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The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America's Broken Education System--And How to Fix It

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The untold story of the root cause of America's education crisis--and the seemingly endless cycle of multigenerational poverty. It was only after years within the education reform movement that Natalie Wexler stumbled across a hidden explanation for our country's frustrating lack of progress when it comes to providing every child with a quality education. The problem wa The untold story of the root cause of America's education crisis--and the seemingly endless cycle of multigenerational poverty. It was only after years within the education reform movement that Natalie Wexler stumbled across a hidden explanation for our country's frustrating lack of progress when it comes to providing every child with a quality education. The problem wasn't one of the usual scapegoats: lazy teachers, shoddy facilities, lack of accountability. It was something no one was talking about: the elementary school curriculum's intense focus on decontextualized reading comprehension skills at the expense of actual knowledge. In the tradition of Dale Russakoff's The Prize and Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars, Wexler brings together history, research, and compelling characters to pull back the curtain on this fundamental flaw in our education system--one that fellow reformers, journalists, and policymakers have long overlooked, and of which the general public, including many parents, remains unaware. But The Knowledge Gap isn't just a story of what schools have gotten so wrong--it also follows innovative educators who are in the process of shedding their deeply ingrained habits, and describes the rewards that have come along: students who are not only excited to learn but are also acquiring the knowledge and vocabulary that will enable them to succeed. If we truly want to fix our education system and unlock the potential of our neediest children, we have no choice but to pay attention.


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The untold story of the root cause of America's education crisis--and the seemingly endless cycle of multigenerational poverty. It was only after years within the education reform movement that Natalie Wexler stumbled across a hidden explanation for our country's frustrating lack of progress when it comes to providing every child with a quality education. The problem wa The untold story of the root cause of America's education crisis--and the seemingly endless cycle of multigenerational poverty. It was only after years within the education reform movement that Natalie Wexler stumbled across a hidden explanation for our country's frustrating lack of progress when it comes to providing every child with a quality education. The problem wasn't one of the usual scapegoats: lazy teachers, shoddy facilities, lack of accountability. It was something no one was talking about: the elementary school curriculum's intense focus on decontextualized reading comprehension skills at the expense of actual knowledge. In the tradition of Dale Russakoff's The Prize and Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars, Wexler brings together history, research, and compelling characters to pull back the curtain on this fundamental flaw in our education system--one that fellow reformers, journalists, and policymakers have long overlooked, and of which the general public, including many parents, remains unaware. But The Knowledge Gap isn't just a story of what schools have gotten so wrong--it also follows innovative educators who are in the process of shedding their deeply ingrained habits, and describes the rewards that have come along: students who are not only excited to learn but are also acquiring the knowledge and vocabulary that will enable them to succeed. If we truly want to fix our education system and unlock the potential of our neediest children, we have no choice but to pay attention.

30 review for The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America's Broken Education System--And How to Fix It

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book was maddening, because it could have been an excellent exploration of the tension inherent in school curriculum. But the title should have clued me into the fact that this was promotion of an idea rather than an exploration of an idea. Any author that suggests that there's a single "cause" of a "broken system" and offers a single solution to "fix" it is probably not going to satisfy me. The book reminded me of those Netflix "documentaries" that are really just position pieces for a par This book was maddening, because it could have been an excellent exploration of the tension inherent in school curriculum. But the title should have clued me into the fact that this was promotion of an idea rather than an exploration of an idea. Any author that suggests that there's a single "cause" of a "broken system" and offers a single solution to "fix" it is probably not going to satisfy me. The book reminded me of those Netflix "documentaries" that are really just position pieces for a particular diet or political issue. The thesis is that the use of a curriculum that promotes knowledge acquisition rather than isolated skill development is more likely to reduce the gap between affluent students and students struggling with poverty. The author already believes this and comes to the table with a particular curriculum package in mind (making me wonder if she gets some sort of profit or benefit from advocating for it...). But using this guiding premise obscures the very real question at the heart of the curriculum dilemma: can schools prepare students that live in an unequal society to become equals? Critics of her favored curriculum package and approach have asked questions like, Who decides which knowledge and which stories and which history gets top billing? In practice, historically, this has been a political minefield. While some educators believe that a deep, set, uniform body of content allows students the opportunity to build schema, others claim that content chosen by people already in power simply replicates existing power structures. Curriculum problems are challenging and complicated and high stakes, and this book was a missed opportunity to get into the thorny meat of those problems.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    This is a highly readable and convincing story about an old concern. The devastating one-line summary is that American kids are learning stuff despite school, not because of it. Ideally, there would be strong evidence to support the recommended solutions. Unfortunately, despite the amazingly favorable setup for large-scale evaluation of effectiveness, the education world seems to be 50 years behind medicine in starting to embrace an approach that is evidence-based instead of eminence-based. Havi This is a highly readable and convincing story about an old concern. The devastating one-line summary is that American kids are learning stuff despite school, not because of it. Ideally, there would be strong evidence to support the recommended solutions. Unfortunately, despite the amazingly favorable setup for large-scale evaluation of effectiveness, the education world seems to be 50 years behind medicine in starting to embrace an approach that is evidence-based instead of eminence-based. Having listened to the audiobook, I didn't get references; I'm intrigued enough to think of getting the hard copy and if Wexler's advice is just more theory backed by anecdotes, I will lower the rating. -Notes from the book: Ch 2: Non-poor kids make up for the lack of teaching at school by learning at home, on vacation, etc. Ch 4: "Research based programs" are a meaningless nightmare because of all the counterfeit evidence used to sell tools and services. Ch 10: Teachers vastly underestimate the learning capacity of students. The key to helping children comprehend complex text is to have them look for evidence in the text for whatever they are discussing. For introducing new methods to teachers, it is important to pilot things. Start small. Show some videos with discussion about the method and give them a specific text to use for teaching, with instructions for how to do it. Let some early adopters/champions volunteer to try it, then when they get results much better than what they are used to (kids are more engaged, more joyful AND reading above expected level AND learning new content) then the other teachers will want to try it. Ch 12: Louisiana did better than most states with dissemination along these lines of peer-to-peer spread as opposed to top-down directives . Ch 11: The parents of non-poor kids make sure they get what they need for learning to read and write. Ch 12: Engage NY curriculum and others free online to facilitate scaling up.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Syers

