Oppose AB 2222

Reasons to Oppose California Assembly Bill AB 2222
Jill Kerper Mora, Ed.D.

Update: On April 11, AB 2222 “died” in the Assembly and will not be advanced during this year’s 2024 legislative session. 

I am writing from the battlefront of the Reading Wars about the latest atrocity coming from the Science of Reading movement: Proposed legislation AB 2222 (Rubio) Science of Reading introduced on February 7, 2024. This bill states that its purpose is …” to ensure compliance with effective means of teaching literacy, as defined, and adherence to the science [of] reading, as provided.” (p. 2). The bill defines the “science of reading” in Section 10, Sec. 60011 (p. 19-20) to be added to the CA Education Code as follows:

California Assembly Bill AB 2222 (Rubio)

(b) “Science of reading” means an interdisciplinary body of scientifically based research that includes all of the following:
(1) Informs how pupils learn to read and write proficiently.
(2) Explains why some pupils have difficulty with reading and writing.
(3) Indicates that all pupils benefit from explicit and systematic instruction in phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and writing to become effective readers.
(4) Emphasizes the pivotal role of oral language and home language development, particularly for English learners.
(5) Does not rely on any model for teaching word reading based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues, including a three-cuing approach, with the exception of instruction to pupils who are identified as deaf or hearing impaired, as defined in paragraphs (3) and (5), respectively, of subdivision (c) of Section 17 300.8 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations.”

AB 2222 Opposition Talking Points

The California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) has taken an official position in opposition to Assembly Bill 2222 (Rubio). The organization Families in Schools published a position paper in favor of AB 2222 titled “The Literacy Crisis in Los Angeles and Beyond.” Click here for CABE’s analysis and response to the Families in Schools position paper. Please see highlights of this analysis below:

Families in Schools express genuine concerns about achievement gaps in literacy between identified subgroups of students that must be addressed in our public schools. However, this document does not provide a rationale for California’s legislators to pass a law that contradicts the research knowledge base about how students learn literacy that educators must have in order to implement effective classroom instruction. Furthermore, the language of the AB 2222 legislation creates policies and requirements that are in conflict with existing Department of Education curriculum. The authors of this analysis advise Families in Schools to oppose AB 2222.

Families in Schools Claim, p. 17

However, many teachers believe there is no one right way to teach reading – a concerning sentiment given the decades of research showing that science of reading principles outline the most effective approach to reading instruction.”
“Ensuring teachers can provide evidence-based reading instruction will require a stronger understanding of the science of reading and participation in sustained training opportunities to gain the necessary instructional skills.”

 CABE’s Response

Teachers are correct. There is no one right way to teach reading. The methods, approaches, and strategies that teachers use in their classrooms must be based on students’ learning needs and characteristics. There is no one-size-fits-all way of teaching reading and writing and “scientific” research in how students learn has demonstrated the many variables involved in assessing students’ learning at different stages of development. The variability in language and literacy learning for students who speak a language other than English in the home is even greater than among monolingual native English-speaking students. This variability in learning characteristics of students demands that teachers be fully informed about the impact of the factors that impact learning for multilingual learners and learners with disabilities in order to make sound, evidence-based decisions about instruction. The body of research referred to as the Science of Reading alone does not provide a comprehensive pedagogical knowledge base for teachers to be fully equipped for literacy instruction decision-making. The California state legislature does not have the expertise to prescribe instructional approaches and strategies for teachers.

Families in Schools Claim, p. 23

The English Language Arts/English Language Development (ELA/ELD) framework was adopted in 2014 to help guide curriculum and instruction. While the framework contains useful elements and makes it clear that explicit teaching of foundational skills is critical, it is over 1,000 pages long, making it inaccessible and impractical to many educators who are a primary audience for this document.

 CABE’s Response

 Teachers generally do not use the state curriculum framework(s) to guide them in instructional planning. They usually work directly from the curriculum standards. In California, these are the Common Core Standards, which are further articulated for instructional purposes by the San Diego County Office of Education’s publication of the Common Core Standards Linguistic Augmentation (2012), commonly referred to as the Common Core en Español. These parallel grade-by-grade standards enable dual language teachers and English medium teachers of English learners to plan explicit instruction focused on supporting transfer of learning and cross-linguistic transfer that enhances language and literacy achievement for multilingual learners. The Common Core State Standards address foundational skills and support explicit teaching that is horizontally and vertically aligned with multidisciplinary research on effective teaching in English language arts and Spanish language arts. The Common Core en Español standards are recognized nationally and internationally as a model curriculum for guiding instruction for Spanish/English multilingual learners.

