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The Federal Government Wants Me to Teach What? - Previous Revision

A Teacher's Guide to the National Reading Panel Report

Diane Stephens

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All across the country, teachers are being told to use practices and materials that are consistent with scientifically based reading research (SBRR). The most often cited source of SBRR is the report written in 2000 by the National Reading Panel (NRP), a panel commissioned by Congress and convened by the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in consultation with the U.S. Secretary of Education. This panel examined the experimental and quasi-experimental research in five areas they considered to be related to reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension).

Far too often, however, misunderstandings based on the NRP report (rather than actual research findings) have had a major impact on how reading is taught in the United States. These misunderstandings have eroded the power of teachers to make informed, scientifically based decisions and, as a consequence, have interfered with, rather than supported, effective reading instruction. This is not only problematic but ironic because the full report makes it clear that teachers make the difference, not materials.

To help teachers understand what the studies cited in the NRP report actually found, Diane Stephens closely examines the studies and their findings and explains how teachers might interrogate and use the findings so that they can make instructional decisions that support all students as readers.



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