    This book completely changed my outlook on elementary teaching methods and curriculum. The argument is that far too much time is spent on reading skills in elementary school instead of subjects that "build background" like Science and Social Studies. I used to be a believer in "reading-centered" elementary classrooms, but this book has made me reevaluate that belief. How can a student read scientific or historical texts if he or she doesn't have the background necessary to understand the context This book completely changed my outlook on elementary teaching methods and curriculum. The argument is that far too much time is spent on reading skills in elementary school instead of subjects that "build background" like Science and Social Studies. I used to be a believer in "reading-centered" elementary classrooms, but this book has made me reevaluate that belief. How can a student read scientific or historical texts if he or she doesn't have the background necessary to understand the context and vocabulary? Some parts are a bit dry but the overall experience is worth it. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    I am not an educator. I am a parent of 3 dyslexic children who have been failed by the current state of reading in our current educational system. I picked up this book after being intrigued by the author’s articles for Forbes over this past year. I am an advocate for schools using structured literacy, and have often wondered how comprehension could be better addressed as one of the key components of reading. I saw in my own kid’s school days the heavy focus on the “comprehension skills”. I knew I am not an educator. I am a parent of 3 dyslexic children who have been failed by the current state of reading in our current educational system. I picked up this book after being intrigued by the author’s articles for Forbes over this past year. I am an advocate for schools using structured literacy, and have often wondered how comprehension could be better addressed as one of the key components of reading. I saw in my own kid’s school days the heavy focus on the “comprehension skills”. I knew there was more. I have exercised my freedom, and now homeschool incorporating the pieces addressed in this book. The author gives a wonderful window into the current classroom in America. The answers seem obvious as you read through and see the problems, but we are battling entrenched philosophies and ideas. The data doesn’t lie. What is currently happening is not working. I am excited to see what comes next after educators read this book, and take a hard look at what needs to be changed. I will be sharing it with educators around me. Thanks to Nat Wexler for shining the light on how we can, and should, do better, this was needed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This book had be nodding in agreement to many things, changed my mind on some things, and included things I disagree with. Reading it is depressing - so much of what we are doing in k12 education has no basis in research or even runs contrary to respected research. But also hopeful - because there are ways and methods that can be used so children from all backgrounds can learn more readily. The author highlighted very clearly why teachers are reluctant to take on new programs, even those based o This book had be nodding in agreement to many things, changed my mind on some things, and included things I disagree with. Reading it is depressing - so much of what we are doing in k12 education has no basis in research or even runs contrary to respected research. But also hopeful - because there are ways and methods that can be used so children from all backgrounds can learn more readily. The author highlighted very clearly why teachers are reluctant to take on new programs, even those based on extensive research. Teachers are very tired of every year or two or three being told by people not in the classroom that they need to switch to the next great thing and totally retool what they have been doing. I see this all the time in the district my kids attend, and I don't blame the teachers. I guess the reason why we are not willing to look at longitudinal studies or give programs time to show results is that we are worried that we may lose this year's cohort of students. The stakes are high. But constantly switching from program to program that have very short track records also isn't helping kids. The author did change my mind about content rich curriculum. I have often thought, like many in the book, that if students are given skills they will be able to analyze and study whatever they want. What content they are taught in school doesn't matter that much. But she showed how so many of the skills are based on a certain critical knowledge of the world, and if we continue with skill-based teaching, we are really hurting those kids who do not come from content rich homes like those students with highly educated parents. She showed that you can have a content outline of curriculum and still allow room for inclusion of marginalized populations, local history and so forth, as connected to the topic. She also helped me understand why parents of color and low income parents often want a more classical, great books type approach to education, something I have noticed and wondered about. The parents can feel that by not including that stuff, the education establishment is trying to keep their kids outsiders. I was surprised to read her praise of New York State's Common Core curriculum since my experience has not been positive with it. But as I read on, I realized that what the state said and what they actually did or stressed to educators were two very different things. This explains why, the first time I heard a presentation at PTA about Common Core, before it was implemented, it sounded very good to me. The presenter talked about focusing on depth, not breadth, of knowledge. Since I felt like this was what my kids were missing in school, I was all for it. But when it was implemented, it seemed to be just the opposite. Algebra classes began including things like calculus, rather than making sure the kids understood inside and out algebra concepts in that class so they would be more prepared to do advanced math in later grades. The book does a poor job at explaining what went wrong between the conceptualization of Common Core and its implementation, at least in my state. She touches on the increased focus on standardized testing, but, in my mind, this is a huge reason of why the new curriculum went sideways in a really bad way. So, although I have problems with some of the things the author recommends in the book, she provides lots of food for thought and may get educators questioning their tightly held, but likely incorrect, beliefs. I would like to see more school boards and directors of curriculum reading it if only so they can start asking better questions when they adopt new texts or programs.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    I believe I was first introduced to the idea of content-based curriculum in an Atlantic article written by Natalie Wexler to promote this book. I was hooked, and started doing feverish research to learn more. But when I finally got my hands on "The Knowledge Gap," I was inspired all over again. This is such an interesting topic and I really want to see it in action. The basic concept of the book is this: knowledge is required to be a successful reader and writer. In schools today, especially in I believe I was first introduced to the idea of content-based curriculum in an Atlantic article written by Natalie Wexler to promote this book. I was hooked, and started doing feverish research to learn more. But when I finally got my hands on "The Knowledge Gap," I was inspired all over again. This is such an interesting topic and I really want to see it in action. The basic concept of the book is this: knowledge is required to be a successful reader and writer. In schools today, especially in primary grades, we are teaching *skills* without giving students knowledge. Wexler claims research shows that skills practice is not transferable to different topics--you can't practice comparing and contrasting lions and tigers and be able to successfully compare and contrast any two subjects. You need *background knowledge* in order to successfully utilize reading comprehension and writing skills. And we do not teach knowledge in schools until at least middle school--when Wexler says it's too late. What really inspires me is the idea that teaching knowledge in schools can serve to equal the playing field for marginalized groups of students, who may not be accessing this knowledge at home. The idea is that wealthier students, students with highly educated parents, and white students are exposed to more knowledge of the world at home, and are able to use that knowledge to succeed academically despite a skill-based educational system. Other students are not so lucky: without coming to school with plenty of background knowledge, marginalized groups of students struggle to keep up. Beyond the idea that content-based curriculum could serve as a tool for educational equity, it also seems like this kind of teaching is more fun and engaging for students. I know this from limited personal experience: when I had an opportunity to create social studies lessons for my third graders, I chose to do a deep dive into important figures in Black history. They seemed much more engaged than during our daily reading comprehension skills practice. This was just a small portion of our school year, but it was my favorite and most memorable part. I would love an opportunity to teach reading comprehension through history, literature, and science. This book focuses a lot on the primary education, so those familiar with the basic tenants of early childhood education, as well as popular teaching techniques for those age groups, will get the most out of this book. It is possible the book could seem a bit jargon-y for those not as familiar with early elementary teaching practices. I can say that Natalie Wexler has done A LOT of research into the current educational sphere: she discusses many influential figures in education today, including Doug Lemov, author of "Teach Like a Champion" and Lucy Calkins, author of an extremely popular writing curriculum. For educators who are tuned into trends in the field, this book will address a lot of your concerns. I really appreciated that. For me, this book just made sense. This approach to education seems like something that would work, and something that I would love to teach. I'll definitely be following the knowledge-based learning movement in the future to see what happens next. I highly recommend this book for anyone in education who is interested in learning more about what a content-based curriculum could look like.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    This book has a lot of good points, and I definitely think employees in the Department of Education need to read this. I'm not buying that this is the magic bullet to ending disparity between lower socioeconomic students and affluent ones. I have long protested my daughter's public school education as being severely lacking in substance. Of course, summers for her involved learning about history, science, and the much hated diagramming sentences. Research about how students learn should be at th This book has a lot of good points, and I definitely think employees in the Department of Education need to read this. I'm not buying that this is the magic bullet to ending disparity between lower socioeconomic students and affluent ones. I have long protested my daughter's public school education as being severely lacking in substance. Of course, summers for her involved learning about history, science, and the much hated diagramming sentences. Research about how students learn should be at the hub of our educational system. We should not be teaching the same way we have for the last 100 years in light of all of the new discoveries of a child's brain. This book makes for an interesting read of the different camps of thought in education.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eric Kalenze

