Phonics Strategies Success Stories
Literacy Statistics
Barclay School in Baltimore MD:

Test Scores:  Reading
In 2009, 91% of Barclay Elementary/Middle School Grade 3 students met or exceeded standards in Reading. This is higher than the Baltimore City Public Schools School District average of 77%, and higher than the Maryland state average of 85%.
Yearly Reading Scores:  The state average for Reading was 85% in 2009
  91% (2009)
  94% (2008)
  81% (2007)
  71% (2006)

91% Black (African American) / 3% Asian (Pacific Islander) /  3% White /  2% Hispanic
******17% Student with Disabilities /  3% English Learners /  95% Average Attendance Rate

Barclay is a rigorous back-to-basics public school; combining confidence building with high expectations; it gets results that elite private schools would be proud of and it gets these results from inner-city students; 91% of them are black, over 60% from single-parent homes;  Barclay ignores the whole-language theory; believes in direct instruction; the school ignores learning strategies and multicultural claptrap!
Wesley Elementary of Houston TX, follows the same principals practiced at Barclay's; most of the children come from the same general population as Barclay's student body; almost all of the kindergarten children are able to read and understand what they've read. Many parents from more affluent areas of Houston move to the Wesley School District just so their children can get a solid foundation in reading.

Barclay Elementary in Baltimore written up in NY Times, August 20, 1995 article
in four years its reading scores went UP 30 to 50 percentage points and referrals for special education went DOWN by a factor of four! 

What makes a successful school for minorities?  The Basics!
Teaching an old-fashioned (phonics) approach has produced students who consistently score at or above the national average in reading & comprehension: This method drills or keeps repeating exercises until the student gets the phonetic (letter-sound relationships), spelling and sentence structure correct!


Teaching / Educational Quotes

Sounds are like keys opening the door to words
Marva Collins

Marva Collins is an educator who spent 16 years teaching in the Chicago public school system before she decided that she had had enough. The longer I taught in the public school system, the more I came to think that schools were concerned with everything but teaching,she says. In September of 1975 she began a private school with 4 students.  Collins soon moved the school into the second floor of her home, which she and her husband had renovated to accommodate approximately twenty children ranging from four to fourteen years old. Within a few short years the school was eventually moved to its own building near Collins's home. Shortly after this move, enrollment increased to over two hundred students. The Westside Preparatory School, located in one of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods was considered the nations most successful private alternative school in the black community.  Its success has been widely acclaimed by the media BUT NOT BY PUBLIC EDUCATORS of Chicago who continue to do what they do best Miseducate! Marva Collins Way is an important book that every teacher, student teacher, tutors and parent of preschoolers should read

Following are selected topics and excerpts from her book:  Marva Collins Way

More Money not Needed:
Phonic teaching is far cheaper than the long drawn-out schemes (multi-strategies).
At the beginning of each school year in September, I have admitted to my school in Chicago, children as young as 3 ½ years of age.  I guarantee that they will be reading by Christmas. Getting it right the first time would save millions of dollars on remedial teaching or special Ed classes. We need to aim for all children to learn phonics before they start kindergarten!  

Bootleg Phonics
Children become better readers and spellers when they learn by phonics; but it has to be intensive phonics which covers all the regular and irregular sound patterns in the English language not some bootleg version for sounding out the first and last letters of a word. I saw that if a child knew the rules for vowel and consonant sounds and for syllabification, and the exceptions to the rules, then that child could pick up anything and read it!

Teachers Failing the Test
So, why can't Johnny read by the 3rd or 4th grade? I'm told that an example does not establish a general rule, but, just the other day, my representative, acting as an advocate for an 8-year old boy and his parents, sat in on an evaluation session. The psychological evaluation cited that the boy had limited knowledge of phonetic rules.

His classroom teacher was asked three questions: 
1. How many ways are there to spell the sound [the long vowel sound]? Four, responded the teacher. 
2. What are the classifications of the different sounds? I have no idea, answered the teacher.
3. What is the significance of the letters and  Again, the teacher had no knowledge of the answer. 

  • There are 11 ways to spell the sound long 
  • The three different pronunciations of the combination are the French (as in champagne), the English (as in church) and the Italian (as in ache)
  • The letters are vowel signals. 

Simply stated, these experts wanted to label the child learning disabled and they proposed placing him in a special education class. But, how could the boy learn what his teacher did not know? To rephrasehow could the teacher teach what she did not know? Phonics is taught in my school to all children, the very little ones included. Phonics provides the keys that unlock the mystery of reading.  How can anyone insist, with a straight face, that this 8 year old has a learning problem for not knowing what he clearly wasn't, and couldn't have been, taught? Again, it is impossible to teach what one doesn't know. Marva had to fire a teacher who claimed to be a reading specialist; as it turned out, she didn't know a thing about phonics!

Report Cards and Previous School Records:
The first thing I did was toss aside all the reports and cumulative records. Experience has shown that those reports were wrong more often than they were right and too many children had their personalities ink-blotted, their IQs probed, their every move analyzed children are being written off as losers.  Too often teachers, school psychologists and social workers have PRECONCIEVED notions about children and pigeonhole them accordingly. Some teachers assume that these children can never learn anything. Whatever a child SHOULD HAVE LEARNED in a previous school is irrelevant it doesn't matter. A teacher's duty is to start that child from where he or she is.

