Social Sciences

Why SC should not join ‘science of reading’ movement

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

South Carolina is poised with Bill 3613 to continue the historical failures of addressing reading in South Carolina through micromanaging legislation that has not resulted in improving home, community, individual equity or learning outcomes for students living in poverty, Black students, Emergent Bilinguals, or students with special needs.

Currently, I am in year 37 of teaching in SC, serving as a high school English teacher at Woodruff High for 18 years before moving to teacher education at Furman University for the past 19 years. I entered education in SC in 1984, the first days of the accountability movement in our state.

Despite political leaders changing standards and high-stakes testing multiple times over the past four decades, political and public perception remains convinced our schools are failing, and that our students are, specifically, failing to learn to read.

Read To Succeed, which Bill 3613 seeks to amend, was a serious mistake at its inception since it misreads both how students learn to read and how best to teach reading. Reading growth is not simple, and test scores are a stronger measure of poverty and social inequities than the state of student learning or the quality of teaching.

Bill 3613 would make the same mistake political leaders have been making since the 1980s, tinkering with prescriptive legislation aimed at our students and teachers while ignoring the overwhelming negative impact of inequity in our students’ homes and communities as well as the harmful negative learning and teaching conditions that persist in our schools.

This proposed legislation is yet another example of SC jumping on a flawed educational bandwagon (this time copying Mississippi), the “science of reading” movement that has resulted in harmful educational policy such as increased grade retention, overscreening for dyslexia, and prescribing “one-size-fits-all” instruction for students.

About the author

Mamie M. Arndt