Critics Say School Curriculum Reviewer Slow to Keep Up with Science of Reading

Tami Morrison, a teacher and parent from just outside of Youngstown, Ohio, stumbled upon Superkids and saw it as a great tool for aiding young children in the journey of learning to read.

The captivating characters in the program, like Lily with her short bobbed black hair and her assortment of plush lions, had kids like her daughter Clara, a second-grader, hooked. Teachers also appreciated how it covered all the essential elements for building strong reading skills.

“It gradually introduces more sounds and progresses to blending those sounds into simple words,” remarked Morrison. Two independent studies have shown a significant positive impact linked to the program.

Tami Morrison, a second-grade teacher, whose daughter Clara learned to read with the Superkids program, objected when the state initially didn’t include the curriculum on an approved reading list. (Tami Morrison)

Initially, the winning combination fell short in convincing Ohio’s education department to include Superkids in its list of approved K-5 reading materials. Morrison suspected EdReports, a nonprofit acting as a “Consumer Reports” for the $10 billion K-12 publishing market, played a significant role. Ohio’s approval criteria then mandated a green rating from EdReports, where Superkids landed a yellow.

Expressing her discontent to the state as both a teacher and a local school board member, Morrison questioned the reliance solely on EdReports, emphasizing Ohio’s proficiency in the science of reading, insisting that the list was a regression instead of progress.

Following Zaner-Bloser’s appeal, Ohio eventually reversed its decision. The incident underscored EdReports’ prominent role in crucial educational curriculum determinations, stirring controversy amid the rise in parental adoption of phonics-driven reading techniques, a stark contrast to the outdated balanced literacy approach.

In conversations with The 74, EdReports representatives acknowledged the need for adaptation and announced upcoming changes to align early reading material evaluations with the science of reading principles. Phonics and fluency are now imperative for securing a green rating, revealed Janna Chan, EdReports’ chief external affairs officer.

Reviewers will ensure that the materials no longer employ “three-cueing,” a strategy associated with balanced literacy that some states have eliminated since 2021.

An internal memo circulating among EdReports staff in February acknowledged growing skepticism surrounding the organization’s credibility, especially considering recent legislative actions focused on reading. CEO Eric Hirsch addressed concerns in response to a Forbes article, outlining plans to adapt review practices in light of emerging alternatives critiquing their assessments.

Eric Hirsch founded EdReports in 2015 to point districts to curriculum materials aligned to the Common Core. (EdReports)

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