Minority Teaching and Student Success:
There are many successful unsung heroes or heroines who are seldom visible in teacher education classrooms. Seldom are teacher initiates introduced to the many proven successful methods of educating children of color.
Instead reference is constantly given to research study after research study to inform teachers that school achievement is intimately and inevitably linked with socioeconomic status. Teacher candidates are told that culturally different children are mismatched to the school setting and cannot be expected to achieve as well as white, middle-class children. They are taught that children of poverty are developmentally slower than other children.
Nairobi Day School, East Palo Alto, CA and Barclay Elementary Schools, Baltimore, MD (children from poor black communities scoring 3-times above national averages); Marva Collins, Chicago Illinois; (educated many black students considered uneducable);Jaime Escalante, East Los Angeles CA; (consistently taught hundreds of Latino high school students who live in the poorest barrios to test their way into advanced-placement calculus classes the saga continues!

The Rockford Reading Disaster 

Following are brief excerpts from the website.  Media and reporters are asked to write for additional details:  http://www.illinoisloop.org/rockford.html  (visit this website for complete story and details).

Lewis Lemon 3rd-Graders Ranked No. 2 in Rockford Tests
Math and Reading Scores of Black Students at the School Surpass Those of Whites Statewide
by Carrie Watters, Rockford Register Star, December 14, 2003. 
"Nearly eight in 10 children who enter Lewis Lemon Global Studies Academy in prim blue uniforms are black. All but 15 percent of the school's 412 pupils are poor. Don't dare tell these children that, statistically speaking, they should be struggling in school. Lewis Lemon's third-grade students ranked No. 2 out of 35 Rockford elementary schools that administered the Illinois Standards Achievement Test in reading and math. ... At Lewis Lemon ... black third-graders outperformed white counterparts in reading and math in last spring's tests97 percent of black students met state standards, compared with 92.3 percent of white students. And 95.3 percent of students classified as poor met math standards. Compare that to scores around the district: 41.1 percent of black third-graders, compared to 73.7 percent of whites, met state math standards. And 51.9 percent of poor students met third-grade math standards against 74.9 percent of their peers who aren't poor." 

The Empire Strikes Back
Approach to Reading Argued
by Carrie Watters, Rockford Register Star, January 16, 2005 
Lewis Lemon Principal Tiffany Parker was relieved of instructional duties last week for not implementing an approach to reading that new administrators ushered in this school year. Parker's removal was the flash point in a brewing battle over how children are taught to read, one of the most critical skills and also one of the most emotional parts of teaching. Parents gathered at the school on Thursday to strategize how to protect a reading program they say works. "If the mountain needs to be moved, move it. But if it's working, keep it," said parent Tamara Watkins. Lewis Lemon's third-grade students did move a mountain of statistics that show a national scourge: minority and poor students persistently performing below their classmates. The west-side students, 80 percent black and nearly as many poor, came in second in the district behind King gifted students on the state reading test in 2003 ... Lewis Lemon, along with Nelson and Kishwaukee -- three of the district's most impoverished elementary schools -- began its academic climb in 2001. ... By 2003, third grade reading scores were up dramatically.

Which Reading Program Is Right? 
by Laura Gibbs, WIFR Channel 23, Rockford
January 21, 2005:
This Rockford situation continues to deteriorate quickly with the poor principal skewered and roasted. When she went to conduct a PTO meeting last night, the superintendent and curriculum director were already there to run the meeting (and present misinformation about why their balanced literacy "innovations" were a change in the right direction).  When we wonder why teachers and principals keep quiet when parents try to bring about change, we only have to think about what Ms. Parker is going through. The system is as nasty to renegades as it is to outspoken parents.  The good news is that the NY papers picked up on this story ...

A Lesson From The Heartland
by Andrew Wolf, NEW YORK SUN, January 21, 2005.
"Since we're here in New York, you're probably asking why we should care. However, there is good reason for us to look at Rockford: The events there are pertinent to our children and our schools. Ms. Parker, who will now shuffle papers, was not demoted because she is incompetent, nor as the unfortunate result of an incident that she might have mishandled. Nor was she disciplined because the school's reading scores went down. The answer is that Ms. Parker put the children of her school ahead of pedagogical theology. ...
This is an example of the pervasiveness of the true monopoly in public education....
Research demonstrates that Ms. Parker is right and the administration is wrong. But when we allow ideology to trump science, the best principals and teachers inevitably join the students as victims.

A Fight Over Reading Instruction in a District Weary of Change
by Samuel G. Freedman, NEW YORK TIMES, February 2, 2005. 
"One of the only bright spots [in Rockford] appeared to be the Lewis Lemon elementary school. With a student body that was 80 percent nonwhite and 85 percent poor, the school recorded some of highest scores in Rockford on statewide tests. On a reading test, Lemon's third graders trailed only those from a school for the gifted. Lemon's principal, Tiffany Parker, had accomplished all this by embracing a method of teaching reading known as 'direct instruction. In the last several months, however, Ms. Parker and Lewis Lemon have collided with [the new superintendent] ... Instead of serving as beacons for what is possible, the school and its principal have been portrayed as impediments to progress. The superintendent recently transferred Ms. Parker to a middle school, and has begun phasing out direct instruction in favor of an approach known as balanced literacy

Prison Building Forecast:
There are some states that determine how many prison cells to build based upon the reading scores of third graders. With unfortunate accuracy, projections of how many prisons will be needed twenty years from now can be determined by the reading failure rate of 8-year old children. By age 7 observant parents may realize that their child is not actually reading but guessing and/or memorizing, but more times than not this crucial time for reading intervention slips through the cracks.   In any event YES WE CAN eliminate prison building fundraising planning by methodically teaching all children the mechanics of reading by way of letter-sound relationships.