Critical Research Can Help to Identify Quality Teaching in Literacy Education

f_2wp53.jpgAn August 13, 2010 Articlesbase Article by Arsenalo

In response to our most recent literacy crisis, the U.S. government and professional collaborative such as the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) and the National Research Council (2005) have called for more scientific research in literacy education. That is, policymakers and certain members of our field feel as though the only valuable research is conducted via randomized experiments that tell us, essentially, how certain curricular reforms affect aggregate achievement as measured by the same sorts of problematic standardized outcomes or by scores on artificial assessments designed by teams of university researchers.

Although standardized measures provide an important perspective on the performance of young people in schools, it is only one perspective, and taken out of context this perspective can be extremely problematic — both in how it positions certain groups of students and in how it limits the discussion of possible alternatives to traditional classroom literacy practices (Pressley, 2001). In the end, we are still left with very few images of the powerful literacy classroom to help us understand the challenges that teachers and students face and the conditions that turn tragedies into triumphs.

In essence, research in K-12 literacy education needs to elucidate life in classrooms for the poor and for members of historically marginalized groups, and it needs to shed light on what is happening in powerful learning spaces for students — when literacy instruction is both identity affirming and academically enriching. I argue for a specific conception of research — what I and others call critical research — as an example of the kind of work that needs to be undertaken in our field if we are going to be able to provide information (to teachers, teacher educators, and policymakers) that will lead to changes in practice and outcome that eliminates the education opportunity gap. By education opportunity gap, which I distinguish from achievement gap, I am referring to the work of Asa Hilliard (2003), who argued for a shift in perception of the achievement gap away from searching for deficiencies in student intelligence toward questioning the measures of achievement and the actual opportunities to learn that have been provided for students. In other words, the challenge is ours, as a field, to figure out how to better educate students. Regardless of terminology, Hilliard contended that higher quality teaching is needed to produce excellence in classrooms for students that have been historically underserved.

Quite simply, these students need to achieve higher forms of excellence if they are to exist as powerfully informed and affirmed humans. Hilliard, in this vein, was tapping into a long history of African American education that associated literacy learning in schools with the project of human freedom (Anderson, 1988; Perry, 2003). Critical research, I argue, can help us to identify quality teaching in literacy classrooms even as it helps us to refine (or even redefine) our notions of curricula, pedagogy, literacy, and achievement.

About bcenglis

Bob Cleckler is a retired Chemical Engineer. In 1985 he read Jonathan Kozol's shocking new book, "Illiterate America." He decided to use his research skills as an engineer to see if there was a solution to the problem. He spent more than a year in his research. He read EVERY book he could find on the subject of his research. He read dozens of books from the large Marriott Research Library at the University of Utah. Based upon his findings, he developed a solution to the problem of English illiteracy. It is a PROVEN solution. Dr. Frank Laubach spent his entire adult life teaching adult illiterates around the world how to read in more than 300 alphabetic languages. Dr. Laubach proved that he could teach students, in 98% of the languages in which he taught, to read fluently in less than three months. His books, "Teaching the World to Read" and "Forty Years With the Silent Billion," never mention being unable to teach ANY of his students to read fluently.

Cleckler collaborated with Gary Sprunk, M.S. English Linguistics, to perfect his solution based upon Dr. Laubach's experience and findings. Two non-profit educational corporations were formed. Cleckler is the CEO of Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and Vice Pres. of R & D of NuEnglish, Inc. Gray Sprunk is President of NuEnglish, Inc. Cleckler's award-winning book, "Let's End Our Literacy Crisis," originally published in 2005 is now available on our website,, without cost or obligation for the Second Revision, released in late 2012. This breakthrough book covers:

A. the tremendous need for improving English literacy. Cleckler found research proving (1) that 48.7% of U.S. adults are functionally illiterate, defined as being unable to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job, (2) that 31.2% of these functional illiterates are in poverty, and (3) that they are more than twice as likely to be in poverty because of their illiteracy as for all other causes combined. Furthermore he found at least 34 types of serious physical, mental, emotional, medical, and financial problems that illiterates must endure every day of their lives that we would consider a crisis if we had to endure them. Cleckler also found that illiteracy costs EVERY U.S. adult -- readers and non-readers -- an average of more than $5,000 each year for government programs that illiterates use; for truancy, juvenile delinquency, and crime directly related to illiteracy; and for the higher cost of consumer goods due to illiterates in the labor pool and in the workforce.

B. the causes of illiteracy. Before any problem can be solved, you must find the cause. Otherwise you can spend huge amounts of money fighting the symptoms of the problem without preventing the problem from recurring.

C. the preferred, proven solution to the problem. We have been fighting the symptoms of the difficulty in learning to read English for almost a century. Although numerous changes in American education have been implemented in the last century, none of them solve the foundational cause of the problem. Almost half of U.S. students never become fluent readers, and most of the ones who do become fluent readers require at least two years to learn to read well enough to continue increasing their reading skills after third grade, when most reading instruction in school ends.

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