The best kinds of gifts are surprises. And no gift could be more surprising than today's post on Diane Ravitch's blog.
In an attempt to show how the Teacher Prep Review is destroying higher education, the blog post actually demonstrates the hugely beneficial impact it is having.
The blog post is written by Dr. Katherine Crawford-Garrett, a literacy professor at the University of New Mexico. She says that her dean told her that she would have to change the syllabus and her textbook of her literacy course, one that is required of elementary teacher candidates, so that the program would do better on the Review. No more would she be able to assign textbooks that completely ignore the well-established science of reading instruction. And, horror of horrors, she would actually have to give lectures on such fundamental literacy topics as fluency and vocabulary development.
She bemoans the Review's ostensible infringement on her academic freedom. But academic freedom is predicated on the notion that the professors actually teach what the field has established as fact — and nothing is more factual than the science of reading. If an astronomy professor started giving lectures claiming that the earth was the center of the universe, academic freedom could not possibly save him from dismissal, and rightly so.
She also claims, wrongly, that the Review penalizes programs that emphasize issues of social justice and diversity. We are ourselves motivated by a sense of injustice, particularly the travesty that 30 percent of our students can't read successfully by fourth grade when instructors well-versed in effective techniques could cut that percentage down to 10 percent or less. But when talking about social justice leaves no time for solid reading instructional techniques, we raise a red flag.
As one teacher candidate who is working in our office this summer said: "I've had five courses in my program on social justice, I'd love to take one that teaches me how to teach kids how to read."