    As this book deals with issues I've been familiar with and following for well over a decade, I wasn't surprised by much in it. For the issues it covers, though, it may well be the best introduction I could have imagined. It is highly rational, identifiable, and readable--and to a degree I can't recall ever seeing in an education-improvement title. With such a book now available, my big hope is that the ideas Wexler covers will reach more people, open more eyes, and serve as a gateway to even dee As this book deals with issues I've been familiar with and following for well over a decade, I wasn't surprised by much in it. For the issues it covers, though, it may well be the best introduction I could have imagined. It is highly rational, identifiable, and readable--and to a degree I can't recall ever seeing in an education-improvement title. With such a book now available, my big hope is that the ideas Wexler covers will reach more people, open more eyes, and serve as a gateway to even deeper learning.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jean-Marie

    I need a Buzzfeed quiz to determine my education ideology. I’m a homeschooler, not a teacher. My degree is in psychology, not education. My career experience is in corporate communications, not education. From my K-8 experiment with a sample size of 2 I have found that knowledge-based (vs. skills-based) learning is my vibe and makes absolute sense to me. The biggest question, of course, is what knowledge should be passed down. For this information I try to turn to the experts by reading their bo I need a Buzzfeed quiz to determine my education ideology. I’m a homeschooler, not a teacher. My degree is in psychology, not education. My career experience is in corporate communications, not education. From my K-8 experiment with a sample size of 2 I have found that knowledge-based (vs. skills-based) learning is my vibe and makes absolute sense to me. The biggest question, of course, is what knowledge should be passed down. For this information I try to turn to the experts by reading their books and following their ideas online and on social media. My teen started college early. She completed English Comp I at 14 and English Comp II at 16 -- each with an A. I credit her success in the courses more to her knowledge than her skills. In order to write well, you need to have a fundamental knowledge about the world to interpret and analyze. At the very least you need to know what questions to ask and how to do your research. My children and I never focused on drills or worksheets. The skills often developed naturally as we immersed ourselves in knowledge accumulation. As Wexler points out, knowledge learning is marathon not a race. My children have had the benefit of one teacher focused on developing that knowledge over many years – looking for new experiences, priming them for new knowledge, and helping them make connections with past knowledge. After a Frida Kahlo art exhibit, we read about the artist, watched movies about the artist, and discussed it at dinnertime. After we experienced Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta create a sand mandala at our local university, my daughter (with my assistance) created a script and produced a video about mandalas. When we became interested in constellations, we read books, watched movies, visited planetariums, and camped out in the backyard with our binoculars and telescope. There was no grade, no assessment, no due date. The focus was always on acquiring knowledge, while practicing a few skills along the way. Practicing skills is often more fun when there’s a purpose, when it’s social, or when there’s an audience. I wish I knew how to make the school system better. I only know what so many kids are missing out on when the learning is disjointed and detached, excessively assessed, and needlessly graded.Not to mention the hours spent on homework after being in school all day. My homeschool way is not scalable or sustainable, but I figured if someone was going to make educational guinea pigs out of my kids, it should be me. Reading Wexler’s account of how the system has been actively sabotaged by politics Lynne Cheney and Rush Limbaugh made me want to spit fire. The Knowledge Gap is a great read for both educators and homeschoolers. It has inspired me to put a little more pep in my step while Child #2 and I start the second half of our middle school years.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cary Giese

