21 November 2022
The Parent Response to "Opinion: A call for rejecting the newest reading wars" in The Hechinger Report

To the 58 signers of the Hechinger Letter to the Editor:

Dr. Randy Bomer, Dr. Celia Oyler, Dr. Laura Asceni-Moreno, Katherine Bomer, Dr. Paul Thomas, Dr. Timothy Rasinski, Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Mike Matthews, Dr. Sam Bommarito, Lois Bridges, Elisa Brown, Christopher Paul Curtis, Georgia Heard, Carmen Agra Deedy, James Howe, Sarah Weeks, Naomi Shihab Nye, Dr. Harvey “Smokey” Daniels, Dr. Cecilia Espinosa, Michael Fisher, Phil Daro, Prof. Lynne Einbender, Dr. Lucy Calkins, Leslie Zackman, Carl Anderson, Dr. Rachael Gabriel, Ellin Keene, Ruth Swinney, Dr. Daniel Friedrich, Dr. Ofelia Garcia, Dr. Maria Paula Ghiso, Dr. Cecelia Traugh, Dr. Phyllis Harrington, Dr. Kara Hollins, Dr. Mary Howard, Bena Kallick, Penny Kittle, Laura Kotch, Jonathan Kozol, Dr. Heidi Mills, Dr. Cara Furman, Dr. Douglas Reeves, Donna antman, Maurice Sykes, Dr. Richard Allington, Dr. Amy Tondreau, Dr. Mary Enrenworth, Marc Tucker, Patricia Vitale-Reilly, Prof. Molly Welsh Kruger, Dr. Marjorie Siegel, Anita Silvey, Dr. Kylene Beers, Dr. Connie Briggs, Dr. Erika Dawes, Dr. Mary K. Lose

Your supporting universities and public-school districts:

The University of North Texas, Teachers College, Columbia University, CBSE, Brooklyn College, Furman University, Kent State University, New York City Public School System, Denton Independent School District, Lehman College, Bank Street College, University of Connecticut, City University of New York, Bank Street Graduate School of Education, Oceanside Union Free School District, University of South Carolina, University of Maine – Farmington, University of the District of Columbia, University of Tennessee, University of Maryland, Texas Women’s University, Lesley University, Oakland University

The publishers supporting your work:

Heinemann Publishing

And, to the medium for your published letter:

The Hechinger Report

To All of the Above Named:

Parents have sat by and watched for decades while our children have not been successfully taught how to read or write within the American education system, with curriculums that have been written and supported by the signers of the Letter to the Editor for The Hechinger Report.

For decades our cries for content rich curriculum that is founded on and dedicated to the empirical data on how the brain learns how to read and write as evidenced by the work of Dr. Guinevere Eden, Dr. Stanislas Dehaene, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Dr. Bennett Shaywitz, Dr. Mark Seidenberg, Dr. Maryanne Wolf, Dr. Louisa Moats, Dr. Joseph Torgesen, Dr. Daniel Willingham, Dr. Jack Fletcher, Dr. G. Reid Lyon, and countless others, has fallen on deaf ears. (See reference list appended to this letter for the scientific data your letter was lacking.)

Finally, in a very small way, acknowledging the outcries now echoing out of the megaphone provided to our voices by the reporting of Emily Hanford, you crafted a letter to state that your own research has been ignored, yet you do not provide a single link to a single research paper, blind study, or other scientifically recognized medium to prove data and show real results; instead what you present is only your emotional blustering that your work and the work of your self-proclaimed martyrs like Marie Clay, is ignored at best, and defamed at worse.

Sadly, in your willful dismissal of the evidence before you over the proceeding decades, you choose yet again to dismiss our pleas as misinformed, misdirected, divisive, and irresponsible.

Collectively, we are forced to send our children to compulsory education where the products you prostitute are forced onto our children who are incapable of quantifying their struggle. Few among our populace can afford private schools that may have alternative curriculums seated in the Science of Reading, and fewer still can make the necessary sacrifices to homeschool children to salvage their education.