In addition, publishers of language arts programs and materials are required to articulate in detail how the Common Core Standards are addressed in every unit and lesson of the program. In the textbook adoption process, the Committee verifies this articulation. Publishers are required to submit a “white paper” that documents the research base for the components of their program. Given that the state curriculum standards are research-based, this process ensures that commercial instructional materials and programs are research-based.

Families in Schools Claim, p. 22

Teacher preparation programs are required to implement new, evidence-based literacy standards, thanks to SB 488 (2021).

CABE’s Response

This statement appears to assume that prior to the “new” standards for teacher preparation, California’s teacher credentials programs were not implementing “evidence-based literacy standards” in teacher credential programs. This assumption is incorrect. The Reading Instruction Competency Assessment (RICA) has been a requirement for Multiple Subjects Credential candidates to qualify for earning their credential since 2009. The RICA Content Standards were issued in 2007. According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC), “The RICA Content Specifications were developed by the CTC’s RICA Design Team, consisting of California teachers, administrators, reading specialists, and teacher educators with experience and expertise in the areas of reading and reading instruction.” The university literacy faculty from the University of California and California State University systems who were involved in the development of the RICA Content Standards are experts in Science of Reading research. University literacy methods courses and courses on instruction for English learners are aligned with the RICA Content Standards. Consequently, California families can rest assured that every teacher who holds a Multiple Subjects credential issued by the CCTC since 2009 has demonstrated through passage of a rigorous written examination of the pedagogical knowledge base and foundational principles of effective literacy instruction, including, but not limited to, the Science of Reading research.

Families in Schools Claim p. 28

Require teachers, coaches, and administrators to complete sustained SOR training, either within their local school district or through a state-approved list of providers, ensuring the content clearly reflects the needs of multilingual learners.

CABE’s Response

Professional development for teachers is most effective when it is specifically targeted to address teachers’ self-identified needs for increased pedagogical knowledge and instructional strategies according to their own school context, grade level and student population in their classrooms. Teachers must be involved in planning their professional development in order for it to have an impact on their instruction. Teachers most frequently request professional development to support their implementation of the specific language arts programs adopted by their schools. Professional development cannot be used to indoctrinate teachers into a particular model or approach to instruction mandated by the state. Teachers are professionals. They are the ones who should decide on what the needs of their students are, including and especially for multilingual learners. The imposition of professional development requirements that teachers perceive as indoctrination will cause resistance. Mandated “training” that teachers perceive as irrelevant to their contexts and practices will be a waste of millions of taxpayers’ dollars because it will not have  any positive impact on instruction.

An example of the contradictions that AB 2222 poses for designing and implementing relevant and effective professional development for teachers stems from the language of the bill itself. See Section 10 60011p. 19-20 “(5) Does not rely on any model for teaching word reading based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues, including a three-cuing approach, with the exception of instruction to pupils  who are identified as deaf or hearing impaired, as defined in paragraphs (3) and (5), respectively, of subdivision (c) of Section 17 300.8 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

We educators and parents need to be concerned about teachers’ confusion and possible misunderstandings about effective instruction stemming from the bans on “cueing” proposed by Science of Reading advocates. There are provisions of AB 2222 that are internally inconsistent and in fact, contrary to the Science of Reading that the bill seeks to mandate.

Families who have children who struggle with dyslexia need to also be aware that the definition of the Science of Reading in AB 2222 is in conflict with the recommendations for instruction of students with dyslexia in the California Dyslexia Guidelines (California Department of Education, 2017). The Dyslexia Guidelines make explicit the importance of addressing language-based systems and structure, including phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics (meaning)  to remediate impairments that cause dyslexia. (See the California Dyslexia Guidelines, p. 5-6.) This resource document defines syntax as one of several language-based systems where explicit, direct instruction for students with dyslexia is beneficial. However, AB 2222 would ban reliance on theoretical models of reading instruction that address meaning, structure, and syntax and three of the multiple subsystems of language referred to as “three cuing.”

