This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
As teachers, our daily interactions and lessons attempt to validate students’ experiences, affirm their identities, and build trust in order to forge authentic relationships that allow us to teach them well.
Do we fall short some days? Absolutely. But the purpose of making real connections with students is there. I have been grappling with finding the purpose behind the Corrective Reading curriculum in place at Empowerment Schools.
Corrective Reading is a direct instruction phonics program that promotes word and sound recognition, involves student repetition of words in a “call and response” format, and requires the teacher to follow a scripted lesson plan and use a snap, pencil tap, or dog clicker to mark the rhythm of the lesson.
Despite the issue of students reading below grade level and the necessity to be successful on the PSSAs, I question this intervention.
It concerns me that the program teaches reading fluency as separate from reading comprehension. Decoding instruction cannot be divorced from understanding material, and strategies must be provided for both. I doubt that this program will actually lead to success on the PSSA, considering that the test includes full reading passages that require students to understand context clues and make inferences – not just repeat and recognize word patterns.
My greatest concern is that schools will not be able to retain teachers who are required to ignore the humanity of their students and themselves in favor of a script and a dog clicker. Teaching requires the cultivation of a human relationship. To reduce the art of teaching and learning to discrete word lists must be demoralizing for students and teachers.
We cannot ignore the issue of students reading below grade level, but there are other strategies to promote literacy achievement. Literacy instruction can be empowering and critically engaging for all students.
Check out the discussion of Corrective Reading and Math.