After blowing the whistle on the disastrous “reading” program in the Common Core national standards, Dr. Louisa Moats, one of the contributors to it, is criticizing the U.S. Department of Education’s increasingly detrimental role in education as well. However, despite serious concerns, the internationally renowned reading expert expressed optimism that the truth was coming out and that positive changes may be forthcoming.
In an interview with FreedomProject Media’s The Newman Report, Dr. Moats slammed the early literacy component of the Obama-backed national standards for being deeply flawed and contributing to a national reading crisis. “The foundational skills that enable kids to learn to read in the first place were relegated to the back of the document, which I thought was very strange,” she explained, adding that the “sight words” mandated in Kindergarten were among the many problematic elements.
But what happened next was even harder to swallow: The disaster was rolled out nationwide without even testing, as textbook publishers all rushed to align their materials with the flawed Common Core. “I thought oh my goodness, this is really bad,” she explained. “You have to test it out first, see if you get better results, see whether it translates into higher rates of achievement, and the world is not that sensible.”
Indeed, when Dr. Moats was invited to work on the foundational section of Common Core, she had no idea that what ensued would take place. “I was imagining out of my naivete that this document would be floated out by [U.S.] 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 explained, adding that traditionally, states had wanted to preserve their own standards.
So, assuming it were well done, Dr. Moats thought there was room for something like Common Core — an aspirational document that could be “floated out” for people to refer to and use. “But I had no idea that what they were going to do was direct publishers to change everything and to appropriate money,” she explained, noting that she assumed testing would also be done to see whether it made sense and actually improved outcomes.
By the time billions of dollars were being poured into Common Core-aligned testing schemes, and the standards had not been debated or tried, “I thought, ‘oh my goodness, this is really misconceived,’” continued Dr. Moats, who has served as everything from a teacher and graduate school faculty member to psychologist and reading researcher. And when the state of New York said everyone would have to pass it, “I thought, ‘this is foolishness.’”
It seems to be a regular problem. “I seldom see any federally funded initiative that works the way it’s intended,” explained Moats, a leading expert on the science of reading. “It made me question what is the role of our U.S. Department of Education. How can it be most constructive?” Among other ideas, she suggested that it might be most constructive if it were to offer authoritative summaries of research findings and best practices.
“What it’s doing now is appalling to me,” she added.
The U.S. Department of Education needs to allow states to do things their own way, Dr. Moats said, “and the marketplace has to sort out what the best programs are.” “Across the world ministries of education function that way, and they don’t try to hit people over the head with imperatives that are unrealistic,” she continued. “So sometimes our institutions are very constructive, and sometimes less so.”
Indeed, after six years had passed, one of the key behind-the-scenes figures in Common Core, David Liben, contacted Dr. Moats and acknowledged that she was “absolutely right” about what was going to happen with the reading fiasco. He admitted the teachers do not know how to teach reading properly, and there are no classroom materials for teaching crucial foundational skills. All of that is causing children to fail at a “great rate.” Liben is apparently now working to fix it, which Dr. Moats said she admired and commended.
The Obama administration never should have bribed and bludgeoned state governments to accept the untested, ridiculous Common Core standards. Now, as the scale of the reading crisis becomes clear with millions of children handicapped for life, it is time to hold those responsible accountable — and to ensure that similar disasters never happen again.