In addition, the language of AB 2222 states that the Science of Reading does not rely on models of word recognition that rely on “meaning.” The technical term in linguistics for meaning is semantics. Meaning-making is a key theme of the California ELA/ELD Framework documents for grade levels PreK-Grade 8. In fact, the grade-level Framework documents use the term “meaning” 419 times. Yet, AB 2222 requires that teachers’ instruction based on the Science of Reading “does not rely on any model of teaching words based on meaning.” The English Language Development Framework emphasizes that ELs “should learn how English works to make meaning …” (p, 33). How can ELs learn how English works without learning about the “meaning, structure and syntax” of the English language through the “visual cues” of language represented symbolically through print? How can teachers be expected to resolve these conflicting policies and recommendations when planning and implementing classroom instruction?

Dr. Mora’s comments to EdSource articles on AB 2222

EdSource Article: Bill to mandate ‘science of reading’ in California classrooms dies | EdSource

April 14, 2024 Jill Kerper Mora Comment

I hope that you will consider the fact that the organizations that oppose AB 2222 are the representatives of the very people and institutional that would be responsible for implementing the mandates that the sponsors of the bill seek to put in place: university teacher educators, school district administrators and most importantly, teachers. Laws that seek to mandate, and thereby, to coerce compliance with laws and policies that are opposed by the agents and agencies who have the knowledge and expertise required to implement the mandate for rational and reasonable reasons rarely work to achieve their objectives. This is especially true when coercion comes in the form of threats and punishments for non-compliance.

AB 2222 is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that is based on inaccurate and misinformed readings of literacy achievement test data that proposes to be the “solution” to a problem (low literacy achievement). The sponsors of the bill presented no scientific, empirical evidence that the “solution” (adherence to Science of Reading research) is a factor that has not be proven to either have caused or be the remedy for the problem. In other words, the organizations that oppose AB 2222 do so because it attempts to force actions that cannot solve the problem because these actions do not address the multiple and complex causes of the problem.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi took the correct action in the interest of his constituents and the students of this state by not promoting a bill intended to coerce academic scholars and teachers to set aside their professionalism and expertise to accept deeply flawed legislation to possibly be voted into law. It is a bad idea to attempt to coerce school administrators, university teacher education professors and teachers through ill-conceived laws and policies to do what they/we know is not in the best interests of the communities and children that are served in our public schools.

April 14, 2024 Jill Kerper Mora Comment

I believe that it does a serious disservice to all of California’s students to frame advocacy for any group of students with certain academic learning challenges as pitting any one group of students’ best interests against another. This is one of the reasons for my opposition to AB 2222. My hope is that now that this bill will not advance this year in the Assembly, that the multiple issues of how credential programs prepare teacher candidates for teaching our diverse population of students will be topics of discussion, with no implications that what is beneficial for one group is detrimental for another. 

This is exactly the reason why it is not a legitimate role of the state legislature to pick winners and losers among the multiple scholarly lenses for research on literacy learning with the intent to privilege some academic scholars and to marginalize others. We must be open to a full range of perspectives to ensure that educators have a diverse, flexible, and complementary set of tools for language and literacy instruction in our schools.

EdSource Article

Bill to mandate ‘science of reading’ in California schools faces teachers union opposition | EdSource

April 12, 2024 Jill Kerper Mora Comment

You appear to be convinced that the mandate for teachers to adhere to the Science of Reading that would become law under AB 2222 is legislation that would support all students in learning to read. There is no consensus among literacy scholars and university teacher educators that this is the case. Consider for example the very name of the body of research that advocates for the Science of Reading have chosen for themselves. Why not the Science of Language or the Science of Literacy or the Science of Writing? Reading is not the only aspect of literacy and reading instruction is not the only pathway to literacy.

The Science of Reading calling itself “science” is controversial, since many of the claims made by researchers who self-identify as reading scientists are examined, challenged, and refuted by researchers who view literacy through different scholarly lenses. Not all of the Science of Reading’s claims are based on scientific evidence. Multiple perspectives on literacy learning provide valuable insights into the critical linguistic and cognitive processes involved in the literacy research enterprise. This includes the contributions of neuroscience and neurolinguistics from multiple theoretical and methodological perspectives on how the brain processes the meaning of language transmitted through the modality of print.

All research must be interpreted and translated into applications for teachers based on the most relevant and up-to-date knowledge of the very best evidence-based practices to use in serving our students. It is ill-advised for elected state legislators to privilege or legitimize a singular body of research through ordained enforcement mechanisms such as loss of accreditation for teacher credential programs for alleged non-compliance with a particular interpretation or overgeneralizations of research findings. This is why advocates for English Learners and emergent biliteracy learners are opposed to AB 2222.

