take over. According to our list, Mr. Hinojosa is next, and Mr. Payne. I have to go plead before the Appropriations chair for money at 11:30.
Thank you all again for your testimony. Mr. Ehlers, if you will take over?
Mr. Ehlers. [Presiding] Mr. Hinojosa?
Mr. Hinojosa. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to request permission to submit my prepared remarks for the record and allow me the five minutes that I have to be able to have a dialogue with some of the members of the panel.
Mr. Ehlers. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. Hinojosa. Thank you.
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE RUBEN HINOJOSA, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC—SEE APPENDIX H
Mr. Hinojosa. I am sorry that I was not able to hear all of the presenters, but those whom I did hear certainly joggled my mind and ideas that have gone through my head as to how I could utilize some of this valuable information that you are giving us about the importance of literacy, the importance of reading, the importance of parental involvement, the importance of trained teachers.
But I am going to direct my first comments to Jackie Martino, and the reason that I do that, Jackie, is that in the studies that have been brought to us here at the education committee, trying to find ways in which we can get all students to graduate from high school at least at 97 percent, and I am talking of the children who start in first grade, at least have 97 percent graduate from high school, and then have access to community college education or four-year universities and post-graduate studies.
And we are told that the way to do that is that we have to start from zero to five and really, really bear down and put the resources and all the exemplary models that work. And you spoke about your training on Early Start and Even Start programs and so my question is those who teach at those early years of zero to five, do the teachers have training and do they have a Bachelor's degree in education or do they have an associate degree? What type of education do those exemplary programs have for those teachers?
Ms. Martino. Well, the teachers that are involved in the Even Start program in York have Bachelor's in education, early elementary education. We have our Bachelor's but we also continue our education in different workshops and trainings.
One of my beliefs is that children learn as individuals. I teach as individuals. I do not happen to have a classroom that has 30 children in it; I have a classroom that might have 10 or 15. Therefore, I at least take five or ten minutes to work with children each day, to work with them at their own capacity.
Mr. Hinojosa. Next question. Where does the funding come from? Does it come from the education agency or does it come from HHS?
Ms. Neifert. It comes from the federal government Even Start program, in coordination with Title I and local funds from both the school district and the community.
Mr. Hinojosa. So then, it falls under the umbrella of the school district and that is why you have Bachelor's degrees.
Ms. Martino. Right.
Mr. Hinojosa. And you have many of the services that are available to our children in K through 12.
Are you familiar, then, with Head Start?
Ms. Martino. Yes. Yes, I am.
Mr. Hinojosa. And the same question I would ask on Head Start. Do those teachers have a Bachelor's degree or something different?
Ms. Martino. You know, I am not sure of that. I am sure that, I do know some Head Start teachers that do have Bachelor's degrees.
Mr. Hinojosa. Okay. Because we had hearings here on Head Start and we had field hearings, in fact, we had a field hearing in my congressional district in south Texas which is from San Antonio to McAllen in the southern part of Texas, and to my dismay, many of the teachers only had certificates of completion which can be done in six weeks and that was the extent of the preparation.
And so it makes me feel very frustrated that we are not reaching all the eligible children especially from low income families who are eligible for the Head Start program and for Even Start and, secondly, it is frustrating for me to hear that the rules do not require that they have the kind of training of at least a bachelor's so that the children can be school-ready.
All of this to say that with all of the reauthorization that occurred here two years ago on Head Start, the best we could do was to get a minimum of 50 percent of all those who teach in Head Start to have an Associate degree, not even a Bachelor's.
So then my final question to you, then, Jackie, would be is there support in the community nationwide to maybe rethink on having all these Early Start programs, Even Start, Head Start, under the education umbrella rather than HHS, which obviously does not have those requirements that would have trained teachers?
Ms. Martino. I would think as a teacher if you are working with students, any student, that you should have some education, that you should have your bachelor's, and that you are able to bring your experience to the child, because you cannot teach a child if you do not know.
One of the ladies down there said something about_or, I do not know, maybe it was Chairman Goodling who said something about knowing how to read, you can teach, but that is not true. I agree with that. We do need some experience and we do need some training and we do need to go to a college and get that.
Mr. Hinojosa. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, my time has run out and I thank you.
Mr. Ehlers. The gentleman's time has expired.
I would just like to comment, Mr. Hinojosa, in response to your question, the Lift Bill, which is the literacy bill which we just passed through the House last week, does in fact increase the standards for Even Start, precisely what you were seeking to do. We have made progress along that line already.
Mr. Hinojosa. Mr. Chairman, may I interrupt you? Is there any talk in our leadership about the possibility of at least reconsidering moving the Head Start program from HHS to the education agency so that we can have the certified teachers as Jackie was just telling us on Even Start? Because it is under the public school system?
Mr. Ehlers. I am afraid I cannot answer that question. I would suggest you request that information from someone who would know.
Mr. Hinojosa. Thank you.
Mr. Ehlers. Thank you.
I would also like to comment to the young woman in the audience who responded to the question, for the purposes of the transcript, after the hearing, would you please notify the reporter of your full name and your background so that we have that in the record as well?
Next, we turn to Mr. Payne.
Mr. Payne. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I apologize to the panel for not being here to hear any of your testimony. I have been browsing through some of it here. But I do commend you for your interest in literacy.