    The thesis of this book is that, in the United States today, the guiding early grades method(s) of how to teach reading is wrong! Today’s principle is: “through the third grade children need to spend their time “learning to read” before they can progress to “reading to learn.” The author believes that the guidance is in error. The author, Natalie Wexler, is an education journalist who’s work has appeared in The NY Times, the Atlantic, and the Washington Post etc. She spent extensive time in vario The thesis of this book is that, in the United States today, the guiding early grades method(s) of how to teach reading is wrong! Today’s principle is: “through the third grade children need to spend their time “learning to read” before they can progress to “reading to learn.” The author believes that the guidance is in error. The author, Natalie Wexler, is an education journalist who’s work has appeared in The NY Times, the Atlantic, and the Washington Post etc. She spent extensive time in various classrooms, talked to the myriad “experts” many of whom unhelpfully disagreed with each other. The book documents the experts and their varying opinions. Note: (Google the author’s resume, it is impressive.) She became convinced that learning occurs better when students connect new information to information they already know! She believes that students from poor households and students for which English is a second language suffer in comparison with children from households where knowledge and experiences are richer. Those students more easily relate words they are learning to read with what they already know. Consequently they learn to read faster, better and they remember more of what they’ve read. Her second insight is that if reading is not learned in context with knowledge they already knew, then development in later grades suffers, perpetuating the disadvantages for those students in their later life. Access to good jobs and college is diminished! Schools who have tried this knowledge-based teaching of reading have so far achieved great results. Writing, analysis, and student-confidence improve. Even if adopted by most school districts, achieving adoption will be paced by those who will politically debate and/or resist curricula choices, other teacher and administration resistance, and teacher training and experience with the new teaching methods now required. It is important that our educators conclude if this method can “even the opportunity field,” and if they believe so, how to develop a plan for rapid roll-out! Also, free pre-school for low income students become even more important! (If they teach reading within a knowledge dynamic) Ask your local superintendent of schools what she/he thinks about these ideas and what her/his policy will be? Follow up!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    I certainly agree with Ms Wexler that students have a large gap in fundamental knowledge history, geography, science, and literature - classic literature. When I came back into the teaching profession, I was in my late 40's, and I knew that K-12 education had changed from the time I was a student and even from the '70's when I trained to be a teacher. Teachers now were more concerned about teaching"to the test" and addressing all of the educational theories that had been drilled into their heads I certainly agree with Ms Wexler that students have a large gap in fundamental knowledge history, geography, science, and literature - classic literature. When I came back into the teaching profession, I was in my late 40's, and I knew that K-12 education had changed from the time I was a student and even from the '70's when I trained to be a teacher. Teachers now were more concerned about teaching"to the test" and addressing all of the educational theories that had been drilled into their heads than teaching content knowledge. I also noticed that very few teachers had graduate degrees in subject matter, such as mathamatics, English, history, or biology. No, they all had advanced degrees in education. When my own children were in elementary school, I was amazed at the lack content they were learning at school. Wexler addresses in her book the fact that educated parents with higher incomes make up for the lack of transmitted knowledge by teachers in public schools by seeing that their children get experiences through travel, exposure to more fiction and non-fiction books, engage their children in talk about world events, take them to museums, send them to a wide variety of camps and special programs that enhance their knowledge and peak their curiosity. Things that low income, less educated parents can't do or don't know they should be doing to give their children more opportunities to learn and build stores of knowledge that they will use throughout their educational years. Many erroneously believe that is why they are sending their children to school. There are so many ways that parents can be wonderful teachers to their children even if they have very little money or education themselves.I came from a poor family and both of my parents were high school drop outs, but our education was important to them. I grew up in a small coal mining town where almost everyone fell below the poverty level. Yet, my education was rich in content knowledge. From elementary to high school we had lessons in history and science. We wrote book reports on fiction and non-fiction books, we went out in nature to look under rocks, hunted for arrowheads, looked for animal tracks after which we had lessons on the rocks we turned over or about the insects we found underneath, we talked about the Native Americans that lived in our area and who among us were part "Indian" and we learned about the animals both living and prehistoric that roamed our neighborhood. My parents took their children on road trips to various places and if there was a free museum or roadside attraction of historical import we stopped. My mother passed on make-up or trips to the "beauty parlour" so we could have the newspaper delivered to our home. We had few books in our house, but the two most important was a good dictionary and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare in very small print. May be it was because of those two books that I decided to become a high school English teacher. I thought I would be sharing my love of good literature, mostly the classics with students, and help them to appreciate poetry. I also thought they would be writing the kind of essays I had been asked to write in high school where I demonstrated my understanding literature, commented on the author's style, analyzed characters, gushed over the writer's use of literary devices, praised his moving prose, or her enlightening verse. I thought I would be teaching my students how to write research papers, using impressive source material with dazzling quotes, and noted in perfect formatted footnotes. What I was asked to teach in the 1990's was a watered down curriculum with very little rigor. But what was most discouraging was that most of my students had such little background knowledge that I had to give them history lessons before I could teach a piece of literature. I found my students poor vocabulary to be a stumbling block to their understanding and writing. Even more disappointing was that every year more literature or writing assignments had to be eliminated so we could cover items that would be on standardized tests. My students had trouble writing a coherent five paragraph essay in three weeks. When I was in high school, we would get a essay assignment on Monday and the essay was due on Friday, and we didn't get to work on it in class. I and my collaborating teacher spoon fed these essays to our students for weeks, and they were still awful. What made this so sad was that I taught in one of California's best school districts where parents were educated and socioeconomically advantaged yet the these kids were lacking in foundational knowledge that would have aided them in high school and college. I felt sorry for them because they were getting a "dumb ed-down" education. Wexler like most educational activist believes every student needs to go to college to be a happy, productive, and wealth generating human being. Sorry, but college would be a torture to certain students, and educators are doing a disservice to them by not realizing that some people can be fulfilled and happy, plus make a good living for their families being a carpenter, a plumber, or a mechanic. She decried the tract system of years-gone-by, but just as bad is damaging push for students who struggle with academic subjects to endure more years of failure before they can escape and do something they really love. In high school I had a friend who did really well in school (She got better grades than I). Everyone thought she should go to college, but she didn't want to go. All she wanted to do was fix hair. She loved creating elaborate hair-dos. To this day, cutting, styling, dying, and perming hair brings her great joy and satisfaction. (Please forgive my grammatical and usage mistakes - it's late, and I'm old and burned out by reading so many appalling bad essays.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    Reviewer note: I am not a professional educator, and as such, am not fully qualified to evaluate all the claims Wexler makes. I am a parent of two children in the public schools and have kept abreast of education reform and school curriculum issues. My review reflects how well I feel Wexler has made her argument as well as any preexisting background information I have. Natalie Wexler believes that she's found the missing piece in our constant efforts to reform education: knowledge. We have focus Reviewer note: I am not a professional educator, and as such, am not fully qualified to evaluate all the claims Wexler makes. I am a parent of two children in the public schools and have kept abreast of education reform and school curriculum issues. My review reflects how well I feel Wexler has made her argument as well as any preexisting background information I have. Natalie Wexler believes that she's found the missing piece in our constant efforts to reform education: knowledge. We have focused on skills as an abstraction, rather than the content underlying them. This is why even as lower grade reading scores show signs of improvement, 8th grade scores remain low and high schoolers lack key skills and knowledge. She begins with reading, which I honestly found the most compelling section of the book. Reading comes in two phases: decoding and comprehension. There is good evidence that decoding is best taught using phonics-based instruction (and here she goes into the "reading wars" between phonics based and whole language instruction). Although the evidence is robust here, I have seen researchers caution that we don't necessarily have a proven curriculum for teaching it. The UK has seen success with its focused synthetic phonics curriculum. She takes particular aim at Balanced Literacy (which she regards as primarily whole-language based despite its name) and its primary author, Lucy Calkins. The second phase is comprehension. This is where our instruction really goes off the rails. Wexler brings cognitive science and experiments in to show that our background knowledge greatly influences our comprehension of the text: imagine reading a story about cricket (the game) without any knowledge of what a batsman, bowler, or wicket is? The skills based approach jibes with my experience of my kids' elementary school. Since skills are abstractions that can be applied to any piece of text, the content is less important. Kids are encouraged to focus on applying specific skills (making text-to-self connections, following a sequence of events) and less to building up a larger store of knowledge for use with later texts. The emphasis is on self-connection and relating to texts--a skill my autistic child has difficulty with, and which, Wexler points out, can interfere with content if allowed to take over a topic. Here's where we meet her observational classrooms. Both teachers are young, with only a few years of experience, and teach in DC charter schools. Both are portrayed as having good basic teaching skills. One teaches using a traditional skills based curriculum, the other uses Core Knowledge. Later in the year, the first teacher refuses to continue; she's replaced by another young teacher at another charter school. Teachers #2 and #3 both quit as classroom teachers at the end of the year (#2 moves to a private school; #3 changes positions). While these stories were interesting, too often I felt I was reading anecdotes used as data. I had similar qualms about the visit to Michaela Community School in London, which firstly was a poor comparison as a secondary school (an age when American schools are moving to a more knowledge based model) and two, I know from regular UK news-reading that Michaela is extremely controversial for its opinionated (to say the least) headteacher and incredibly rigid discipline policies (which said head believes should be done everywhere). That was glossed over in the book. The problem here, of course, is that much educational research is poor quality and politicians aren't much interested in investing in it. Wexler doesn't blame classroom teachers. In her view, many are doing a good job--with what they are taught to do. They are not effective because they are "bad teachers" but because they are tasked with delivering an ineffective curriculum. Further they are taught that reading is an independent skill--that students must learn to read before they can read to learn, and that the two cannot be done in tandem. Teachers are also taught that most science and social studies are inappropriate before grade 3, which turns K-2 into a solid slog of reading and math blocks. (Math, where content and skills cannot be separated cleanly, is generally omitted from this book.) Curriculum, moreover, is a political third rail. Even when educators want to emphasize content more, deciding what to include incites a political storm. E.D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy raised outcries from the left, but today, the right is more active, objecting to Common Core and the AP US History revisions. It's easier to define neutral, politically uncontroversial skills. Wexler places some blame on teachers here, who are afraid of losing autonomy--but overly scripted lessons have been an issue, and longtime teachers have seen many trends come and go, all claiming to be evidence based. One difficulty here is that the largest body of evidence Wexler gets is on Core Knowledge, E.D. Hirsch's curriculum. While she's largely enthusiastic about it, she does herself some intellectual credit and admits it's imperfect--its science is less inspiring to the kids than the English/social studies focused units. There can be many ways to implement a knowledge based curriculum, or even to tie skills to content based units. In first grade, my son's class spent six weeks learning about the rainforest and finished by each writing a report about a rainforest animal that they presented to the parents. The kids loved it, and they clearly had managed to use all their skills while focusing on a coherent, planned set of materials and topic rather than the typical reader. There's a lot more to this book, and I do recommend it, though with some reservations.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    I really valued this book’s critique of skills-based literacy curriculum that is devoid of any real in-depth and interesting content. I’ve had a gut feeling for a while that the common core standards have led many schools and curriculum producers to teach reading superficially, with this seemingly doable one skill at a time approach. And unfortunately because of NCLB, “underperforming” schools started to focus more on Reading and Math and less on subjects like Science and Social Studies, as a me I really valued this book’s critique of skills-based literacy curriculum that is devoid of any real in-depth and interesting content. I’ve had a gut feeling for a while that the common core standards have led many schools and curriculum producers to teach reading superficially, with this seemingly doable one skill at a time approach. And unfortunately because of NCLB, “underperforming” schools started to focus more on Reading and Math and less on subjects like Science and Social Studies, as a means of getting test scores up, which, unsurprisingly, has been ineffective in getting scores up. I was, however, really disappointed with how fixated the author was on one curriculum: Core Knowledge. As the author points out, this curriculum has been critiqued for years for being Eurocentric. She brushes over this critique without really engaging with it. It’s 2019! Students of diverse identities deserve to be centered at school. Students deserve to learn about their own histories in rigorous and nuanced ways, which contrary to what the author suggests, is possible. Our failure to honor our students’ histories and experiences has had and continues to have dire consequences. The author also mocks teachers for expressing a desire for autonomy over what they teach without really grappling with why that’s so important to them. She just makes it sound like we want our own way despite the harm it does to kids. If she wasn’t so set on selling Core Knowledge, she might have opened herself up to the nuances of this argument a bit more, before the very last chapter of the book, and allowed educators to really think about: what is important for students to know? What is worth building knowledge around? And how can we build consensus on what to build knowledge around? I think if she would have wrestled with these questions more and yelled “Core Knowledge” less, it would have left everyone off in a more meaningful place. ***I just downgraded my review because it became clearer to me that Wexler has an agenda she isn’t being transparent about. I just ran across a Guardian article about one of the school’s she highlighted in her book, Michaela Community School in London, for their seemingly great focus on knowledge-based curriculum. This is how they conduct business: “Pupils are given demerits or detention for forgetting to bring a pencil or pen, or for talking in corridors when moving between lessons. The school hit the headlines again when it was reported that children whose parents had failed to pay for their lunches were made to eat separately from their classmates.” I mean, what price are we willing to pay for raising test scores?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Reading The Knowledge Gap, I was initially surprised that most elementary schools weren't teaching stuff nowadays, just "skills" related to reading and math. But then I thought back to my own elementary school and realized ... well, I'm not sure I learned much stuff back then, either! Most of what I remember is doing math work sheets and reading my own books under my desk when I got bored. I don't recall much at all about science, geography, biology, or anything like that. It seems intuitive to m Reading The Knowledge Gap, I was initially surprised that most elementary schools weren't teaching stuff nowadays, just "skills" related to reading and math. But then I thought back to my own elementary school and realized ... well, I'm not sure I learned much stuff back then, either! Most of what I remember is doing math work sheets and reading my own books under my desk when I got bored. I don't recall much at all about science, geography, biology, or anything like that. It seems intuitive to me that kids would rather learn "stuff" than "skills," and that learning "stuff" can help them build their "skills." The book says some educators think kids aren't really ready to engage intellectually with abstract ideas during the elementary school years. This is ridiculous, as I think any adult who has ever attempted to answer a child's endless questions of "Why?" would understand. As far as my experience goes, kids LOVE learning stuff, even abstract ideas! Overall, however, I don't understand why we can't do both and teach both stuff and skills. While the book gives lip service to some educators who argue that teaching "stuff" will default to teaching students a Western, Euro-centric curriculum, I think we could easily avoid that with just a bit of effort. Certainly, there's plenty of biology, geography, anatomy, etc. to be taught before we even get to social studies or history. Still, I was tempted to give The Knowledge Gap a lower rating because while Wexler tells the story of her position very well, she doesn't present much research to back it up. Also, many of the ideas here seem to be regurgitated from other theorists, and just a continuation of a certain position that has long been present in the curriculum wars. In other words, I suspect anyone with any background policy related to public education will be quite familiar with Wexler's positions and arguments.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shelli