Instead, you willingly choose to focus on the age-old straw man argument that this is solely about phonics and simply dismiss the cries of parents as “Sold a Story” fans and say that we are being divisive, and then blame us for creating a pretend war between those who believe in phonics and those who do not. Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve missed the entire point. That or you are blatantly choosing to ignore the cries of parents quite literally begging you to do better.

This has never been just about phonics. Parents, who are the champions of the Science of Reading movement, have never once claimed this “pretend” war (paraphrasing your statement: “creating a false sense that there is a war going on between those who believe in phonics and those who do not.) to be just about phonics; neither have the neuroscientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding how the brain learns how to read and mapping that process as well. From day one of our collective dissension against your curriculums we have asked for nothing less than your willing alignment to what our cognitive science has empirically proven. These are beautifully illustrated by Hollis Scarborough’s Reading Rope (dyslexiaida.org/scarboroughs-reading-rope-a-ground...) and Joan Sedita’s Writing Rope (dyslexiaida.org/joan-seditas-writing-rope/).....)

You proclaim with your letter that teaching phonics is a settled issue, yet your curriculums only have a smattering of phonics instruction while you still promote 3-cueing. You claim that essential too is comprehension strategy instruction, knowledge building, vocabulary acquisition, language development, writing process, culturally responsive teaching, emotional well-being and attention to educational equity, but do you actually understand any of those concepts? Do you honestly think we are collectively NOT advocating for those very things as well? By dismissing our dissension as being purely for phonics you attempt to place yourselves on a pillar of righteousness claiming you are the only ones invested in that long list of items. If you digest the data from the cognitive scientists, as well as what the advocates for the Science of Reading, aka parents, you would understand what we are really asking for. You would clearly see that we want all of those things as well but done sequentially and with explicit instruction.

You are all skilled writers who know how to use buzz words to make your arguments sound sincere, but you do not truly understand the meaning behind those buzz words, nor what the voices of dissent are seeking. You instead are far more invested in salvaging your careers instead of changing course to help save the lives and futures of our children. You are willfully blind to the support you would have had for parents if you had just stated that you did not understand and changed your ways, but instead you double down and choose to berate the very people begging you to change how you think children learn to read and write.

Further, to protect yourself and your pocketbooks you throw every educator under the bus by claiming that Ms. Hanford’s reporting reveals that educators are naively inadequate. That was a nice way of saying that they’ve blindly followed your teachings and that they are the source of the angst proponents of the Science of Reading target, when you know with all certainty that is not factual. Parents have always supported educators, but your pedagogy encourages educators to dismiss parents as hapless and unknowing while defending the righteousness of your thoughts and ideas. You are using them as pawns in this important issue which you dismiss after Ms. Hanford’s Sold a Story as being oversimplified and polarized. You, in fact, are the ones being reckless, but your recklessness is not without consequence. Those consequences are living, breathing children who are forced to attend schools where your damaging curriculums are used by educators across the country to “teach” them how to read and write. The abject harm you have caused to countless generations of people is overwhelming, yet you ask for the “rest of the story.”

You have been the only ones with the megaphones of doctrine for decades. You’ve had more than ample opportunity to prove your research and sing your own praises. Your side of the story has been heard, and the evidence of your failure is overwhelming. The 2022 NAEP scores are out and reading in 4th and 8th grade is down by 3 points which is a significant decline. This is even more revealing knowing that the NAEP is an accommodated assessment, which means the children who took it had assistance to ensure success, and the scores still declined. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the evidence that your curriculum failure is not being oversimplified or polarized. You have collectively failed to educate our children.

NAEP 2022 results for reading in both 4th and 8th grade: nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/reading/2022/....

You have had your opportunity, and you have failed to rise to that challenge.

All of us who have signed our names here are the ones invested in doing the real work, and we truly care about coming together and moving forward in a productive way, but you have proven time and time again that you are not truly invested in change, or admitting that the curriculums you’ve written and / or supported are wrong. Your continued efforts to dismiss the cries of parents begging you for change is what is wasting our time. We are here to focus on what matters most – our children.

