CA Moving Away from Phonics – Texas Full Speed Toward Phonics

Jul 10, 2019 by

“CA Moving Away from Phonics – Texas Full Speed Toward Phonics”

From Donna Garner


[COMMENTS FROM DONNA GARNER:  While California appears to be moving away from the teaching of phonics (SB 614), Texas is moving full speed toward phonics. Tex. Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 3 into law on  6.12.19.  Texas HB 3 not only requires teachers to use systematic, direct instruction of phonics in K –  3, but the bill also requires all teachers and principals in K – 3 to attend a teacher literacy achievement academy where they will be instructed in the scientific study of reading [i.e., phonemic awareness/decoding skills/phonics].  All applicants who get their teaching certificates for Pre-K through Grade 6 after Jan. 1, 2021 must demonstrate mastery on a certification exam (any class of certificate) of the scientific study of reading.  (


7.7.19 – Napa Valley Register

“Dan Walters: New bill reignites California’s ‘reading wars’”

Excerpts from this article:

For decades – close to a century, in fact – America’s educators and politicians have argued furiously over how best to teach children to read, pitting advocates of “phonics” against those of “whole language,” a conflict dubbed “reading wars.”

Phonics stresses fundamental instruction in the letters and letter combinations that make up sounds, thus allowing children to “sound out” words and later whole sentences and passages. Its advocates contend that scientific research supports their view.

The whole language approach assumes that reading is a naturally learned skill, much like speaking, and that exposing children to appropriate and interesting reading material will allow it to emerge.

California embraced whole language in the 1970s and 1980s. But nationwide academic tests in the late 1980s and early 1990s revealed that the state was very near the bottom among the states in reading proficiency, sparking a backlash.

It was largely led by Bill Honig, a Democrat who had been California’s state schools superintendent…Honig pushed tirelessly for a shift to phonics and a series of bills signed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in the mid-1990s made it happen.

One measure required almost all applicants for a California teaching credential to pass a Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) of their ability to teach phonics.

This history is a preface to a new bill that would eliminate the RICA test for new teachers – reigniting California’s reading wars.

Senate Bill 614 passed the Senate as a bill dealing with early childhood education. But its author, Sen. Susan Rubio, a West Covina Democrat, stripped out its contents this month and inserted entirely new language to abolish RICA.

…Commission data reveal that that RICA passage rates generally exceeded 90 percent until dropping to 80.3 percent in 2016-17.

…However, the revised bill is drawing ire from school reformers who often do battle with the CTA and other elements of the education establishment.

EdVoice, one of the reform groups, dispatched a letter to the Assembly Education Committee, declaring, “This bill ill-advisedly proposes to eliminate evidence of competency in science-based reading instruction as a pre-requisite to a teaching credential in California, as specified.

“It’s unfathomable that the state, when over half of California’s students are unable to read at grade level and with no alternative in place, would eliminate the only uniform requirement for teachers of children in early grades to demonstrate their knowledge of teaching literacy with science-based reading instruction.”

The bill’s stakes could hardly be higher. Reading comprehension is a vital gateway skill to all learning, and California’s students are not doing well.

Legislation to study whether it’s being taught effectively would be welcome. Abolishing RICA without such an evaluation would be irresponsible.

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