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Nancy Bailey's Education Website: The Science of Reading Corporate Connection: Replacing Teachers With Tech

Many of the same individuals who favor charter schools, private schools, and online instruction, including corporate reformers, use the so-called Science of Reading (SoR) to make public school teachers look like they’ve failed at teaching reading.

Politicians and corporations have had a past and current influence on reading instruction to privatize public schools with online programs. This has been going on for years, so why aren’t reading scores soaring? The SoR involves primarily online programs, but it’s often unclear whether they work.

The Corporate Connection to the SoR

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation fund numerous nonprofits to end public education. The National Council of Teacher Quality (NCTQ), backed by Gates and other corporations, an astroturf organization, promotes the SoR.

SoR promoters ignore the failure of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), embedded in most online programs, like iReady and Amplify. CCSS, influenced by the Gates Foundation, has been around for years.

Also, despite its documented failure ($335 million), the Gates Foundation Measures of Effective Teaching, a past reform initiative (See VAMboozled!), irreparably harmed the teaching profession, casting doubt on teachers’ ability.

EdReports, another Gates-funded group, promotes their favored programs, but why trust what they say about reading instruction? They’ve failed at their past education endeavors.

But the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continues to reinvent itself and funds many nonprofits that promote their agenda, including the SoR.

Former Governor Jeb Bush’s Organizations

Former Governor Bush of Florida (1999 to 2007) promoted SoR, but if children have reading problems, states should review past education policies, including those encouraged by former Governors, including Mr. Bush. His policymaking in public education has been around for a long time.

One should question, for example, Mr. Bush’s third-grade retention policy ignoring the abundance of anti-retention research showing its harmful effects, including its high correlation with students dropping out of school.

He rejected the class size amendment and worked to get it repealed. Yet lowering class size, especially in K-3rd grade, could benefit children learning to read.

As far back as 2011, Mr. Bush promoted online learning. He’s not talking about technology supplementing teachers’ lessons. He wants technology to replace teachers!

Here’s a 2017 post written in ExelInEd, Mr. Bush’s organization, A Vision for the Future of K-3 Reading Policy: Personalized Learning for Mastery. They’re promoting online learning to teach reading as proven, but there’s no consistent evidence this will work.

Here’s the ExcelinEd Comprehensive Early Policy Toolkit for 2021 where teachers often must be aligned to the SoR with Foundations of Reading a Pearson Assessment. If the teacher’s role loses its autonomy, technology can easily replace them. 

Laurene Powell Jobs and Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify

How did Rupert Murdoch’s old program Amplify become the Science of Reading?

Rupert Murdoch invested in Amplify, News Corp.’s $1 Billion Plan to Overhaul Education Is Riddled With Failures. Then Laurene Powell Jobs purchased it. Does a change in ownership miraculously mean program improvement?

Teachers from Oklahoma described how student expectations with Amplify were often developmentally inappropriate, so how is this good reading science?

Many SoR supporters who imply teachers fail to teach reading do podcasts for Amplify. Are they compensated for their work? Where’s the independent research to indicate that Amplify works?

Amplify, and other online reading programs, are marketed ferociously to school districts with in-house research relying on testimonials. When schools adopt these programs, teachers have a reduced role in students’ instruction.

Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and Their Data Collection

Priscilla Chan pushes Reach Every Reader, including prestigious universities that write SoR reports.

Why must they collect data involving children and their families?

CZI promotes the Age of Learning and ABC Mouse for young children. The reviews of this program appear primarily negative.   

___________

All of the individuals and groups above consistently ignore the critical concerns surrounding public schools that would go a long way to improving them, which face teachers and could affect how children learn to read.

Teaching reading involves evaluating students by qualified teachers prepared to teach reading through vital university programs that consider various reading approaches. That includes phonics. Phonics should be an integral part of any reading program, especially for students with reading difficulties.

But teachers should understand child development, how children learn to read, the disabilities that some children might face, and the many reading programs and what they offer. There’s little proof online programs will provide all that a child needs to become a good reader.

We need a new National Reading Panel that includes parents, real teachers, reading specialists, and unbiased peer-reviewed research to analyze and better understand how to assist students in reading, including those with disabilities.

But there is no mention of such collaboration because the above individuals and groups have a lock on replacing teachers with profitable online programs in the name of the Science of Reading.

As teachers continue to leave the classroom, driven out by years of corporate tampering involving public schools, and parents become convinced that technology will solve their child’s reading difficulties, schools will rely more on novice facilitators, tutors, and online instruction. Many students will miss out on the multifaceted literary environment that they deserve.

It’s easy to predict a future where few read well for meaning or care much about it.

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Nancy Bailey

Nancy Bailey was a teacher in the area of special education for many years, and has a PhD in educational leadership from Florida State University. She has a...