As a matter of fact, right across the hall, there was a hearing with young people, several young children and adults from a country called Sierra Leone and there was a little girl, probably maybe the age of the young lady here, probably a little younger, who just said that_of course, as you know, the brutal rebel group used amputation of limbs to intimidate the people of that country, and there were several girls her age or younger who had no hands. And one of them just said I just wish I could go to school. So I just through I would mention that.
I certainly think that the whole question of literacy is extremely important. Back in 1990, when we had legislation that members could have other members become co-sponsors, you could bring a bill to the floor by getting co-sponsors in 1990 and on, up until 1994, when the practice was eliminated by the new majority. We were able to get a national literacy bill which designated January 2nd as National Literacy Day and I do not know if any of you have been around that long in literacy, but we made a big fanfare and actually it was in 1990 when I was_the reason I mention it, of course, I was the prime sponsor and I was the one that got those other 229 people to sign a piece of paper in the House. One way to get to know other members is to have a resolution like that because you have to go up to each individual and ask them would you please come on my legislation. But it was important because the president at that time, President Bush, signed the literacy bill into law and so it has been an area that I have had a tremendous amount_at that time, we said that there were 30 million Americans who lacked basic reading skills. I am sure that at this time the number has probably doubled because we have immigrants coming in, we have still failures in our school system.
I am a former educator before I decided to get into government, and so I know the problems that we face. I taught in secondary school and was disappointed at the quality of student when they got to secondary school, so I decided to go down into the middle school system and was just as frustrated when I was there and then went to elementary school. So, I do not know, I guess I would be in school right now. But I do know that it is a real challenge that we have. New Jersey has come up with some kind of innovative_it is the Abba decision, where the courts have said that every school district must be evenly funded. We also now have mandatory three and four-year-olds in school with a certified teacher in the classroom.
I think that it is good to move the teachers who are not degreed into degrees. I do feel they should have an opportunity to have that done over a course of five or six years; if they do not have a degree, that they should work towards a degree and not just to terminate anyone who has been in child care or day care and are not certified to teach, but that they should then go into teaching to become certified.
Although the governor and the state legislature is very annoyed at the courts saying that every child is entitled to a thorough and efficient education and therefore the Abba decisions had to be funded by the state government, and there is a school building program that also is a part of that court decision by the New Jersey supreme court.
So it might be something that other states may look into because it is kind of revolutionizing the inequity in education, the fact that if you have a higher-funded school district. That is one reason why vouchers are so popular or are becoming more popular in inner cities, because there is so much frustration in the school system that people are saying let me try anything else. But many of my colleagues have said about vouchers in inner cities, vouchers do not sell in their districts because the education is excellent and they do not want to change it. So my answer generally is why don't we make education excellent everywhere and we won't have to have vouchers for education, which is, I think, the backbone of this country. But when people become so frustrated, they look to almost anything.
I just have a quick question regarding Dr. Langenberg. The question of phonics as relates to this whole language business, I just did see a little bit of your testimony. You know, teaching reading_and I guess anybody could try to answer it_is it really that we're able to take teachers and really make them proficient in teaching reading by a scientific method or some sound method that is_even if it takes in several kinds of systems?
Do you feel that that is really an attainable, measurable goal that can be achieved?
Dr. Langenberg. I do and I think it is possible. We expect that routinely of physicians, and I think we should expect it routinely of teachers.
Mr. Payne. Thank you.
Mrs. Barret. I was going to say that at our school, we started with just two first grade classrooms and as our enrollment grew, now a eighth, first-grade teacher will be hired this week, actually. We have watched it grow, training those teachers. As I said in my testimony, people that learned whole language did not learn how to systematically put it together. We are having great success. Our second grade teachers are amazed at how well these children do. Now, they can really, before they were learning to read; now they can read to learn at second grade. Many of these second grade teachers came from other schools where they are teaching the kids to read because they could not read. We can always tell children who have come from other areas whose teachers are not trained properly. It is very attainable.
Mr. Payne. Thank you very much. I really will read your material. I once again apologize for not hearing your testimony.
I would like to commend Ms. Brandon for, I did not hear what you said, but I certainly can commend you for your discipline. I have a grandson about your age, I am not so sure he would be sitting there as nice and as calm as you are. Therefore, I would just like to congratulate you and, of course, your parents. Thank you.
Mr. Ehlers. The gentleman's time has expired. Sometimes it is even hard for us to sit that long.
I want to thank all the witnesses. It was excellent testimony and very helpful to us in our work. We in the Congress are not experts on every aspect. We learn from each of you every time we have a hearing, it has been a very helpful hearing, and I certainly want to thank all of you for coming.
I should also note for the record that I believe this is the first time in the history of the U.S. Congress that an education committee hearing has been chaired by a rocket scientist and a nuclear physicist, even if for a short time. I would also comment just out of human interest that Dr. Langenberg and I, our paths have crossed over the years. We were fellow students together at Berkeley, University of California. We both received our Ph.D.s approximately the same time and, in fact, he did his research in the lab right next door to the lab in which I was doing my research.
So it is a pleasure to have you again, Dr. Langenberg, and to once again renew our friendship.
With that, I declare the hearing adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:40 a.m., the committee was adjourned.]