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School Districts Continue To Spend On Failed Reading Programs While Students Suffer Learning Loss

School districts across the country are continuing to spend money on reading programs that have come under fire for failing to teach students standard literacy skills, according to the 74 Million – a nonprofit news organization covering education.

Since October 2022, at least 225 school districts have spent over $1.5 million on “balanced” literacy, a method that teaches students when they come across a word they don’t know, to guess based on sentence structure and pictures, according to a report by the 74 Million. The curriculum, called “three cueing,” recently came under fire and was blamed as a factor in the nation’s historic learning loss, as reading scores dropped to fall in line with numbers from 1990.

“We have students in high school who have significant gaps in foundational literacy,” Terri Marculitis, director of curriculum and instruction for Middleborough Public Schools in Massachusetts, told 74 Million after the district used the curriculum.

Community Consolidated School District 15 in Illinois, and Conroe Independent School District in Texas, each spent more than $170,000 on the curriculum, four school districts spent more than $50,000 on the lessons and 13 districts spent about $4,300 each, the 74 Million reported. Over the past decade, some school districts spent more than $10 million on the learning method.

The “three cueing” curriculum is a “bandage” for the nation’s learning loss and students make better gains when taught a more structured approach, Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois Chicago studying early literacy, told the 74 Million.

“You’re actually teaching kids to read like poor readers rather than like good readers,” Shanahan told the outlet.

School districts’ spending on the “three cueing” approach comes as the nation’s students suffer historic learning loss; in addition to a drop in reading scores, every state has seen its first-ever drop in K-12 math scores. In Minnesota, 19 schools don’t have a single student who is proficient in math while not one student is meeting grade-level expectations in math or reading at 55 Chicago Public Schools.

Some parents have reported that their children can’t sound out words after using the “three cueing” approach which has left “holes and gaps” in education, Vicky Wieben, parent of a child in Des Moines, Iowa, told the 74 Million.

“Anything that took any kind of sounding out … he would just be silent,” Wieben told the outlet about her son.

Community Consolidated School District 15, Conroe Independent School District, Middleborough Public Schools, and Heinemann, the creator of the approach, did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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