An alarming task force report led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City’s school system, has just revealed that 30% of young high school graduates don’t qualify to serve in the military because they don’t do well enough in math, science, and English and 75% of young adults are not capable of serving in the military because of inadequate education, criminal records, or are simply physically unfit.
Ms. Rice called this our greatest national security challenge, and said
that leaving large swaths of the population unprepared is a major public crisis that threatens to divide Americans and undermines the country’s social cohesion, as well as innovativeness and competitiveness.
But first…we must read. Everything else follows. And if we can’t…it doesn’t. Reams have been written about how to teach reading, but classroom textbooks remain essentially unaltered. Why is this so?
According to Beverlee Jobrack’s new book “Tyranny of the Textbook,” today’s textbooks are direct contributors to the country’s mediocre education performance. They are based on design and superficial features, not because they are based on how children learn and how well they promote student achievement. She contends that with only three companies publishing 75% of the K-12 educational materials, there is little competition. She writes, “Those three companies are producing similar programs with the same instructional strategies, none of which require teachers to change their practices significantly.”
There are ready-to-use, inexpensive texbooks available that complement today’s classroom teaching methods, fill in the gaps, and make them much more effective. Tutoring programs using these texts with older children are having spectacular results (see www.dorbooks.com, phonics-talk newsletters, vol. 30) as are teachers of very young children (www.dorbooks.com, phonics-talk newsletters, vol. 11). A free checklist of a good phonics program is available at www.dorbooks.com, Free Downloads, “Fourteen Points of a Good Phonics Program.”
Isn’t it time to connect the dots and do something about it? What are we waiting for?