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Meet Frank Smith? No Thanks

As a longtime reading teacher, the December 2003 article, "Meet Frank Smith" (page 41) by Gary Stager dismayed me.

Smith indeed is well known for his contention that students' learning to read competently occurs "naturally." That is to say, he strongly opposes direct, intensive, systematic, early, and comprehensive (DISEC) instruction of a prearranged hierarchy of reading skills and knowledge. However, Smith ignores the fact that relevant experimental findings consistently corroborate DISEC reading tutelage. Consequently, the "flaws and fallacies" that he observes in "scientific reading instruction" are merely subjective, negative impressions on his part.

In short, the science of reading teaching indicates Stager errs in heralding Smith's latest book as "profound," and as being the outstanding source for "creating the most productive learning experiences possible for children." Quite to the contrary, none of the unique principles and novel practices that Smith recommends has been substantiated by objective evidence.

Smith thus offers no "gifts of wisdom for educators," as Stager claims. To the opposite, reading teachers who follow his advice find themselves guilty of gross academic child abuse.

-Patrick Groff

Professor of Education Emeritus

San Diego State University

Claiming Bias in Milwaukee Voucher Story

There are countless objective, scientific and independent research studies on the Milwaukee voucher program that come up with quite different conclusions than your magazine's article extolling the "successes" ("Choice is Good," November 2003, page 39). I would suggest you start with the work of John Witte in Wisconsin or Alex Molnar at the Education Policy Lab located in Arizona.

I would also suggest you check to see if some of the religious school charter "choices" in Milwaukee have 50 to 75 students in a class and few, if any, licensed teaching staff.

By having such a positive fluff piece about Milwaukee, you cast your magazine as partisan in a controversial ideological war. The result is harmful to your credibility. I would hope you correct this particular inaccuracy in future articles and take care about these issues in the future.

-William J. Mathis,

Superintendent of Schools

Rutland Northeast

Supervisory Union

Brandon, Vermont

Administrative Team Update

A Postscript to the article that includes our Clifton school district ("Hire Power , " December 2003, page 16): We have hired both the curriculum director and the human resources director, and both have begun to contribute to the improvement of children's education in the district. Our elementary test scores have arrived, and they are up districtwide in language arts and up substantially in math. In addition, they are up districtwide in virtually every one of the NCLB subgroups. We're psyched!

-Michael Rice

Superintendent of Schools

Clifton (N.J.) Public Schools