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Debate over the effectiveness of the LEARN Act

There’s a stark difference of opinion between academics about the effectiveness of the recently-launched Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation Act, or LEARN Act in the US.

The critics, among them the linguist and professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, Stephen Krashen, feel that the act is doomed to failure, particularly as it is based on a combination of three existing failed programs. Others, conversely, believe that the LEARN Act can only be a positive step towards the centralisation and longevity of literacy instruction. One of these is Richard M. Long, director of government relations of the International Reading Association.

In a post Long argues that the Act “establishes the centrality of instruction that is aligned across grade levels and across subjects” as well as emphasizing “smooth transitions from early childhood programs to elementary school, elementary school to middle school, and middle to high school”.

While it is clear that literacy initiatives are both indispensable and critical to the successful education of our children, the fact remains that they have to be tailored to the students who are receiving the instruction in order to be relevant and effective. In the past this hasn’t necessarily been the case. Let’s hope that the LEARN Act really has learned from past initiatives and can produce positive results for American children.

2 Responses to Debate over the effectiveness of the LEARN Act

  1. Research suggests that academic development at kindergarten entry has both direct and indirect effects on first grade schooling outcomes, and the link between early performance and later achievement has been demonstrated through grade 10 (Stevenson & Newman, 1986). Thus, upon entrance to kindergarten children need to have foundational skills to support continued development. Critical early literacy skills in language development, phonological awareness, letter-sound correspondence, concepts about print, and alphabetic principles need to be in place for a child to be prepared to read and write (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Children’s language structures and word knowledge continues to grow, facilitating development of more complex phonological neighborhoods that support early literacy skills such as rhyming (Snow et al., 1998). Similarly, children’s early informal numerical understanding provides a structure for formal instruction in skills and concepts that expand their ability to use mathematics in abstract ways (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2001). Facility with a mental number line constitutes an important conceptual framework for mathematical learning (Griffin & Case, 1997). Without foundational skills in key academic areas, the gap between children with skills and those without is likely to continue to grow throughout kindergarten and subsequent grades (Bowman et al., 2001).

  2. The Middle Phase of Learning typically occurs across Years 4 to 9 and is a crucial period in a young person’s schooling life. This phase of learning spans traditional primary and secondary schooling and is a time of great physical, social, emotional and intellectual change for young people. It is often a time when motivation and engagement wanes, academic progress slows and relationships with parents, teachers and peers impact greatly on students’ learning outcomes.

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