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The Science of Reading Era: Seeking the “Science” in Yet Another Anti-Teacher Movement

Published On: May 9th, 2023 | Categories: Latest News |

All donations in the month of May will go toward RRCNA’s advocacy efforts to keep Reading Recovery available to struggling readers.

By Paul L. Thomas

Originally published in the Spring 2023 Volume 2 issue of the Journal of Reading Recovery.

If you are paying attention to traditional or social media, you are aware of the following stories being told about U.S. public school teachers in 2023:

  • Elementary teachers are failing to teach reading effectively to U.S. students.
  • That failure is “because many deans and faculty in colleges of education either don’t know the science or dismiss it,” according to Hanford (2018).
  • Elementary, literature/ELA teachers, and history teachers are brainwashing students with Critical Race Theory (Pollock & Rogers et al., 2022).
  • Elementary and literature/ ELA teachers are grooming children to be gay or transgender by allowing them to read diverse books and stories.

Except for teachers themselves and some education scholars, these new bad teacher myths are both extremely compelling and almost entirely false.

Although the “science of reading” (SOR) movement has been continually and uncritically perpetuated by mainstream media since 2018, beneath the call for “science” is both the myth of the bad teacher and the missionary zeal that has driven education reform throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Below, I unpack the bad teacher myth and the flaws in missionary zeal fueling education reform in order to build to a critical examination of the SOR movement, which falls apart when the central claims of SOR advocates are weighed against the full research base currently available on teaching reading.

Finally, we must face the lessons we have failed to learn from decades of education reform that targets exclusively in-school policy and practices while ignoring the more substantial impact of out-of-school factors on both teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

Download the journal article here.

Paul (P. L.) Thomas is a professor of education at Furman University. Before moving to teacher education and teaching first-year writing, he taught high school English for 18 years in South Carolina. He is the author of How to End the Reading War and Serve the Literacy Needs of All Students: A Primer for Parents, Policy Makers, and People Who Care 2nd ed (IAP). Follow him at and @plthomasEdD.

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