Richard Allington on Literacy and the Common Core

Many teachers are concerned about the literacy implications of the Common Core.  One of the nation’s literacy experts, Dr. Richard Allington, was interviewed about the Common Core, arranged by SAANYS, the School Administrators Association of New.  SAANYS represents many supervisors, principals, and even Superintendents in NY, and of which I am a retired member.  The interview is published in the Winter 2013 issue of the SAANYS publication VANGUARD, on Special Education, which is not my expertise.  However, the interview, entitled “The Road to Literacy Instruction” is worth sharing with others in your district.  The interviewer is Peter DeWitt, an author and elementary principal in Averill Park CSD, in the Albany region of New York.  DeWitt also blogs for Education Week.  Allington is considered by many to be one of the nation’s literacy experts, and was once at U Albany, now at U of Tennessee.  At Southern Westchester BOCES, we used him as a literacy consultant to present while I was a Director of Professional Development.   Here’s the link to the Winter 2013 issue:

I’m struck by many of Allington’s points about literacy, about common misunderstandings relating to literacy and the Common Core, and about various forms of supplemental instruction.  Some examples:
-Computerized reading support program research shows little value to students.  Teacher led supportive instruction is what works.  “There isn’t much good to write about computerized instruction.” (p. 26).
-Whole Language also works, when done well, better than phonics only, but later in the article Allington points out that phonics instruction is vital for the 10-20% of students who don’t pick up on phonic awareness without explicit instruction.  These kids need specific help.
-The Common Core is frequently misunderstood — it does not mandate consistently harder texts.  Read his comments carefully to see how he interprets the Core Standards, and how he points out that teachers should be exposing kids to multiple levels of reading.  “There is no evidence that giving kids harder texts will have any positive effects on reading achievement.  Even the CCSS doesn’t suggest this occur….. States did not approve the Advice to Publishers so it is a puzzle to me why so many teachers seems to think harder texts are recommended by anyone.” (p. 24)

Given the reputation that Allington has in literacy instruction, these comments on the Common Core should be somewhat reassuring to teachers concerned that the Core stretches reading levels too high for many students, or that the Core mandates instructional texts at levels higher than appropriate for grade levels.  Allington also suggests some strategies and responsibilities for teacher and districts serving low income students that can support the vocabulary deficits that are found when children first enter schools.

This is an article worth reading and widely sharing.  I hope you find it as encouraging as I did.  Check out the references at the end as well if you can get them — several are not online for free.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *