Disrupting the Educational Status Quo: Wyoming’s Embracing Literacy Conference

During the summer, John J. Russell, Ed.D., Special Projects Advisor to The Windward Institute, presented virtually at the Wyoming’s Department of Education’s Embracing Literacy Conference. Based on the positive response from the presentation, Dr. Russell presented at the Wyoming Department of Education again in September. In the presentation, Dr. Russell called to disrupt the status quo on the state of reading education in Wyoming and across the United States.

Citing the background of the reading wars, Dr. Russell identified the existence of widespread confusion related to how the system of education values scientifically- based and evidence-based instruction. Whole language and its related reading programs, specifically, have been misappropriately labeled as scientifically based, when the fundamental pillars of this philosophy contradicts decades of science on the reading brain. The consequences of this confusion are pervasive on reading outcomes across the country, with its impacts egregiously impacting the nation’s most vulnerable populations.

Dr. Russell outlined six strategies to disrupt the current status quo of reading education:

1. Provide educators with a deeper understanding of what constitutes scientifically-based and evidence-based programs

2. Outline the components of a scientifically-based reading programs and to the extent to which they should be taught.

  • Research supports instruction across phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension
  • Instruction should be structured, sequential, systematic, and explicit

3. Improve teacher preparation

  • Citing findings from the National Council on Teacher Quality (2019, 2021), too many programs lack adequate instruction in components of scientifically based reading instruction including phonemic awareness- a foundational skill for early readers.

4. Strengthen teacher licensing requirements

  • Licensing tests should rigorously assess teacher candidate knowledge of the science of reading and supported instructional practices.

5. Use data to drive decisions

6. Increase advocacy for the science of reading and supported instructional practices

  • Train communities of educators and families
  • Expand partnerships
  • Advocate for legislation
  • Spread the word to the public

Expanded efforts in these strategies disrupt the educational status quo to promote literacy outcomes and ultimately, support the academic and life success of all children.