Thursday, March 04, 2004

No. 4 in a series on parental involvement in schools



A former Bellevue, Neb., resident who is prominent nationally in attempting to improve reading curriculum and instruction has identified four ''sacred cows'' of education.

Myrna McCulloch of the Riggs Institute says these four have caused 90 million American adults to be functionally illiterate despite higher and higher spending on K-12 education:

1. Ineffective textbooks
2. Ineffective teacher training
3. Pointless certification standards
4. Counter-productive course time requirements in accreditation

Read her article, ''The Four 'Sacred Cows' in American Education'' on www.riggsinst.org/cows.htm and you'll see how rampant corruption and conflicts of interest have allowed these four ills to persist.

Also compare HER ''essentials of education'' -- good textbooks, good teacher training, logical teaching quality standards, and smart time management -- to the bonehead make-work social engineering of the ''essentials'' promulgated by the Nebraska Department of Education (www.nde.state.ne.us).

Now a resident of Oregon, Mrs. McCulloch said that years ago, her oldest child was a third-grader in the Bellevue Public Schools who tested at the seventh-grade level in vocabulary and comprehension, but spelled atrociously. The district labeled the child ''semi-retarded'' and wanted to put her in the special education program. There also was blame put on an ''intermittent hearing loss'' and ''environmentally-caused allergies.''

Instead, the McCullochs put her in a private school that used Spalding phonics, acknowledged to be the best. Voila! A miracle! Simple, proper instruction ''cured'' the girl's retardation, hearing loss and even her allergies – because they were all just bogus excuses the public school made up to cover its own ineffectiveness. She became a good speller, too.

How does this sort of thing happen? Laziness and greed, apparently.

Mrs. McCulloch also had served on a Bellevue reading textbook selection committee, and discovered that a ''scholarly report'' praising one particular reading curriculum that the district gave to the committee had been written by a Michigan reading professor – the senior author of the same reading curriculum! That obvious conflict of interest had been hidden from the committee. When Mrs. McCulloch blew the whistle, she said she became ''unpopular.'' But she has gone on to spot many other self-serving conflicts of interest in K-12 education which hamper progress in all facets of schooling.

Mrs. McCulloch met reading guru Oma Riggs and went on to develop an inner-city Omaha grade school into a beacon of reading excellence using correctly-taught phonics. First-graders were diagramming simple sentences, able to read the encyclopedia, and writing long book reports with correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, handwriting and so on.

The school became ineligible for Title I funding within 2 1/2 months, Mrs. McCulloch said, because it was able to bring half its students to grade-level literacy in that short amount of time.

The following year, the school deliberately added 18 children the public schools had labeled ''learning disabled.'' All but one was reading at grade level within the year.

All it took was the proper textbooks, proper teacher training, proper evaluation of effectiveness, and proper time management, Mrs. McCulloch said. All of those are not only far, far cheaper than what public schools are doing – but kids do far, far better with her methods.

She moved to Oregon, but continues to work on reading issues. Among other things, she has a fine website: www.riggsinst.org

Things are even worse today than when her children were small. There's even more of a need for parents like her. So where are the Myrna McCullochs today? Maybe YOU?

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