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Disgrace: Oakland Teachers Fought to Eliminate Successful Reading Program to Advance Woke Agenda

Time published an extraordinary and outrageous story last week about an anti-learning crusade successfully waged by teachers in one of the country's most left-wing cities. Conservative writer Bethany Mandel highlighted it on Twitter, accurately describing it as "adults putting their own wants before the needs of kids -- even kids who they are paid to prioritize." She calls this "so representative of the last three years," which is also demoralizingly correct in light of the grave disservices inflicted upon students during the pandemic. 

This story, however, predates COVID: 

As a teacher in Oakland, Calif., Kareem Weaver helped struggling fourth- and fifth-grade kids learn to read by using a very structured, phonics-based reading curriculum called Open Court. It worked for the students, but not so much for the teachers. “For seven years in a row, Oakland was the fastest-gaining urban district in California for reading,” recalls Weaver. “And we hated it.” The teachers felt like curriculum robots—and pushed back. “This seems dehumanizing, this is colonizing, this is the man telling us what to do,” says Weaver, describing their response to the approach. “So we fought tooth and nail as a teacher group to throw that out.” It was replaced in 2015 by a curriculum that emphasized rich literary experiences. “Those who wanted to fight for social justice, they figured that this new progressive way of teaching reading was the way,” he says.

Think about that. They were using a curriculum that was working so well that students in their school district were making unequivocal and exceptional gains in literacy – the best in the largest state in the country, in fact. And they were so angry about it that they fought "tooth and nail" to uproot the successful system because it wasn't personally fulfilling for the educators and wasn't sufficiently "social justice"-oriented. What a scandalous disservice to children whose actual "equity" interest is to know how to read. But doing so was assailed as "dehumanizing" and "colonizing," so effective instruction was targeted and stopped. Imagine making major progress against this systemic failure and actively working to undo the progress: 

In 2019, even before the pandemic upended instruction, only 35% of fourth-graders met the standards for reading proficiency set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an even lower number than in 2017. Only 21% of low-income students (measured by whether they qualify for free school lunch), 18% of Black students, and 23% of Hispanic students can be considered on track for reading by fourth grade. These numbers have been low for decades, but the pandemic has given the dismal results extra urgency.

The lengthy Time piece describes how the teacher quoted in the lede is now on the front lines of the battle to reinstate "evidence-based" phonics and reading instruction – i.e., following methods that are proven to actually work for kids, regardless of the politicized agendas of adults. It seems like an excellent and horribly-overdue push: 

From 2013 to Aug. 1, 30 states have passed laws or enacted new policies related to “evidence-based” reading instruction. Mississippi was one of the first, and in 2019 it became the only state in the nation to meaningfully improve its fourth-grade reading scores. The results were touted as the “Mississippi Miracle.”...in April 2022, Virginia enacted new “evidence-based” teacher-training regulations.


No wonder a lot of parents and voters have woken up, with Republicans pulling into a tie with Democrats on the issue of education, erasing a longstanding and substantial deficit. Amazingly, some schools are clinging to pointless (and worse) pandemic-era failures


Relatedly, this seems to encapsulate a lot of what's wrong with "The Science" enforcers these days: 


Priorities are deeply out of whack, it seems, leading to dangerous insanity like this and this. It would be malpractice for the GOP to neglect an issue that is current and potent – and that played an outsized role in the flipping of Virginia. 

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