The Public Education Fraud....

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Wed Jan 26 08:21:40 MST 2000

The great American
                 education fraud

                 By Samuel L. Blumenfeld
                 © 2000

                 The great American education fraud consists of
                 not teaching inner city, minority children to read
                 in the proper phonetic manner, then expecting
                 them to pass an academic assessment test based
                 on so-called high standards in order to
                 graduate. But how can they pass such a test
                 when they've been deliberately crippled in the
                 primary grades? The crippling process is
                 deceptively simple but highly efficient. All you
                 have to do is teach children in kindergarten and
                 the first grade to develop a holistic reflex in
                 reading and they will become poor readers for
                 the rest of their lives.

                 The recent Massachusetts Comprehensive
                 Assessment System (MCAS) tests prove how
                 successful the dumbing down process has been.
                 In Boston, where the minority is now the
                 majority in the city's public schools, 50 percent
                 of 10th graders failed English, 63 percent failed
                 math, and 69 percent of eighth graders failed
                 history. In Brockton, a city with a large Latino
                 population, 69 percent of eighth graders failed
                 history and 72 percent failed science. In Chelsea,
                 another city with many Latinos, 84 percent of
                 eighth graders failed science, 68 percent failed
                 history. In Holyoke, 82 percent of eighth graders
                 failed history, 81 percent failed science, and 58
                 percent of 10th graders failed English. Even in a
                 town like Belmont, where a lot of Harvard
                 faculty members live, 22 percent of eighth
                 graders failed history.

                 However, it's in the vocational schools where
                 the wreckage of academic failure is most
                 frightful. Only 10th graders were tested in the
                 Voc Ed schools. In Upper Cape Cod, 70 percent
                 failed English, 87 percent failed math, and 62
                 percent failed science. In Greater Lawrence, 75
                 percent failed English, 90 percent failed math,
                 and 81 percent failed science. As for the state as
                 a whole, 32 percent of 10th graders failed
                 English, 53 percent failed math, and 38 percent
                 failed science.

                 We've only mentioned the failures. Actually,
                 there are four performance levels on the MCAS:
                 Advanced, Proficient, Needs Improvement, and
                 Failing. Needs Improvement is defined as:
                 "Students at this level demonstrate partial
                 understanding of subject matter, and solve
                 some simple problems." If we add the "Needs
                 Improvement" numbers to the failures, we
                 generally get the majority of students. For
                 example, in high-scoring Belmont, 60 percent of
                 4th graders were in that combined category in
                 English. In Boston, 92 percent of fourth graders
                 were in that combined category in English. Only
                 5 percent were proficient.

                 The rest of the country is in no better shape than
                 Massachusetts. In Los Angeles, according to the
                 Dec. 15, 1999, edition of Education Week, some
                 710,000 students are at risk of being held back a
                 grade for failing to meet California's standards
                 for promotion set by that state's assessment
                 tests. The solution to the problem? Educators
                 are thinking of making the tests easier.

                 In Virginia, nearly 40 percent of the state's high
                 school students failed one or more sections of
                 Virginia's new assessment test, and therefore
                 would have failed to meet graduation
                 requirements for the class of 2004. In Arizona,
                 only 10 percent of sophomores passed the math
                 portion of the Arizona Instrument to Measure
                 Standards (AIMS).

                 In New York City, with the nation's largest
                 school system of 1.1 million students, only 55
                 percent of high school students passed the
                 English portion of the state's assessment this
                 year. This is the test which members of the class
                 of 2000 are required to pass before they can
                 graduate. In Texas, Latinos and blacks are
                 failing the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills
                 at twice the rate of whites. Latinos and blacks
                 failed at a rate of about 35 percent, while whites
                 failed at 15 percent.

                 One of the biggest fallouts of the new policy,
                 which requires students to pass an academic
                 assessment test in order to graduate, is a large
                 increase in the dropout rate. Why should a
                 student who can't read stay in school if he or she
                 is not going to get a diploma after 12 years of
                 school attendance?

