March 23, 2023

Ken Goodman (1927 – 2020)

On March 12, 2020, the world lost another giant with the passing of educator Dr. Kenneth Goodman at the age of 92. Ken Goodman was responsible for developing the theory underlying the literacy approach known as whole language – making him one of the most important, vilified, and courageous educators in history. He is survived by his wife and colleague, Dr. Yetta Goodman.

Ken Goodman was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Language, Reading and Culture at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He was Past-President of the International Reading Association, The National Conference in Research in Language and Literacy and the Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking. His research on oral reading miscues led to a sociopsycholinguistic transactional model of the reading process which has achieved world wide recognition.

Dr. Goodman wrote extensively for teachers including the book, What’s Whole in Whole Language?, which sold over 250,000 copies in six languages and was most recently updated in 2014. Other books remain classics, including On Reading and The Truth About DIBELS: What It Is – What It Does. Goodman also authored countless academic papers and journal articles.

Regrettably, I never met Ken in person, but we did work together when I was Editor of one of the first online education publications of the nascent social media era, The Pulse – Education’s Place for Debate, from 2006 – 2008. Ken was one of the first people I asked to contribute to The Pulse.

Thanks to The Internet Archive, I was able to recover Dr. Goodman’s Pulse articles. Not all of them are timeless, but many are. Too much educational wisdom, even recent writing, has been lost to history. Therefore, I am proud to archive and share Dr. Goodman’s articles here.

The DIBELing of Little Children
Today’s parents of five year olds are hearing a new answer to the age old question, “What did you do in school today? “I got DIBELed.” Within a few days of entering kindergarten, hundreds of thousands of five year olds are given their first opportunity to taste failure in their ability to say the names of letters in three seconds,

Education for a Diverse Society: What Ever Happened to the Comprehensive High School?
One of the most remarkable achievements of American democracy was its provision of free universal compulsory education for all its children and young people. No society had ever committed itself to universal education.

Two Scandals
Congressional scandals, one covered by the media and the larger one about education policy remained unspoken.

Making NCLB the Key Legislative Issue of the 2007 Congress
In spite of the scandal in the administration of Reading First uncovered in the Inspector General’s report and in spite of the alarming number of schools throughout the country being falsely labeled as failing schools , NCLB was not a major issue in the mid-term elections.

Ignorance or Obfuscation? Misrepresentations of “Grade Level”
Recently my local newspaper reported the shocking fact that in a Tucson middle school, labeled as failing, half the students were “reading below grade level.” That would also mean that half are reading above grade level, a fact the article did not report..

Scientifically Based Research: 120 repetitions in NCLB
When the exact same phrase is used redundantly in the 670 pages of the NCLB law (strictly speaking the 2002 NCLB revision of the ESEA law) it would seem that there must be a compelling reason for such redundancy.

Undoing the Damage Done Through Illegal Implementation of Reading First
The inspector General of the US Department of Education has documented flagrant conflicts of interest and illegal impositions of curriculum in negotiating the NCLB state contracts. Here are my views on what is needed to even partially undo the damage done.

One Minute of Nonsense
I believe this period in American education will be characterized as the pedagogy of the absurd. Nothing better illustrates this than DIBELS.

Making Reading First Fair and Flexible
Within the past two years the Inspector General of the Department of Education has issued a series of alarming reports on conflicts of interest and violations of the NCLB law that occurred during the implementation of Reading First by Department of Education staff and its consultants and contractors.

The Power of the Book
Why is Harry Potter author, JK Rowling, suing a middle school librarian?