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Why a Lawsuit, Why Now?

Published On: October 25th, 2023 | Categories: Latest News |

Why a lawsuit? Why now? In a complex education system, it’s understandable for non-educators to get some things wrong. But when non-educators are making momentous decisions that impact both teachers and children, those consequences can be disastrous. That’s when advocates must step in and take action.

Take Gov. DeWine’s attempt to reshape the entire education landscape in Ohio. For someone who purports to use only research-based instruction in Ohio schools, he certainly failed to do his research. Since he clearly didn’t listen to the literacy experts and went forward with banning evidence-based instructional methods, a lawsuit seemed the only way to slow down the train before it derailed.

DeWine states the science of reading is “abundantly clear.” Since he fails to define what science of reading (SOR) is in his Literacy Curriculum Statute, we can only assume he believes SOR is what he’s pushing for: structured, systematic phonics, aka Big Box one-size fits-all, phonics-heavy curriculum. But there are no peer-reviewed studies that show this method works any better than more balanced phonics approaches like those used in Reading Recovery and others. In fact, the topic remains a hotly contested debate among literacy researchers, with most leaning towards balance, cooperation, and collegiality. Without that compelling research, Ohio taxpayers should be very curious about why DeWine is so insistent on spending millions mandating unproven methods, especially considering the failure of Reading First, the last political boondoggle where structured systematic phonics was enforced – with little to show for it.

Only those with a product to sell seem to portray SOR is a settled science. Unlike commercially available curriculum programs (presumably those with DeWine’s sanctioned SOR label on the box), Reading Recovery is available with a royalty-free license and minimal costs other than teacher training. Despite DeWine’s somewhat slanderous attempts to paint RRCNA as a money-grubbing corporation, the Reading Recovery Council is a not-for-profit 501c3 organization in good standing in DeWine’s own state of Ohio. It holds both a Gold Seal of Transparency from Candid and accreditation under the National Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.

In short, no one is getting rich off a lawsuit. RRCNA’s lawsuit fights for teachers to be able to teach using evidence-based methods like Reading Recovery and for students to be able to learn outside of the constraints of one-size-fits-all programs that lack peer-reviewed research. As any good teacher will tell you, one size does NOT fit all, and limiting the tools teachers can use is only hurting kids, especially struggling readers.

The biggest issue here — the basis of the lawsuit — is that the Gov. is trying to bend the single-issue rule law to pack hidden policy edicts inside a must-pass budget bill. In terms of the lawsuit, it’s glaringly obvious that Gov. DeWine is in the wrong. The governor cannot be allowed to use the budget bill like a Trojan horse, sneaking through whatever pet projects lobbyists are pushing for into Ohio law. The fact that he’s ignoring a vast body of literacy research and banning teachers from using evidence-based instructional practices is despicable and detrimental to Ohio students.

With Ohio being just one of the many states that have fallen for the media/political circus that is SOR, I hope this is the first of many lawsuits to settle the wildly swinging pendulum that has plagued schools for decades. Until education experts and real, peer-reviewed research hold more sway than political and corporate interests, those of us who actually care about kids more than money can never stop fighting – because it’s just the right thing to do.

Dr. Billy Molasso is the Executive Director of the Reading Recovery Council of North America.

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