    While I don't think the book represents the ideas of Whole Language with accuracy, I am able to overlook it because the book describes so much of what I believe. I have not been a fan of "comprehension instruction" because reading is a transaction between the reader and the text and that transaction is different for every child because of their background knowledge. So when people ask, "How do you teach reading?" I say, "Well. It's difficult to explain because it depends." I do believe that stud While I don't think the book represents the ideas of Whole Language with accuracy, I am able to overlook it because the book describes so much of what I believe. I have not been a fan of "comprehension instruction" because reading is a transaction between the reader and the text and that transaction is different for every child because of their background knowledge. So when people ask, "How do you teach reading?" I say, "Well. It's difficult to explain because it depends." I do believe that students need to have an understanding of phonics, phonemic awareness, and the mechanics of language. That goes so far. If you don't know what a colonel is then phonics nor phonemic awareness will support you. You have to know some stuff. In fact, you have to know a lot of stuff. And if you don't teach science and social studies-- which is the context for the "stuff" then you will be at a disadvantage. Many schools have stopped teaching science and social studies in order to make room for more reading instruction. I have refused. I believe it is a civil right that ALL children have access to ALL content. I believe that ALL children should have access to grade level content. This book suggests that there is some truth in these ideas. The book also reinforces that integrating content only provides a context to learn the vocabulary and ideas which then allows students to think critically about the topic as they dive deep into the tenets of the topic. I have always believed this to be true. Our brains seek out connections. I believe this is the premise of Whole Language. Not the "look at the pictures and just guess the word" script that is often used to negatively disparage whole language. Whole language practioners believe that context matters vs. teaching in isolation. I think it is a must read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Richmond Vernon