There is no such thing as a settled “science of reading” that should be enshrined in California’s Education Code. Yesterday, California dodged a bullet by pulling AB 2222 from consideration. Now let us engage in positive dialogue and collaboration to support teachers in their knowledge and use of best practices in their classrooms.

April 12, 2024 Jill Kerper Mora Comment

I too had a negative reaction to the comment in the article from an organization’s representative calling the pulling of AB 2222 “backroom politics.” As a member of CABE and CABTE, the California Association for Bilingual Teacher Education, an affiliate of CABE, I have been engaged in formulating talking points and responses to sponsor organizations and have spoken with advocates of the bill about the rationale for opposition to the bill in numerous meetings. There has been nothing “backroom” or secretive or unethical about discussions of the teacher education community’s and teachers’ concerns about the impact this bill would have had for educating California’s most vulnerable students.

I respect the opinion of those who believe that legislative hearings would have given others the opportunity to express their views. However, I share the concerns of my colleagues and CABE’s and CTA’s constituents about this deeply flawed and counterproductive legislation that could not be averted through negotiations or amendments. If those who see adherence to or alignment with a particular interpretation of a body of academic and scholarly research on literacy instruction as the way to improve literacy education in California want to make their case, so be it. We now have time to reconsider whether or not it is the proper role of the state legislature to determine what research base and pedagogical knowledge base teachers rely on to inform their decision-making at the classroom level to best educate California’s linguistically and culturally diverse students.

In light of comments from community members regarding the adoption of instructional materials, I would be interested in an article from EdSource that describes in detail the rigorous textbook adoption process currently in place in California. This process ensures that publishers’ programs and materials that make the list have a solid foundation in scholarly academic research on literacy to support the pedagogical effectiveness of their products. Publishers are required to submit a “white paper” that cites the research studies that inform their development of the teachers’ guides and other instructional recommendations provided to teachers. Commercial educational materials must also provide a detailed articulation of how the Common Core State Standards are addressed in their lesson plans to ensure the coverage of the standards, which are themselves based on methodologically-sound research.

There are multiple layers of assurances that the standards are sufficiently addressed in the state-adopted programs such that the consumers of public education can have confidence in the quality and effectiveness of these approved programs of instruction. California teachers need support in implementing the comprehensive ELD/ELA Framework already in place. They do not need a legislative mandate to enforce an adherence to or alignment with a narrow interpretation of the extensive transdisciplinary bodies of scholarly research on literacy as proposed in AB 2222.

April 10, 2024 Jill Kerper Mora Comment

All educators in California share a concern about student achievement, as reported in the CAASP results. No educators I know are, as you allege, “defending poor results” or expressing a lack of concern about achievement gaps among demographic groups. However, you yourself acknowledge in your response to my comment about standardized test scores that “It also indirectly measures the success of instructional practices and teacher effectiveness towards students meeting those standards.”

This is exactly my point about the reasons why CTA opposes AB 2222. This legislation proposes a  major overhaul of the agencies that are responsible for credentialing teachers, the way decisions are made about what professional development activities teachers will be required to participate in, and the way decisions are made by local school district administrators and faculties about what commercial programs and instructional materials they can adopt. In addition, AB 2222 defines what research and pedagogical knowledge base teachers can rely on or not rely on as the source of knowledge for making instructional decisions at the classroom level and in their one-on-one interactions with students during instruction. In other words, AB 2222 seeks to ban certain instructional strategies based on the questionable interpretation of research findings of an unidentified group of literacy scholars who self-identify as “reading scientists.”

The bill’s sponsors and supporters claim that these extreme reforms are necessary, as apparently do you, in order to respond to a “literacy crisis” based on low reading achievement test scores among certain demographics of students. AB 2222’s sponsors have failed to convince the CTA and many other organizations of administrators, university teacher education faculty, teachers, and parents that such a “literacy crisis” exists, or that if it did, the remedy is to diminish the professional agency and decision-making power and authority of these educators.

The current ELD/ELA Framework was developed by a panel of 40 experts, including highly respected literacy scholars, to address the elements of curriculum and instruction that must be in place to promote achievement for all the demographic groups of students in our state to meet the rigorous Common Core State Standards. There is no empirical evidence provided in the CAASP data to support the claim that mandating changes in the body of research on which the pedagogical knowledge base for literacy education for California’s culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse student population is based would lead to improved literacy learning achievement.    

