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“So we ended up with new math books without arithmetic and literature books without reading skills.”

California schools faced profound obstacles…from shortage of funds to huge numbers of students whose first language was not English. …plus drugs, gangs, and delinquency.

Then…teachers were suddenly encouraged to drop old ways of teaching reading and math.

According to the “whole language” theory, the sounding out of letters and syllables -- (called phonics) -- was replaced with an emphasis on teachers reading literature aloud to children so they could hear the language being used. The old way was teaching rules and sets of isolated words. …They said “we don’t want to discourage kids from using words just because they can’t spell them.”

Teachers who had doubts about this were stripped of ammunition. Books with phonics and spelling were banned from state-approved lists. … Phonics was a dirty word. Now, with the test scores in, parents are calling this new age teaching “fuzzy crap.”

Advocates of the new methods, however, said that the scores plummeted because 1) The exam was new. 2) The new method wasn’t tried long enough. 3) The test format was different. 4) Too many teachers didn’t fully adopt it.

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