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 Dallas Morning News
 Reading research gets respect
 By Charles Ornstein / The Dallas Morning News WASHINGTON -

 Teaching children to read is a lot like curing a deadly disease - so
 says federal researcher G. Reid Lyon.

 First, scientists must identify promising approaches; then they need
 to test their hunches.

 Dr. Lyon, who works for the National Institutes of Health, is trying
 to instill this scientific method into reading instruction, instead of
 allowing philosophy to guide the debate. Although his crusade is not
 new, his influence has increased markedly because of the White House's
 new emphasis on reading.

 "Reading is a very complex issue, just like any public health issue,"
 Dr. Lyon said. "Expecting me to read just by exposure to reading

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
as preached/pushed by the Int. Reading Association--IRA, who
proselytize "whole language"]

 is like expecting people to do what
 [basketball star] Allen Iverson does just by watching him. It ain't
 going to happen."

 When President Bush was governor of Texas, Dr. Lyon helped design the
 state's reading initiative. Now, he's helping the new administration
 craft its national reading program, which aims to teach every child to
 read proficiently by the end of third grade.

 Legislation passed Thursday by the Senate would allow up to $5 billion
 over five years to be spent on research-proven approaches for reading
 instruction. An expert panel would review applications, and states
 would be required to show that their programs work.

 Dr. Lyon's critics

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
read, IRA]

 say he is trying to dumb down reading
 instruction by encouraging all teachers to use the same methods -
 drilling students on sounds and letters. The opponents prefer a
 whole-language approach

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
didn't I tell you]

 , in which children are
 encouraged to read books and learn words without breaking them apart.

 "Even if it were true that there was scientific evidence that one
 method was superior to others, you can't force teachers to teach in
 ways that they don't believe

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Professor Goodman, research, is not
about what you and teachers believe in, not even what you or they
'believe' is harmful to kids. If they were truly tracking how well
their pupils learn to read and whether or not they become truly
literate/fluent readers--which they do not, and so they don't
know--they would know that whole language is, in fact a most
incredible barrier to literacy; it keeps them from learning the
phonemes (letter sounds) of the phonetic language they are to learn.
The disaster was clear for all to see, here in California, where
'whole language' made our children the worst readers in the country.
Even Bill Honig, who, as state superintendent, spear-headed the whole
thing, admitted it to the Assembly Committee on Education. But still,
you and your acolytes even here in CA continue to inflict WL on
innocent, normal children who have entirely normal potential for
literacy and education. You and they should be held legally
responsible for the horrendous damage you have inflicted, and would
continue to inflict]

 in, that they feel is harmful to kids," said
 Kenneth Goodman, a professor emeritus in education at the University
 of Arizona.

 "What we're doing is turning our schools into drill camps for
 testing," he said. "We've turned our teachers into test
 administrators. We've turned wonderful teachers into technicians. We
 have brought the morality of politics into educational decision
 making, and Reid Lyon is as much responsible for that than anything."

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
to the extent that Reid Lyon is trying to do the right thing; to
make the children literate and thereby educable, to give the nation a
literate and thereby educable youth and generation to come, fighting
off Goodman and the all-powerful IRA, to do so, he is to be
praised. To the extent that he and his institute at the NIH, the
National Instit. of Child Health and Human Development continue to
represent 'dyslexia' as a real disease, by which to excuse the
government and it failing system of public education (the DOE), Reid
Lyon, deserves our condemnation. He came to California seeking to
excuse the failed WL experiment by claiming that 20% had 'dyslexia.'
Lets see if he can enact the 'right thing': intensive, systematic
phonics, shown by empiric research, by the best of science, to result,
every time in the highest percent of literate-and-thereby-educable

 Supporters, including Mr. Bush, praise Dr. Lyon. "Reid came in and
 helped us defuse all the politics of reading curriculum battles and
 helped us put

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:

 a program that works," Mr. Bush said in

 Education Secretary Rod Paige, a former Houston superintendent,
 suggested that critics are reluctant to accept change.

 "The principles he represents will require a lot of change, and many
 people are not ready for that," Dr. Paige said. "I tell you what, he's
 a great blessing for the children of America."

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Indeed, if GW Bush can
take on the IRA/educational academia/teachers union and force them to
teach the children to read he will have done at least one thing of
monumental importance, for surely, without such interdiction, we are
on a path, as a nation, to certain decline, and failure.]

