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Michael Kirst

Professor of education, Stanford University, co-author (with Lisa Carlos) of "We Don't Have To Be in Front To Lead" (1997), a report to the American Education Association


[California education policy] We said, 'How absurd it is to care about individual words and accuracy!' Under whole language, the rule was efficiency of the mind: Get the meaning using the least perception possible. Skip words. Absorb ideas instead. At the time, it sounded great. Former State Superintendent Honig, and others involved during that time, concede that some balance between phonics and literature-based approaches got lost between drafting the frameworks and translating them into classroom practice: 'We were always of the mind that skills were important, but we weren't clear with the message.' In September of 1993, California received its first of several shocks that something was not quite right: The U.S. Department of Education released its results of the 1992 NAEP scores, indicating that the state's performance in reading proficiency ranked near the bottom among states.

Apr. 1, 1997 - from "We Don't Have To Be In Front To Lead"