New bill re-ignites California’s reading wars

Jun 30, 2019 by

A bill would abolish Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) for new teachers

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 until forced to resign by a scandal. 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.

Even though phonics was required in California, it’s uncertain whether it fully penetrated the state’s elementary classrooms. We do know, however, that the state’s students continue to score below average in reading – especially those labeled as poor and/or “English-learners” – on both federal and state tests.

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

Source: Walters: New bill re-ignites California’s reading wars – The Mercury News

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.