The Science of Reading and Professional Learning at Work in Texas

kids sitting on green grass field
Photo by Vika Glitter on

If a child memorizes ten words, the child can read only ten words, but if a child learns the sounds of ten letters, the child will be able to read 350 three sound words, 4320 four sound words and 21,650 five sound words.”

Dr. Martin Kozloff

Although I’m an avid reader, I’m not a reading teacher. I’ve never claimed to be, and I don’t think I’d do a great job with it. Reading came easy to me at a very young age and I don’t have a clue how to share that magic with anyone, unless I tell them “read”–which is, of course, silly.

If students could start reading on demand, they would, if only to get us to shut up and leave them alone.

Thankfully, more schools across the US have begun implementing programs based on the science of reading to get more kids reading at “grade level.” Yes, I’m fully aware that reading at a grade level is an arbitrary designation, but it’s what we have to work with, and it works.

What is the science of reading? Briefly, the science of reading refers to a comprehensive body of research from various disciplines, including cognitive science, neuroscience, and psychology, that explores how we learn to read. This research emphasizes the importance of explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies. It advocates for evidence-based teaching methods that have been proven effective in helping all students learn to read, particularly emphasizing the systematic teaching of reading at the early stages of education.

One curriculum becoming more popular every year is the Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) program. The Aldine Independent District in Texas adopted Amplify CKLA to improve students’ reading proficiency. The curriculum provides students with knowledge-rich, grade-level texts, which helps build vocabulary and a base of common knowledge that fosters inclusive learning communities.

The district has also implemented robust curriculum-based professional learning to ensure teachers are equipped to deliver strong instruction that meets the needs of all students. The program has already shown promising results, with 50% of third graders reading at or above grade level within the first two years of implementation.

Similarly, the Spencer Community School District in Iowa shifted to CKLA for grades K-2 to increase literacy, with great results thus far.

In both cases, the district is focused not just on a new curriculum but also on providing quality professional development for teachers. No matter how great the curriculum is, it can’t work without teachers ready to implement it.

Perhaps more importantly, focusing on changing the hearts and minds of teachers to see how reading instruction was not working in the past and the need for change. In An Uncommon Theory of School Change, the authors posit that before transformative change can take place in a school, we must take a deep dive into the shared assumptions of teachers and wrestle with the fact that what we’ve done before must not be working, no matter how comfortable we are in that teaching.

Bottom line: whatever is best for kids, we need to do that.

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Gun Control and Schools

school safety
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I’m having a hard time putting into words my feelings over the past couple of days. I work in education but I’m also a parent. I worry about the kids and teachers whom I work with but I also worry about sending my daughter to school.

Note: she just finished 4th grade, which has struck me right in the center of my being after the deaths of many 4th graders in Texas. They were the same age as my own daughter. Frightening, to say the least.

My biggest issue now is responding to those who believe we don’t need to do anything about gun control in the US. I’m tired of their “thoughts and prayers” that don’t do much.

Thankfully, Steve Singer has a good response:

This is not hard.

The rest of the world has cracked the code. Just not us.

Not the U.S.

Guns are the leading cause of death for American children –  1 out of 10 people who die from guns in this country are 19 or younger.

Steve Singer

Read more here: If You Don’t Support Gun Control, You Support School Shootings

On the Uvalde Tragedy

27 school shootings have taken place so far in 2022.

What we know about the terrorist attack in Uvalde, TX on May 24, 2022:

  • At least 21 dead; 19 students and 2 adults
  • Uvalde is “the kind of place where ‘interconnections are thick’ and no one would have expected a mass shooting at the local school”
  • The suspect also allegedly shot his grandmother before going to Robb Elementary
  • The suspect (terrorist) purchased two assault-style rifles on his 18th birthday, though authorities have not confirmed whether these were the weapons used in the shooting
  • All victims were in the same fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School

On the Terrorist

  • Ramos had hinted on social media that an attack could be coming, state Sen Roland Gutierrez, who was briefed by police, told reporters. “He suggested the kids should watch out,” the lawmaker said.
  • He shot his grandmother before driving to Robb Elementary just before midday on Tuesday
  • He “suffered from a fraught home life and lashed out violently against peers and strangers recently and over the years…”
  • The Texas Department of Public Safety said he was wearing body armor and armed with a rifle.


My Response:

I’m tired of reading these headlines. I’m tired of thinking about my own daughter not being safe in her school. I’m tired of thinking about the teachers and students I work with every day and them not being safe.

I’m tired of having to think about getting shot while in school when there are so many other things we should be focused on during our days but we can’t because we continue to allow guns like this to be sold.

I’m tired of bullying. I’m tired of not taking mental health seriously.

I’m tired. And I’m mad.

Hopefully, you are, too. And you’re ready to do something about it.