You also do not get to brush us aside because we are “just parents.” That blatant dismissal isn’t going to work anymore. We all possess Ph.D.’s in our children, and we see their struggle. Collectively we are raising our voices so that you can plainly see with your own eyes that parents are the ones demanding you change your curriculums for the sake of all children. We know and fully understand what is needed. We have not been “sold a story” on a mythological idea that is the Science of Reading, and we are not going to let you off the hook as you attempt to PR spin your way out of this. We are informed, we are watching, invested, and paying keen attention to what you do next. We are also openly advocating for change at our school boards, and in our state legislatures.

Prove to us that you are collectively dedicated to the hard work of change for the sake of all children’s ability to read and write or do us all a favor and retire so you will stop harming them.

Reference Addendum:

• How We learn, by Stanislas Dehaene

• Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't, and What Can Be Done About It, by Mark Seidenberg

• Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf

• Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read, by Stanislaus Dehaene

• The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads, by Daniel T. Willingham

• Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading at Any Level, by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.

• Parenting a Struggling Reader – Susan Hall and Louisa Moats

• Straight Talk About Reading – Susan Hall and Louisa Moats

• The National Reading Panel, Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction; nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pub...

• Comparing Reading Research to Program Design: An Examination of Teachers College Units of Study; Authors: Marilyn Jager Adams , Lily Wong Fillmore , Claude Goldenberg , Jane Oakhill , David D. Paige , Timothy Rasinski , Timothy Shanahan; achievethecore.org/page/3240/comparing-reading-res...

• EdReports Review of Fountas & Pinnell (F&P) Classroom, 2020; edreports.org/reports/overview/fountas-pinnell-cla...

• Of ‘Hard Words’ and Straw Men: Let’s Understand What Reading Science is Really About, by Dr. Louisa Moats; voyagersopris.com/blog/edview360/2019/10/16/lets-u...

• 2022 NAEP Results: nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/reading/2022/...

• "An investigation into the origin of anatomical differences in dyslexia."; Krafnick, A.J., Flowers, D.L., Luetje, M.M., Napoliello, E.M., Eden, G.F.. Journal of Neuroscience, 34, 3 (2014): 901-8.

• "Neuroanatomical profiles of deafness in the context of native language experience."; Olulade, O.A., Koo, D.S., LaSasso, C.J., Eden, G.F.. Journal of Neuroscience, 34, 16 (2014): 5613-20.

• "Sex-specific gray matter volume differences in females with developmental dyslexia."; Evans T.M., Flowers D.L., Napoliello E.M., Eden G.F.. Brain Structure and Function, 219, 3 (2014): 1041-54.

• "The functional anatomy of single-digit arithmetic in children with developmental dyslexia."; Evans, T.M., Flowers, D.L., Napoliello, E.M., Olulade, O.A., Eden, G.F.. Neuroimage (2014)

• "Abnormal visual motion processing is not a cause of dyslexia."; Olulade, O.A., Napolielo, E.M., Eden, G.F.. Neuron, 79, 1 (2013): 180-190.

• "Developmental differences for word processing in the ventral stream."; Olulade, O.A., Flowers, D.L., Napolielo, E.M., Eden, G.F. Brain and Language, 125, 2 (2013): 134–145.

• "Neural basis of single-word reading in Spanish-English bilinguals."; Jamal, N.I., Piche, A.W., Napoliello, E.M., Perfetti, C.A., Eden, G.F. Human Brain Mapping, 33, 1 (2012): 235-45.

• "Examining the central and peripheral processes of written word production through meta-analysis."Purcell, J.J., Turkeltaub, P.E., Eden, G.F., Rapp, R. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 239 (2011)

• "Imaging studies of reading and reading disability."; Eden, G.F., Olulade, O.A., Evans, T.M., Krafnick, A.J., Alkire, D.R.. Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference, (in press). Oxford, United Kingdom: Elsevier, 2014.

• Torgesen, J.K., Wagner, R.K., & Rashotte, C.A. (2012). Test of Word Reading Efficiency, 2nd Edition. Austin, TX: Pro-ED, Inc.

• Wagner, R.K., Torgesen, J.K., Rashotte, C.A., & Pearson, N.A. (2010). Test of silent reading efficiency and comprehension. Austin, TX; Pro-ED, Inc.

• Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through third grade: A practice guide (NCEE #). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sci­ences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/practiceguides/.

• Torgesen, J. K., & Miller, D. H. (2009). Assessments to guide adolescent literacy instruction. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

• Torgesen, J.K., Foorman, B.R., & Wagner, R.K. (2008). Dyslexia: A brief for educators, parents, and legislators in Florida. Tallahassee, FL: FCRR Technical report #8.

• Torgesen, J.K., Houston, D.D., Rissman, L.M. , Decker, S.M., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Francis, D.J., Rivera, M.O. (2007). Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction. Center on Instruction for K-12 Reading, Math, and Science. Portsmouth, NH

• Torgesen, J.K. & Hudson, R. (2006). Reading fluency: critical issues for struggling readers. In S.J. Samuels and A. Farstrup (Eds.). Reading fluency: The forgotten dimension of reading success. Newark, DE: International Reading Association

• Torgesen, J.K. (2005). Recent discoveries from research on remedial interventions for children with dyslexia. In M. Snowling and C. Hulme (Eds.). The Science of Reading. (pp. 521-537). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers

• Torgesen, J.K. (2004). Avoiding the devastating downward spiral: The evidence that early intervention prevents reading failure. American Educator, 28, 6-19. Reprinted in the 56th Annual Commemorative Booklet of the International Dyslexia Association, November, 2005.

• Torgesen, J.K. (2004). Learning disabilities: An historical and conceptual overview. In B.K. Wong. (Ed.). Learning About Learning Disabilities, 3rd Edition. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

• Torgesen, J.K. (2004). Lessons Learned From the Last 20 Years of Research on Interventions for Students who Experience Difficulty Learning to Read. In McCardle, P. & Chhabra, V. (Eds.) The voice of evidence in reading research. Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.

• Lyon, G. Reid, and Vinita Chhabra. "The Science of Reading Research." Educational Leadership 61.6 (2004): 13.

• Lyon, G. Reid. "Why reading is not a natural process." Educational leadership 55.6 (1998): 14-18.

• Lyon, Reid G. "The NICHD Research Program in Reading Development, Reading Disorders and Reading Instruction: A Summary of Research Findings. Keys to Successful Learning: A National Summit on Research in Learning Disabilities." (1998).

• Stuebing, Karla K., et al. "Validity of IQ-discrepancy classifications of reading disabilities: A meta-analysis." American Educational Research Journal 39.2 (2002): 469-518.

• Reid Lyon, G., and Beverly Weiser. "Teacher knowledge, instructional expertise, and the development of reading proficiency." Journal of learning disabilities 42.5 (2009): 475-480.

• Vellutino, Frank R., Donna M. Scanlon, and G. Reid Lyon. "Differentiating between difficult-to-remediate and readily remediated poor readers: More evidence against the IQ-achievement discrepancy definition of reading disability." Journal of learning disabilities 33.3 (2000): 223-238.

• Lyon, G. Reid. "Overview of Reading and Literacy Initiatives." (1998).

• Francis, David J., et al. "Dimensions affecting the assessment of reading comprehension." Children's reading comprehension and assessment. Routledge, 2005. 387-412.

• Fletcher, Jack M. "Measuring reading comprehension." Scientific studies of reading 10.3 (2006): 323-330.

• Foorman, Barbara R., Joshua I. Breier, and Jack M. Fletcher. "Interventions aimed at improving reading success: An evidence-based approach." Developmental neuropsychology 24.2-3 (2003): 613-639.

• Vaughn, Sharon, and Jack M. Fletcher. "Response to intervention with secondary school students with reading difficulties." Journal of learning disabilities 45.3 (2012): 244-256.

• Fletcher, Jack M. "Predicting math outcomes: Reading predictors and comorbidity." Journal of Learning Disabilities 38.4 (2005): 308-312.

• Denton, Carolyn A., Sharon Vaughn, and Jack M. Fletcher. "Bringing research‐based practice in reading intervention to scale." Learning Disabilities Research & Practice 18.3 (2003): 201-211.

• Willingham, Daniel T. The reading mind: A cognitive approach to understanding how the mind reads. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

• Willingham, Daniel T. "The usefulness of brief instruction in reading comprehension strategies." American Educator 30.4 (2006): 39-50.

