The reading program in the Common Core national standards is contributing to an escalating crisis in literacy across America because the standards are deeply flawed and not based on science. That is according to Dr. Louisa Moats, an internationally renown reading expert who actually served as a contributor to the Common Core’s literacy standards. Now she is sounding the alarm.
In an interview with The Newman Report, Dr. Moats explained that insufficient or poor foundational skills including phonics, phoneme awareness, and automatic, fluent word reading in the early years contributes to later literacy problems and failures in children. Another key problem is forcing children to memorize “sight words,” which are mandated under Common Core in Kindergarten.
“My warnings and protests were ignored at the time,” said Dr. Moats, who founded a firm named Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) to help teachers. “I knew from my prior experience that the way it was written, organized, would undo a lot of the progress that we had made during the previous eight years And that’s exactly what happened.”
Despite contributing to it, Dr. Moats realized that the early literacy standards would cause major problems. “I wasn’t pleased with the final Common Core document,” she added. “There’s language in Common Core that’s not based in reality, that doesn’t reflect how children learn to read. We have decades of data on what it takes for kids to acquire fluency.”
The sight word approach seeks to have children memorize whole words using their visual memory. “But this is not how a good reader reads,” Dr. Moats explained. “There is lots of evidence showing this, including studies about what happens in the brain as children learn to read. It is a myth that kids learn irregular words or learn any words ‘by sight.’ They don’t.”
Indeed, the children who are taught using sight words actually learn through the same process as everyone else, but they do it in spite of the teacher and what they are being taught. A good proportion will fall by the wayside, though, “because you can only remember so many words by rote if you don’t understand what the letters represent,” she said, pointing to sounds, syllables, meaningful parts of words, and grammatical features.” They may learn 50 words on flash cards, but then they hit the wall.”
And unfortunately, the problems in the early years cause massive issues later on. “If things aren’t done right early on, it doesn’t matter, by the time they get to high school the show is over as far as whether somebody is going to learn to read,” she said.
Dr. Moats was also surprised by how the Common Core was pushed on states. “When I was invited to work on the foundational section, I was imagining out of my naivete that this document would be floated out by Department of Education or the National Governors Association as a kind of north star or guideline for states wanting to improve their own standards,” she said. “I had no idea that what they were going to do was direct publishers to change everything and to appropriate money for the creation of aligned tests, before people understood and had debated or tried to act on the standards.”
And yet, some people were celebrating. “The next thing that happened after Common Core was published – immediately, the element in the reading field that has never wanted to put any emphasis on these foundational skills sort of came back to life, they were thrilled,” Dr. Moats said. “Some of the leaders wrote how relieved they were not to have to teach phonics, so they could focus on ‘real purpose’ of reading.”
The Newman Report will have more on Dr. Moats’ insights into reading and Common Core next week, so stay tuned.
As this writer and Dr. Sam Blumenfeld documented extensively in Crimes of the Educators, the so-called “reading wars” have been going on since Horace Mann first introduced the “whole word” method in Boston. But unfortunately, the primary casualties in these wars are not the “experts” and bigwigs in the education establishment, but the millions of children being handicapped for life with quackery. It is time for the madness to end.