    I think this is a very important book and immediately purchased it after reading the author’s article in The Atlantic, “Elementary Education Has Gone Terribly Wrong.” Throughout my 5 years as a social studies teacher in a high-poverty school with a significant ELL population, I have often looked at our curriculum and instructional practices and asked myself if I was going crazy. This book assured me that, no, I’m not going crazy. The author makes the case that we must teach our students knowledg I think this is a very important book and immediately purchased it after reading the author’s article in The Atlantic, “Elementary Education Has Gone Terribly Wrong.” Throughout my 5 years as a social studies teacher in a high-poverty school with a significant ELL population, I have often looked at our curriculum and instructional practices and asked myself if I was going crazy. This book assured me that, no, I’m not going crazy. The author makes the case that we must teach our students knowledge and facts, and do it in a sometimes rigid way that today’s well-intentioned “learn by discovery” education intelligentsia find offensive. The author contends that we spend too much time having elementary students practice reading and writing “skills” using texts and curricula that are based on fiction, the kids’ personal experiences, and other topics that assuredly do not include social studies and, to a lesser extent, science. This creates a knowledge deficit, where students simply don’t have the necessary background knowledge and facts of history when they reach middle and high school. This background knowledge is a requisite for reading comprehension, and when students lack this knowledge and struggle with high school texts, it is frequently misdiagnosed to be a reading difficulty. The idea that we can just teach students *skills* which will then allow them to read, write and learn across subject areas and topics sounds good, and for years I agreed with it to some degree - but it isn’t working. This book explains why, and what we should be doing instead. I gave it four stars because I thought that in Part 3 I felt the author wasn’t totally coherent in her evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of Common Core.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Binge

    As a teacher, I think it's slightly blasphemous to get excited about a book about education, but this one was really good. It made me reconsider a lot of the approaches I have taken in the past few years and beliefs that I had, perhaps mistakenly, held. At the same time, Wexler was able to give words and voice to some deep concerns I had about modern educational trends that I'd been unable to express with clarity, either to myself or others. This is an important book. It is a book that will upset As a teacher, I think it's slightly blasphemous to get excited about a book about education, but this one was really good. It made me reconsider a lot of the approaches I have taken in the past few years and beliefs that I had, perhaps mistakenly, held. At the same time, Wexler was able to give words and voice to some deep concerns I had about modern educational trends that I'd been unable to express with clarity, either to myself or others. This is an important book. It is a book that will upset people who have been teaching soft skills, and ATLs, and all the other content-divorced approaches that have become de rigeur in recent times. While much of it, particularly the latter half, was very focused on America and so difficult for me to contextualise, the philosophy behind the ideas resonated clear and true.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jania Hoover

