Greetings, Legislature Education Committees, Iowa Association of School Boards and all—Please forward  this post to all Iowa school boards.    Thank you!!

The following headlines described dubious Early Literacy Warning System reading results reported in Mackenzie Ryan’s March 9th Des Moines Register article. 

Students show 4% gain in literacy

‘Early warning’ system hailed; proficiency rates decline in 36% of districts’

Fortunately, superior educator, Dr. Sue Atkinson clarifies confusion raised in the article, that was obviously desperately grasping for any evidence of any improvement to help offset recent education fix failures.  The looming 3rd grade retention law in 2018 has Iowa educators spooked as it will likely retain up to half of the 3rd graders if applied honestly—which is highly unlikely.  Educators are fighting the law which would hold them accountable for ‘education’ for a change!     

Dr. Sue writes: 

Iowa continues its decades-long practice of deceiving the public while failing in their ability to understand and effectively assess their own education processes.

Almost from the time writing, and reading, were invented, there have been forms of what we today term “phonics” to help readers and those learning other languages figure out the words.  This process improved over time, forming the basis of what schools were using until the late 1950s, when phonics was eliminated from the curriculum.  Decades later, a truncated form was introduced that fails to cover all letters in the English language (as well as combinations of letters most frequently used).  Dictionaries put the rules inside the front cover, and EVERY WORD IN THE DICTIONARY HAD ITS CORRECT PHONETIC PRONUNCIATION SHOWN – there were no “sight words” to memorize because of a lack of rules for them.

For a history of U.S. education statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93442.pdf   This 115-page report is from the National Center for Education Statistics, and it was compiled and written by an education historian in 1993.  In 1867, Congress established a government entity for the purpose of collecting statistics on education in the U.S.

This is a world 2000 education report from UNESCO, with statistics and historical background.


This UNESCO report on education theories in the classroom provides an overview, along with the timeframes, and, when coupled with information from the two statistical reports above, shows that in the 1950s education theory changed to students memorizing and storing data (without the necessity of understanding it).  While this report lays the influence for this strictly on the rise in the use of computers (that store data and spit it out when asked), the two reports above would add factors such as the integration of schools as well as the big increase in the number of students.  http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/quality-framework/technical-notes/influential-theories-of-learning/

The web site for the Iowa Reading Research Center brags about the development of a system to aid students whose learning style is incompatible with memorization https://iowareadingresearch.org/news/spelling-teach-emphasizing-patterns-english-languageRemediating students who have been failed by the system is a good thing, but it also amounts to a crutch for the source of the problem in the first place – as the source continues unchanged, continuing to produce the problems.

The rest of the world out-educates us by effectively analyzing its processes and making changes when struggling students are observed.  Iowa educators apparently lack the ability to track down the source of the problem in the first place, because they are products of the changes made in the 1950s, so it has to waste resources looking for crutches.

Sue Atkinson, PhD

P. O. Box 301

Baxter IA 50028