• Willingham, Daniel T. "How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens reading comprehension, learning-and thinking." American Educator 30.1 (2006): 30.

• Willingham, Daniel T., and John W. Lloyd. "How educational theories can use neuroscientific data." Mind, Brain, and Education 1.3 (2007): 140-149.

• Willingham, Daniel T. "How knowledge helps: It speeds and strengthens reading comprehension, learning-and thinking." American Educator 30.1 (2006): 30.

• Dunlosky, John, et al. "Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology." Psychological Science in the public interest 14.1 (2013): 4-58.

• Willingham, Daniel T. "For the Love of Reading: Engaging Students in a Lifelong Pursuit." American Educator 39.1 (2015): 4.

• Willingham, Daniel T. Why don't students like school?: A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom. John Wiley & Sons, 2021.

• Willingham, Daniel T. Raising kids who read: What parents and teachers can do. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.

• Willingham, Daniel T. "Ask the cognitive scientist the privileged status of story." American Educator 28 (2004): 43-45.

Update 22 November 2022

Update to The Parent Response to "Opinion: A call for rejecting the newest reading wars" in The Hechinger Report

To the addressees:

I was remiss in one aspect of my original letter. I stated American schools, but you sell your curriculums across the globe. This letter is on behalf of every child educated under your curriculum, regardless of country. This letter is on behalf of all parents. We are the ones in the trenches demanding change. Our voices will be heard.

1,414 verified
  1. Ashley Roberts, Parent & Advocate
  2. Lauren Taylor, Paren Advocate, Atlanta
  3. Adrienne Groman, Biostatistician, Orchard Park
  4. Krysten Jenkins, Parent, Gainesville
  5. Christina Engberg, State Leader, Parent, Decoding Dyslexia Georgia, Atlanta
  6. Sarah Levine, Teacher, Parent, New Haven
  7. Missy Purcell, Parent and Advocate, Gwinnett Advocates for Dyslexia, Lilburn
  8. Brittany Wheelus, Parent, Statham
  9. Ellen Popov, Parent, Norcross
  10. Amy Loggins, Frustrated Parent, Cornelia
  11. Macy Abell, Parent, Grayson
  12. Leah Noreng, Parent, Oro Valley, AZ
  13. Elizabeth Gyurko, Parent, Raleigh NC
  14. Kelli Owen, Educator, Jackson
  15. Caron Howick, Parent, NJ
  16. Renee Saarloos, Parent, Sioux Center
  17. Frida Brunzell, Parent, Poway
  18. Maureen Ronayne, Mother, Medford
  19. Ashley Johnson, Bothell
  20. David Weingartner, Parent, MPS Academics Advocacy, Minneapolis
1,374 more
verified signatures
  1. Leena Rosile, Real estate, HPU, Hilliard
  2. Crystal LeGallo, Teacher, DDSD, Portland
  3. Karen Currie, Educator, Huron Intermediate School District, Bad Axe
  4. Kristie Perry, Parent, Parent, Pasadena
  5. Stacey Miller, BCBA, Breinigsville
  6. Kelli Soucy
  7. Janet Olson, unemployed, Beaverton, OR
  8. Ashley W Mendoza, dyslexia therapist, Waxahachie ISD, Waxahachie
  9. Leigh Anne Conner, Pharmacist, Forsyth
  10. Kenneth J Ferguson, Executive Search, Cumming
  11. Mary Beth Weber, Piano teacher, Silver Spring
  12. Denise Morgan, Paralegal, Equitable Literacy for All, Walnut Grove
  13. Sarah Angelopoulos, Registered Psychologist, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  14. Jessica Arrington, Dyslexic mother of Dyslexic Children, Tucson
  15. Martina Werner, Scientist and parent, Winchester
  16. Robert Ellington, Realtor, BHGRE, Winchester
  17. Aileen Slater, Parent of 2 dyslexic children, Winchester
  18. Antoine Council, Woodbury
  19. Annette J Neubauer, Sale s, Lodge Cast Iron, Chattanooga
  20. Celine Millus
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