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LAUSD Requires Phonics Method

November 15, 1998

Re "L.A. Schools Chief Orders Phonics Lessons," Nov. 7: Associate Supt. Carmen Schroeder stated, "Whether students are limited-English-proficient or English speakers, they will begin to learn to read the first day of school."

If reading is "making meaning" from print, and if we agree that a person naturally acquires language in a set biological order, first by listening, then by speaking and finally by reading and writing, then how do we teach limited-English-proficient children (particularly first-graders) to read from the first day of school if they have never experienced the first two stages of language acquisition?

In the thrust toward literacy we must abandon this panicked notion that phonics will save us. We cannot ignore natural language acquisition. A person who decodes is not a reader. A person who comprehends is a reader. A reader must first speak the target language. "Oracy" (being fluent orally) precedes literacy.

MARILYN KESSLER

Encino

* Explicit phonics? In English? From day one? In LAUSD? My compliments to state Board of Education member Marion Joseph, to Ron Unz and to The Times for applying the screws and tightening them.

Perhaps the last of the unthinkables will occur as well, mandatory statewide STAR testing for all students from grade two onward, with class-by-class results used in the decision-making processes. That is, curriculum selection, teacher evaluation, promotion to principal and promotion as principal all based on student performance, rather than insider politics and education industry dogma. Reading first; next mathematics!

Gov. Pete Wilson may have lost the education election of 1998, but his legacy to the district, to the state and to public education in general may be very much intact.

WAYNE BISHOP

Dept. of Math and Computer

Science, Cal State L.A.

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