    I understood the premise but this book was much longer than it needed to be to get the point across. That being said, as a high school social studies teacher, I’ve witnessed firsthand a generation of kids that grew up with occasional social studies/science classes. Today, a student (11th grade) referred to the Underground Railroad as a network of tunnels. I 100% agree that students need to know stuff before they can analyze it. Hitting them with upper level texts when they don’t have the backgro I understood the premise but this book was much longer than it needed to be to get the point across. That being said, as a high school social studies teacher, I’ve witnessed firsthand a generation of kids that grew up with occasional social studies/science classes. Today, a student (11th grade) referred to the Underground Railroad as a network of tunnels. I 100% agree that students need to know stuff before they can analyze it. Hitting them with upper level texts when they don’t have the background can contribute to disengagement and low achievement in high school. I’m not sure what the solution is though. I wish there were more practical solutions in Wexler’s text. I do use the Writing Revolution though. That book is amazingly practical.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    Must-read for anyone baffled by why the hard work of so many educators across the country seems to sometimes produce such modest outcomes.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Challis

    This book was excellent. It simultaneously challenged some of my long term beliefs about teaching and confirmed others. I went to college and was indoctrinated by “ whole language.” There were some things I believed to be true, but the disdain for phonics I found to be misguided and inaccurate. I read a book by an amazing educator, Marva Collins, who started Westside Preparatory School in Chicago. She believed children needed to be challenged and taught content. Her beliefs, experiences, and met This book was excellent. It simultaneously challenged some of my long term beliefs about teaching and confirmed others. I went to college and was indoctrinated by “ whole language.” There were some things I believed to be true, but the disdain for phonics I found to be misguided and inaccurate. I read a book by an amazing educator, Marva Collins, who started Westside Preparatory School in Chicago. She believed children needed to be challenged and taught content. Her beliefs, experiences, and methods resonated so much with me. So I took what made sense to me from what I learned in college and eschewed the rest. There is so much confusion in education today. Test scores take all the focus and art, music, history, and science take a backseat. But it is not getting better. It is amazing to me how everything seems to get politicized these days. Wouldn’t you think everyone could agree that students need content in their education? But our divided country can’t seem to get it together and people scream about things they really don’t even understand (I’m talking about you, Common Core). I was shocked to learn I had been dismissive in the past because I assumed Hirsch was a right-wing nut who didn’t understand about child development, but what I learned in this book showed that to be wholly incorrect. There is a real reading gap in this country and it has not gotten any better despite lots of programs and government incentives. I thought it was fascinating how this book talked about a reading study that took low and high readers and gave them something to read about baseball. The low readers knew quite a bit about the game and the high readers almost nothing. When given a comprehension test, both groups scored similarly with the low readers a bit higher on average. Content and background knowledge is more important than skills. Knowledge is the ultimate equalizer. Unfortunately, in this country, we can’t seem to agree enough to get anything done. I am only one teacher and I will do the best I can to go forward with information gleaned from this book, but our students need a lot more than they are getting. A quote from the end of this well researched, expertly organized, and surprisingly enjoyable read: I’d love to point to a school district, or even a single school, and say: This is how it should be done,” Wexler writes. “Unfortunately, I have yet to see an American school that consistently combines a focus on content with an instructional method that fully exploits the potential of writing to build knowledge and critical thinking abilities for every child.” I hope we can get it figured out one day- for our children’s sake.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. “It’s ironic that truly abstract concepts like captions and symbols are appropriate for six-year-olds but informational tales about history, science, and the arts are not.” (p. 28) "The goal was to determine to what extent a child's ability to understand a text depended on her prior knowledge of the topic...The kids who knew little about baseball, including the "good: readers, all did poorly. And among those who knew a lot about baseball, the "good" readers and the "bad" readers all did well. In “It’s ironic that truly abstract concepts like captions and symbols are appropriate for six-year-olds but informational tales about history, science, and the arts are not.” (p. 28) "The goal was to determine to what extent a child's ability to understand a text depended on her prior knowledge of the topic...The kids who knew little about baseball, including the "good: readers, all did poorly. And among those who knew a lot about baseball, the "good" readers and the "bad" readers all did well. In fact, the bad readers who knew a lot about baseball outperformed the good readers who didn't." (p. 29-30) "In another study, researchers read preschoolers from mixed socioeconomic backgrounds a book about birds, a subject they had determined the higher-income kids already knew more about. When they tested comprehension, the wealthier children did significantly better. But then they read a story about: made-up animals called wugs. When prior knowledge was equalized, comprehension was essentially the same. in other words, the gap in comprehension wasn't a gap in skills. It was a gap in knowledge." (p. 30)-Specials classes can be a time for students to gain a wide variety of knowledge, but some kids are pulled because of testing, because they are behind with their work, or because they are in trouble. "Rather than being restricted to the simple material they can read on their own, young children need to listen to their teachers read more complex books aloud and engage in discussions abut what they've heard-and, depending on their age, write about it...If teachers organize their read-aloud by topic instead of the skill-of-the-week, children have the chance to hear the same concepts and vocabulary repeatedly. Once they have a general familiarity with a topic, they can read ore difficult text about it independently." (p. 35) -- This aligns with the methods used in Kodaly. Listen to and sing complex music. Use movement to interpret, and extract what you need for basic music reading skills. "And critical thinking is vital not only for a student's individual success but also for the future of democracy. Remember the researchers who were shocked to discover, in the wake of the 2016 election, how difficult it was for students to distinguish real from fake news? Their proposed solution was to teach them to evaluate the reliability of websites by searching for other information online, among other things. but simply ensuring students have more knowledge of the world would be even more effective." (p. 39) The debate over phonics again erupted into the national conversation, and now the rhetoric was even more vicious and political. The push for phonics had long been identified with the right, while whole language was an offshoot of a philosophy called progressive education, associated with the left. One phonics advocate charged that the whole-language crew wanted to turn "American children into little socialists." Whole-language theorist Ken Goodman accused the phonics camp of not wanting students to become literate fearing that "they would have easy access to information that may empower them." (p. 72)- This idea was mentioned before in this book (p. 39). It's interesting that the democrats were the ones pushing for a form of learning that didn't work. They are the ones who are more likely to try to make average Americans look like idiots whenever their motives are questioned or revealed to be treacherous ("deplorables," anyone?) It's also interesting to note that democrats often present arguments in ways that are attacking and that show a lack of knowledge. For example, when a factory worker questioned Joe Biden about gun rights, Biden called the gun in question about three different names, and didn't really have an understanding of how the gun work and why it would be beneficial for an American to have in order to bear arms. He hadn't done his research. He just knows that Joe Public shouldn't have a gun so that politicians can lessen his rights and have more control over him. "In other words, traditional PD has suffered from the same defect as elementary literacy instruction: it has tried to develop skills disconnected from content. That approach hasn't work any better with adults than with children. Recent evidence indicates that Lemon and Leifer were both right: for PD to be effective, it has to be part of a cycle of continuous improvement, and it has to be embedded in specific content - preferably content that is part of a coherent, cumulative curriculum." (p. 113) "This disdain for factual knowledge has been reinforced by a framework of 'educational objectives' that teachers-in-training are required to memorize, called Bloom's Taxonomy. Created by education theorist Benjamin Bloom in the 1950s, the taxonomy ranks different thinking tasks, beginning with the less complex and more concrete-knowledge and comprehension-and ending with the more complex and abstract: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Usually the taxonomy is represented as a pyramid, with knowledge at the bottom and evaluation at the top. That graphic has led many educators to conclude that the 'lower-order' tasks should be passed over as quickly as possible, or even eliminated, because they're inferior to those at the top. In fact, Bloom meant that knowledge and comprehension are prerequisites for higher-order thinking, and that teachers should never ask students to start analyzing or evaluating a topic until first ensuring they have a solid understanding of it...The more you know about a particular topic, the. better able you are to think about it critically." (140) “Hirsch’s foray into the world of education policy brought him face-to-face with a fundamental truth: the more specific you are about what all students should learn, the more likely that you’ll unleash a political firestorm. That’s a shame, because the evidence is clear that countries with specific, challenging curricula have education systems that are more successful and equitable than ours...In virtually all other developed countries the national government has the power to set curriculum or at least a framework of what students should learn at each grade level.” (155) “And schools can always tweak or supplement a curriculum with material that relates to the needs or backgrounds of their students.” (165)-Kodaly philosophy encourages music teachers to choose songs from the cultures of their students-not to dominate the curriculum, but to allow students to identify with the music, and then to be more open to learning about the music that is rooted in the culture or the country in which they live. "Having students write about what they're learning can yield greater benefits than the techniques currently favored by teachers: discussion, projects, and group work. While there's a role for each in the classroom, the also have disadvantages. Class discussion is not only less rigorous than writing, its often dominated by the same few kids. Similarly, the details-and fun-of creating a project can easily obscure the learning objectives...Group work...often devolves into students chatting about whatever strikes their fancies, with the more conscientious group members doing all the work." (223)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    I can't be the only reviewer of this book who found it disorganized and meandering? For a polemical book—insofar that it seeks to advance a particular argument—it seemed to proceed so feebly. I felt lost. Anecdotes of her hands-on observations of classrooms are interjected randomly. She demures from stating her conclusions outright and instead leaves the reader to cull it out like an exercise in decoding. An opinion book ought to build to a crescendo...argument, support, argument, support, count I can't be the only reviewer of this book who found it disorganized and meandering? For a polemical book—insofar that it seeks to advance a particular argument—it seemed to proceed so feebly. I felt lost. Anecdotes of her hands-on observations of classrooms are interjected randomly. She demures from stating her conclusions outright and instead leaves the reader to cull it out like an exercise in decoding. An opinion book ought to build to a crescendo...argument, support, argument, support, counter-argument, rebuttal. Et cetera. Idea: Content-focused knowledge building in elementary curriculum reproduced on a large scale. In 1972, the wealthiest Americans were spending five times as much per child as the lowest-income families. By 2007, parents at all economic levels were spending more on their children, but the highest-income families were spending nine times as much. As 'human capital'—skills and education—has become increasingly vital to success, families in the top 20 percent have invested more heavily in ensuring their children can compete. At some schools, no students receive passing scores on AP tests. At other, virtually all tests are given the lowest possible score, which could mean students failed to answer any questions whatsoever. Many who get As or Bs in their AP classes end up failing the exams. (I went to a private school, where the high school teachers in charge of AP classes were closely evaluated based on the number of their students receiving 4s and 5s. However, I heard from a classmate that this shocking observation is indeed true: some students enroll in AP classes, receive As, and completely fail the actual AP exams.) [Hirsch emphasized] the need to transmit some core of knowledge from one generation to the next to forge a sense of national identity. Schools, he argued, were necessary vehicles of acculturation. 'Only by accumulating shared symbols, and the shared information that the symbols represent, 'he wrote, 'can we learn to communicate effectively with one another in our national community.'

