Articles

THE ATLANTIC

Elementary Education Has Gone Terribly Wrong, August 2019

In the early grades, U.S. schools value reading-comprehension skills over knowledge. The results are devastating, especially for poor kids. …

Why American Students Haven’t Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years, April 13, 2018

Every two years, education-policy wonks gear up for what has become a time-honored ritual: the release of the Nation’s Report Card. Officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, the data reflect the results of reading and math tests administered to a sample of students across the country. Experts generally consider the tests rigorous and highly reliable—and the scores basically stagnant. …

MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

How Classroom Technology Is Holding Students Back, December 19, 2019

In a first grade classroom I visited a few years ago, most of the six-year-olds were using iPads or computers. They were working independently on math problems supposedly geared to their ability, while the teacher worked separately with a small group. I watched as one boy, whom I’ll call Kevin, stared at an iPad screen that directed him to “combine 8 and 3.” A struggling reader (like almost all his classmates), he pressed the “Listen” button. But he still didn’t try to provide an answer. …

PERSPECTIVES ON LANGUAGE AND LITERACY (INTERNATIONAL DYSLEXIA ASSOCIATION) (Co-editor of Fall 2019 issue on “The Importance of Knowledge)

The Connections Between Writing, Knowledge Acquisition, and Reading Comprehension, Fall Edition 2019

Monica was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child … “I didn’t think I was going to go to college because I was special ed,” she told an interviewer, “and special ed kids don’t go to college.” … Just three years later, however, Monica had passed her New York Regents exams in English and American history–scoring an impressive 91 on the latter. Eventually, she not only attended college but graduated with a degree in sociology. ...

FORBES.COM (RECENT POSTS)

To ‘Get Reading Right,’ We Need To Talk About What Teachers Actually Do, December 14, 2019

There’s been a welcome surge of public discussion of the science on reading. But if we want all kids to become good readers, media coverage needs to point out that current practice conflicts with it. …

The Roots Of Teenagers’ Mediocre Test Scores Lie In Elementary School, December 3, 2019

Scores on international tests show American teenagers have made no progress on reading and math in nearly two decades. We need to start recognizing that the problems begin with how and what we teach in elementary school. …

Reading Fiction Can Be Fun, But It Isn’t Enough To Boost Achievement, November 6, 2019

Teenagers who read a lot of fiction do better on international reading tests, according to a recent study. But that doesn’t mean we can boost achievement just by encouraging kids to read more fiction. …

To Reverse the Decline in Reading Scores, We Need to Build Knowledge, October 31, 2019

Scores on standardized tests given across the country have declined, and the gap between high- and low-achievers has widened. There’s plenty of hand-wringing, but commentators continue to overlook an obvious explanation: we’re not giving vulnerable students access to the kind of knowledge that could help them succeed. …

Click here to see a list of all of Natalie’s posts on Forbes.com.

 

CHALKBEAT

The case for teaching about sharks and mummies, not captions and the main idea, August 6, 2019

How do students best learn to read? Equally important, how do students learn to love reading? The Common Core emphasizes reading comprehension skills, like identifying the main idea of a text. Yet in her new book, “The Knowledge Gap,” Natalie Wexler argues that teaching those skills in a vacuum, rather than centering instruction around interesting and rigorous content knowledge, hurts both student achievement and engagement.

 

MINDSHIFT/KQED

How Testing Kids for Skills Can Hurt Those Lacking Knowledge, August 12, 2019

In 1987, two researchers in Wisconsin, Donna Recht and Lauren Leslie, constructed a miniature baseball field and installed it in an empty classroom in a junior high school. They peopled it with four-inch wooden baseball players arranged to simulate the beginning of a game. Then they brought in sixty-four seventh- and eighth-grade students who had been tested both for their general reading ability and their knowledge of baseball. …

 

RESEARCH ED MAGAZINE

Writing and Cognitive Load Theory, June 24, 2019

Cognitive load theory has been described as one of the most important discussions in modern psychology that educators need to be familiar with. Natalie Wexler looks at what the implications of this theory are for the way we teach writing, and what it means in the classroom. …

 

THE GRADE (PHI DELTA KAPPAN)

The Media Blind Spot Hiding a Big Problem in American Classrooms, September 11, 2019

Six years ago, I thought I knew a lot about education. I’d been writing about the topic for several years. And yet I knew nothing about a fundamental and pervasive problem that was undermining the decades-long effort to improve educational outcomes, especially for disadvantaged students: the widespread assumption that teaching kids reading comprehension “skills and strategies” is more important than building their knowledge in subjects like history and science….

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

How Common Core Can Help in the Battle of Skills vs. Knowledge, August 28, 2015
Standardized tests are commonly blamed for narrowing the school curriculum to reading and math. That’s one reason Congress is considering changes in the law that could lead states to put less emphasis on test scores. But even if we abolished standardized tests tomorrow, a majority of elementary schools would continue to pay scant attention to subjects like history and science. …

 

THE WASHINGTON POST

The inappropriate focus on reading and math hurts students, February 26, 2018
The resignation of D.C. Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson in the wake of two embarrassing scandals at the high school level could provide D.C. schools with an opportunity to change course and regain its reputation as a national model of education reform. But that can only happen if officials recognize the true source of both scandals: elementary school, long considered the bright spot in the system. …

Why Americans can’t write, September 24, 2015
It’s no secret that many Americans are lousy writers. Just ask any college professor or employer, including those at prestigious institutions. With the advent of e-mail, writing ability has become more important than ever, and writing deficiencies have become increasingly apparent. …

 

AMERICAN EDUCATOR (WITH JUDITH C. HOCHMAN)

One Sentence at a Time: The Need for Explicit Instruction in Teaching Students to Write Well, Summer 2017
When Monica entered high school, her writing skills were minimal. After repeating first grade and getting more than 100 hours of tutoring in elementary school, she’d managed to learn to read well enough to get by, and she was comfortable with math. But writing seemed beyond her reach. …