 The phonics fight

 For years, the "reading wars" have been fought between the advocates
 of phonics and whole language

 But throughout the country, the philosophical debate is slowly giving
 way to scientific research. Officials in several states have seized
 upon studies suggesting that children learn best when they master
 phonics and then read books to reinforce basic skills.

 Research has shown that children fall into three categories those who
 learn to read effortlessly before they begin school, those who learn
 relatively easily when taught the basics in school, and 20 percent to
 30 percent who need extra help.

 For the last group, the problems balloon if not quickly corrected. "By
 high school, these children's potential for entering college has
 decreased to almost nil, with few choices available to them," Dr. Lyon
 has said.

 Children with the most trouble need direct intervention, including
 intense phonics education, Dr. Lyon said. "The more a child comes to
 you bereft of skills, the less choice as a teacher you have."

 National direction Dr. Lyon oversees child development and behavior
 programs at the National Institute of Child Health and Human
 Development. Under his direction and with federal money, researchers
 conduct clinical trials to determine how to best identify kids with
 reading difficulties and help teachers instruct them. He oversees 44
 research sites that are studying more than 34,000 children and 1,100

 With a friend in the White House, Dr. Lyon's expertise is in hot
 demand. During the Clinton administration, he traveled to Washington
 once a month from his suburban Maryland office. Now, he spends about
 half his time conferring with Bush appointees and lawmakers in the
 capital. He also served on the president's education transition team.

 Dr. Lyon first met Mr. Bush in 1995, when the governor was beginning
 to craft an education overhaul in the state. "He said, 'I've got a lot
 of kids in the state who simply are not learning to read. What can you
 do about it?'" Dr. Lyon recalled.

 Using research compiled by the National Institutes of Health, Texas
 developed a statewide screening test to identify kindergartners at
 risk for reading difficulties.

 Texas officials also relied on reading research to design teacher
 programs. Studies have found that new teachers benefit from
 step-by-step programs with specific strategies to teach reading.
 Veteran teachers don't need the same oversight.

 "Any state that asks us to come, we'll go," Dr. Lyon said, adding that
 his staff has visited 26 states. "That's your tax dollars at work."
 Critics of the phonics method say Mr. Bush emphasizes research only
 when it supports his position. They say that the full body of reading
 research is not as one-sided as Dr. Lyon claims.

 "It's very interesting that Bush rejects the research on global
 warming and rejects the research on many other environmental things
 that are overwhelmingly accepted, but he accepts this spurious kind of
 reading research," Dr. Goodman said. "If it weren't so tragic, it
 would be funny."

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Dr. Goodman, where is one to find truly scientific
research on WL. It's believers consistently say, it cannot be made
the object of the scientific method. Again, you, Sir, and your
followers, and all at the IRA, need to be held accountable. Every
child that remains functionally illiterate having had WL inflicted
upon them, is a tragedy. I have seen many as adult and I have seen
many in the making. My grandson, Andrew was among them. His teachers
swore they taught him phonics enough when clearly they had not and
clearly they had not intention of doing so, even upon our insistence.
We put Andrew, then in mid-2nd grade into a parochial school and got
him a tutor who used a strictly phonics approach and in 3 months he
was no longer LD/dyslexic/pre-ADHD, just to mention a few of the
fraudulent labels by which you, all in education and mental health,
explain away unfavorable results of the program you believe in despite
the catastrophe of your making, before your very eyes. --Fred A.
Baughman Jr., MD, 6/19/01 ]

 Appointment rumor

 Dr. Lyon said he is a registered independent whose values overlap more
 with Democrats than Republicans. He voted for Bill Clinton over Mr.
 Bush's father in 1992. But last year, he cast his ballot for the
 younger Mr. Bush, in large part because of his personal experiences
 with him. The Bush administration's use of federal reading research is
 a far cry from the past.

 "The most gratifying thing to me is that people are beginning to rely
 on evidence to make their decision," Dr. Lyon said. He has been
 rumored as a potential appointee in the Bush administration, perhaps
 for the position of reading czar. But at least publicly, Dr. Lyon says
 he's not interested.

 "I don't think I'd be very good at it," he said. "I have too big of a
 mouth. I'm not politically correct."     Jimmy Kilpatrick, Editor  Jimmy Kilpatrick, Editor

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