Monday, April 23, 2007

Congress attacking Direct Instruction?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about trying to make more people aware of how effective Direct Instruction has been proven to be, especially in teaching basic skills. I thought it was scandalous that most colleges of education ignore Direct Instruction and continue to push more "progressive" methods of questionable effectiveness. With Congress seeming to be willing to investigate everything under the sun, and with so much attention on the effectiveness of K-12 education, I thought this would be an obvious target. Since I did that post, I've found that Congress is conducting an investigation involving Direct Instruction. But this investigation is happening not because DI is being ignored, but because its use is being encouraged.

Christopher J. Doherty, who oversaw the Reading First program from 2002 until last fall, is being accused of having stacked panels that were supposed to review state Reading First grants with Direct Instruction advocates. By doing this, they say that Direct Instruction was fraudulently presented as being at the top of an approved list of reading programs.

As I've said before, I'm a high school teacher, so when I start getting into elementary education programs, I'm out of my element, and I must admit that I know next to nothing about Reading First. Can someone explain to me what's going on here? I keep on reading on the blogs how fantastic Direct Instruction is, and it is often made to sound like a panacea for our nation's educational problems. Has someone in Congress determined that it's not that great after all? I would love to have someone, who knows a lot more about this than I do, fill me in on this.


Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

Dennis, anyone in my neck of the woods looks as if they want to get away from me as quick as they can everytime I mention DI, so I'm still trying to wade through material myself to speak about it intelligently.

As long as education is a political football we are going to see they type of things your post suggests. One minute something is "in" and the next the same something is "out".

I hope someone can clue us in on this latest turn of events.

4/23/2007 4:32 PM  
Blogger Parentalcation said...

Check out Kens blog... he just put up a post on the subject.

Mistakes were made, but its not as dramatic as recent reports have insinuated.

4/23/2007 5:48 PM  
Blogger Parentalcation said...

Some reading programs are good, some are bad.

Good reading programs have experts, bad reading programs have quacks.

Reading First hires experts.

Experts recommend good reading programs.

Schools improve using good reading programs.

Quacks get pissed, accuse experts of profiting.

Scandal ensues.

Probable solution: Hire quacks, recommend bad reading programs, or combination of both.

Probable result: Schools get worse.

Every ones happy in the end. (Except of course for the kids who can't read)

Talk about no win situation.

4/23/2007 5:51 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

I find this all very depressing. EHT, I'm wondering if those teachers give any reasons for their aversion to DI. I suspect that they don't or they aren't very well thought out, in which case they are doing a beautiful job of fitting the stereotype that our harshest critics paint of teachers.

Rory, I read Ken's post, and with all due respect to him, his defense of those being accused was long and complicated. That was probably necessary, but let's face it; not many people are going to read that and fewer still are going to understand it. On the other hand, let's look at what Congressman Miller had to say: “This hearing made it pretty clear that there was a very incestuous relationship among a small group of people in the Education Department and among contractors. They were very clearly using this program … for profit.”

No matter how unfair that may be, EVERYONE is going to understand that. Politics is all about perception, and reality is only secondary. I'm afraid that all this is creating a very bad perception of DI, and it sure isn't going to make those teachers that EHT is talking about any more willing to give it the consideration it deserves.

Rory, I had to struggle to follow KDerorsa's version of what is going on, but I had no trouble following yours. As usual, you've gotten to the heart of the matter very quickly, and I'm afraid you're right.

4/24/2007 4:42 AM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

I was about to write a long comment to this, but then just put my thoughts here on why I think teachers don't like DI. It's kind of a guess, but it's based on seeing how certain people react to behaviorism generally.

4/24/2007 10:47 AM  
Blogger Mr. AB said...

As a teacher at a Reading First school, I reacted to the the "DI scandal" with this:

It's not Direct Instruction that most teachers are averse to, it's the notion of such a dogmatic implementation of any single idea. Clearly, the most effective instructional strategy is going to be one that is tailored to each individual topic, student and class. Demanding that teachers are totally faithful to any curriculum or instructional model breeds frustration, apathy, low expectations and failure.

4/24/2007 7:29 PM  
Blogger Parentalcation said...


Today I read all the OIG reports on the Reading First scandal.

It appears to be true that their was a very incestuous relationship between a small group of people in the program, but... couldn't it be that they really believed in their programs. Of course you are right, appearance is everything in politics.

I also agree that this doesn't bode well for the reputation of DI among front-line teachers, but then again... it's not like they were eager to give up their current pedagogy anyway.

Note... also see my recent post on a particular irony I noted in the OIG program.

4/24/2007 8:22 PM  
Blogger Parentalcation said...

"Clearly, the most effective instructional strategy is going to be one that is tailored to each individual topic, student and class. Demanding that teachers are totally faithful to any curriculum or instructional model breeds frustration, apathy, low expectations and failure."

You are right... let's just keep our current patchwork, do what ever we want system. McDonald's will always need servers, we can always build more jails, and knowledge is so overrated anyway.

4/24/2007 8:26 PM  
Blogger Robert Ward said...

I don't see how students can have strengthes in their learning and teachers are supposed to be totally homogenous.

I think that if your boss deems your work to be both appropriate and effective, it should be encouraged.

Just like how Dennis loves the group work environment and he is comfortable with it (and does it well) I am simply one who likes to get the information to the kids in the most direct way possible.

This same debate is going on in my wife's medical school now too.

4/25/2007 8:45 PM  

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