  23. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    This book has changed everything. The way I see my role as an educator, the profession in general, and the pretty straightforward but alarmingly overlooked way to fix our nation’s schools. I am undone and will never be the same. May sound dramatic, but it’s true! For the new teachers or the old- for those of us that are unconvinced of the benefits of current teaching methods, curriculums, or fads- this book is for you. And it gives a delightfully simple answer to the question of how best to equi This book has changed everything. The way I see my role as an educator, the profession in general, and the pretty straightforward but alarmingly overlooked way to fix our nation’s schools. I am undone and will never be the same. May sound dramatic, but it’s true! For the new teachers or the old- for those of us that are unconvinced of the benefits of current teaching methods, curriculums, or fads- this book is for you. And it gives a delightfully simple answer to the question of how best to equip children to be informed, well read, and prepared citizens of this country and world. I cannot recommend this book enough!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Konrad Mueller

    Man, so many nights over the last few years I’ve grappled with the black box that is teaching reading. This book finally gave words to the tension I’ve felt, and though this book doesn’t give an easy fix, the path forward is clearer and that’s energizing. Required reading for my educator peeps.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin Barnes

    As an elementary school teacher, so much of this book resonated with my personal beliefs about teaching. I highly recommend it for all teachers, especially those in elementary settings. My only critique is that I wanted more anecdotes and observations from the classrooms!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Teresadwireyahoo.com

    If you’re an educator, parent, or know someone who is, I highly recommend this read!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chelsee Alcantara

    A refreshing take on what should be in American schools and how the absence of content driven learning is hurting our education system.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    Really interesting examination of curricula across the US and the conflict between content vs. skills-based learning. Highly recommend for anyone who has interest in current curriculum practices.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Good. Thought-provoking. Not sure the conclusion I reached (that people who have never been in a classroom have no place in setting education policy or curriculum) was the one the author wanted me to reach (content-based curriculums are best) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Also - not sure the premise holds up to the promise as there ARE no clear solutions offered. So the subtitle isn't accurate.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Lash

    Thought provoking reading about misinformed common practices, many still being used in my school district.

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