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Hooked on phonics

EDUCATION | Ohio governor calls for phonics-based reading


Hooked on phonics
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Some Ohio districts may have to toss their existing reading curriculum before school starts in fall 2024. In his January State of the State address, Gov. Mike DeWine proposed budget funding for schools to purchase reading curriculum and train teachers in the reading method known as the “­science of reading.”

Should the budget measure pass, Ohio would join a handful of states that ban reading approaches that do not incorporate phonics and the science of reading.

Debate over how to teach children to read has roiled educators for decades. Language and literacy expert Kenneth Goodman introduced the “whole language” approach that became popular in the 1980s and ’90s. The approach utilized cueing, a method that can include learning letter sounds but instructs the reader to first look at the letters in a word and context clues such as pictures to determine the word’s meaning. Many schools ditched traditional ­phon­ics methods of sounding out words in a scramble to adopt the newest approach. The Ohio State University oversees Reading Recovery, a popular reading intervention method that uses cueing.

While advocates of the whole language method emphasized teaching sight words, proponents of the science of reading argued for more phonics instruction. In recent years, researchers have released more findings pointing to the benefits of phonics instruction. Last year, reading education expert Lucy Calkins rewrote her popular curriculum to incorporate more teaching on phonics.

The Ohio Education Association, a teachers union, called for lawmakers not to mandate instructional methods.

Miguel Cardona

Miguel Cardona Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Downsized Association

Fallout continues over a 2021 National School Boards Association (NSBA) letter that asked federal officials, including the FBI, to help local authorities investigate school board threats. The letter, which referred to “domestic terrorism,” angered parents who were protesting curriculum and COVID-19 policies and prompted more than 20 state school board associations to leave the NSBA.

On Feb. 17, NSBA Executive Director John Heim, who was not leading the group when the letter was written, said the diminished organization may shift its approach, working as a national voice for individual school boards instead of school board associations. Also in February, the House Judiciary Committee ­subpoenaed Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and two other Biden administration officials for documents that could show the administration unfairly ­targeted parents who were exercising their free-speech rights. —L.D.

Lauren Dunn

Lauren covers education for WORLD’s digital, print, and podcast platforms. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and World Journalism Institute, and she lives in Wichita, Kan.


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