Educational Research Analysts  November 2009 Newsletter  
How Good Are Texas' and California's New 1st Grade Readers?
Synopses compute, compare
decodability scores
Rare sequential adoption
benefits Texas versions
Math education merits
similar enlightenment
In four major publishers' new 1st grade Reading programs for Cali­fornia and Texas, a long-overdue national pro-phonics rout of anti-phonics pedagogy is at last in full cry. Our reviews of these two submis­sions (see inside here) find the Texas editions clearly stronger on decoda­bility than their Cali­fornia analogs, with some flaws remaining in each. Perversely, textbooks often most lag positive new academic trends. Conversely, they are leading indicators of ultimate success. Adversely, the malpractice that no longer roils Reading methods mires much Math instruction nationwide even yet.
The litmus test of a pure phonics program is that students should read no phoneti­cally-regular words before learning all the letter-sound cor­respon­dences in those words. By that benchmark we rank these programs, among which our standard review criteria discri­minate a good spread of telling distinctives. Three of these four publishers improved for Texas the same programs they offered in Cali­fornia. Only lowest-ranked Houghton Mifflin Harcourt submitted a different program here than it did there, which compli­cated and diluted its crafting of full satis­factions to our concerns.
This two-year review project was unusual. First, a train of never-before provi­dential "coincidences" timed Texas' approval of these books in 2009, immediately after California's in 2008. Second, publishers thus had in hand our 2008 analyses of their California texts while preparing their 2009 Texas books, in time to mend in the latter the faults we found in the former. Such quiet self-correction in fact often occurred. Third, we know of no other subject matter-specific comparisons ever of California and Texas match-ups in so great depth as these. A philosophical revolution under­lies this change in teaching to read. Look-say whole-language pseudo-"reading" shares with progres­sive "constructivist" Math the myth that learning fixed letter-sound cor­respon­dences and standard algorithms is unnecessary to read or problem-solve. Instead, students should create (guess) their personal meanings from context clues and invent their own (inferior) computa­tional "strategies." These new 1st grade Readers scuttle that failed subjective, relativistic humanism. More Math materials need this objective, absolute methodology.
From a former Texas educator, who now teaches elsewhere:

"I can really tell the difference of the input your [Texas] process has on the adoption of good textbooks now that I am out of the state. Lousy Math and Reading textbooks here – adopted by the recommendation of teachers."

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