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Monday, March 5, 2007

Dreams of Spending State School Funds

Last week at a breakfast meeting at The Century Foundation's upper East Side townhouse, right wing education commentator Sol Stern and former leader of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Michael Rebell surprised each other by agreeing that Governor Spitzer's proposed education funding plan was a great idea. To my disappointment, but not surprise, they also agreed that mandating class size reduction for part of the money was wrong.

Rebell, now affiliated with Columbia Teachers' College, wanted the money spent on teacher training. It appears that the Department of Education is in the process of putting major money into the hands of a consortium of teacher education groups (including Mr. Rebell's?). Mr. Stern, by contrast had a pet project he, and, it appears the Bush Administration, favor for funding: phonics.

It's been a while since I've thought about Stern's issue. I'd always been an agnostic in the debates between "whole language" and phonics advocates. It had seemed to me that children differ in their learning styles and needs. Some seemed to do well with "whole language," some with phonics; many seemed to thrive with a mixture. To my mind, one of the advantages of smaller classes has been that teachers in them could better tailor teaching to the differing needs of individual children. Therefore, I was surprised by Stern's claim that phonics was the only "scientifically" proven method for teaching reading and referred by the National Reading Panel , which he described as a "Congressionally appointed " group, but which might also be called a "vast right-wing conspiracy." Does anyone know this literature?

1 comment:

Daniel Millstone said...

Bad Spelling: A kind and more careful reader than I noticed and pointed out that I misspelled Michael Rebell's name. (Not Rubell)