                 What all of these assessment tests have finally
                 exposed is the enormity of the fraud being
                 perpetrated by our educators on the children of
                 this nation: pretending to teach them, while
                 really preparing them for a life of failure and
                 misery. If you cannot read, you cannot do well
                 in science or history. If you are not taught math
                 in a manner that enables you to learn it, you will
                 fail in that subject. And if you fail academically,
                 the chances of succeeding in the working world
                 are reduced dramatically.

                 Our primary school teachers simply do not
                 know how to teach children to read. They are
                 using methods such as memorizing sight
                 vocabularies and whole language, which
                 produce reading failure among millions of
                 children. That's what has happened all over the
                 United States, and particularly in California,
                 where whole language instruction caused such
                 a literacy crisis that the state legislature was
                 forced to act.

                 Why doesn't whole language work? Because it
                 teaches children to develop a holistic reflex, that
                 is, an automatic tendency to look at each word
                 as a whole configuration, like a Chinese
                 character. Children acquire this reflex before
                 they've been taught that letters stand for sounds
                 or that our written words have a phonetic
                 structure. Therefore, when they acquire a
                 holistic reflex, they not only do not see the
                 phonetic structure of our alphabetic words, but
                 they are prevented from doing so even when
                 they've been taught some phonics. Mixing some
                 phonics with whole language is now called a
                 "balanced approach." But that balanced
                 approach is deceptive in that it does not teach
                 intensive, systematic phonics. It merely gives
                 the child some phonetic clues.

                 It is important to know that giving children
                 phonetic information, or phonetic clues, as part
                 of whole language instruction does not help the
                 child develop a phonetic reflex, that is, the
                 automatic ability to see the phonetic structure of
                 our printed words. In order to develop that
                 phonetic reflex, which is the key to becoming a
                 good, fluent reader, a child must be drilled in
                 the letter sounds before he or she is given text to
                 read. It is only by way of rote repetition that a
                 true phonetic reflex can be developed. Of
                 course, there are a small number of children
                 who can actually teach themselves to read. But
                 when it comes to inner city children who come
                 from homes lacking in literacy resources, the
                 schools must teach the children to read via
                 intensive, systematic phonics.

                 This, the schools refuse to do. Why? Just ask the
                 principal or the teachers, and you will get all
                 kinds of excuses. "But we do teach phonics,"
                 they all say. But the kind of phonics they teach
                 in the context of a whole language program is
                 not the kind that helps develop the much
                 needed phonetic reflex. All it does is provide
                 the child with just another strategy that he or
                 she can use in figuring out a word. If the child
                 has a holistic tendency, that little bit of phonetic
                 knowledge will be used sparingly if at all,
                 because it is not automatic and requires effort.

                 What can parents do to prevent their children
                 from becoming victims of this great fraud? The
                 best solution is home tutoring in which parents
                 can teach their children to read in the proper
                 phonetic manner. There are many good phonics
                 instruction programs on the market. Some are
                 better than others. My own program,
                 Alpha-Phonics, is simple and inexpensive. Any
                 parent can use it. The tutoring should be done
                 before the child enters public school so that the
                 child can acquire that much-needed phonetic
                 reflex before he or she gets whole language
                 instruction in school. But if the child becomes
                 confused because of conflicting teaching
                 methods in school, then home schooling or a
                 good private school may be the answer.

                 Remember, when it comes to learning to read,
                 the crucial period is kindergarten and first
                 grade. That's where the dumbing down process
                 begins. And if you don't deal with the problem
                 then, it will be much more expensive and
                 emotionally trying to remediate the problem
                 later on.

                 Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight
                 books on education, including "How to Tutor,"
                 which teaches parents how to teach the three Rs,
                 "The Whole Language/OBE Fraud" and "NEA:
                 Trojan Horse in American Education." For
                 information about "Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for
                 Beginning Readers," write: The Tutoring
                 Company, P.O. Box 540111, Waltham, MA

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