April 9, 2024 Jill Kerper Mora Comment

There appears to be considerable confusion outside of academia about what the Science of Reading is and is not. In fact, AB 2222 inaccurately defines the Science of Reading, which in and of itself is a reason to oppose the bill. This is because it is not feasible to mandate “adherence” and “alignment” with a body of research that cannot be clearly identified and scrutinized by the scholarly academic literacy research community.

The term “Science of Reading” has been adopted by a particular interpretive community of scholars whose claims are challenged by other scholars. The claims of this interpretive community are challenged by highly respected literacy scholars, most particularly by those of us with expertise in the research base that supports the pedagogical knowledge base for literacy education for multilingual learners.

This is not a battle against science. It is a critique of a co-opting of the caché of science by a certain group of scholars who, through AB 2222, seek to impose their narrow and restrictive extrapolations and pronouncements on the larger interdisciplinary community of researchers and scholars who together continuously produce knowledge to enlighten educators on how students with diverse sociocultural and educational backgrounds learn to read and write. Literacy scholarship does not speak with only one voice.

April 9, 2024 Jill Kerper Mora Comment

The reality is that standardized reading achievement test scores do not and cannot inform the education community or parents about educator effectiveness. Standardized test scores only compare a population of students to each other. It is not surprising that when test scores are reported on the entire California student population of third graders that scores fall into a range that indicates that overall achievement in reading comprehension is low average. This is what a 43% percentile indicates for third graders. Statistically, a percentage of on-grade-level achievement between 40% to 60% for the total student population tested is a satisfactory outcome on a test that is designed to produce a statistical bell curve.

Students who are classified as English Learners (about 40% of third grades) cannot be expected to be reading on grade level because they are not yet fully proficient in English. If they were, they would be reclassified as fluent English proficient. A student who has not acquired full native-speaker equivalent English language proficiency cannot comprehend grade level passages on a test, not because of ineffective instruction or any factor other than their developmental level of English language fluency.

There is no evidence in the analysis of these test scores that there is any resistance to any instructional practice. In fact, there is evidence that reclassified English Learners score higher than the average for the overall population of third graders. The proponents of AB 2222 have not provided evidence that mandating a singular interpretation of scholarly research on how students learn to read and write English would benefit California’s diverse student population. Consequently, the CTA, on behalf of California’s teachers, is justified in opposing AB 2222

Facebook Post: Don’t Jump on the Banned Wagon 2/13/24
Jill Kerper Mora

We educators need to pay special attention to (5) about what the “science of reading” does not “rely on” according to the sponsors of this bill. SoR does not rely on meaning, structure and syntax and visual cues” and this non-reliance specifically includes “a three-cuing approach.” However, there is an exception for “pupils who are identified as deaf or hearing impaired…” who, according to this definition of the “science of reading” do need instruction in meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues…” Therefore, we must assume from this specified exception that regular students who are not deaf or hearing impaired will not get reading instruction that relies on “meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues” or “a three-cuing approach” (whatever that means).

Given the requirement to be enshrined in the CA Education Code if AB 2222 is passed, in order to be in compliance with the law and “adherence to the science of reading” as described in this bill, exactly how are teachers supposed to teach students to read? We researchers and experts in literacy and biliteracy instruction must parse and analyze Section 10, Sec: 60011, (b) (5) very carefully. First, if teachers cannot rely on visual cues, does this forbid them from having students read print? And the alphabet, which is, of course, a set of 26 visual cues (letters) that signal or “cue” the sounds of speech? Is the Education Code then going to require that we teach students to read through Braile, or finger-signing, since these are not visual modalities for language?

And then there is the prohibition against reading instruction relying on “meaning.” Does this mean that comprehension is no longer the goal and purpose of reading and therefore, of reading instruction? Strange, because when anyone puts written language into print, the author’s intent is to communicate meaning to the intended reader. This is accomplished through language. Doesn’t the science of reading, as defined by the authors and sponsors of this bill, believe that written text is language that is converted into visual cues (letters and words) in order to communicate meaning?

We literacy educators must demand that the supporters of this legislation provide the voters with a clear and precise definition of what they believe the “science of reading” means by “word reading” if word reading cannot rely on meaning.

Then there is the prohibition against “structure and syntax” for reading that the sponsors of AB 2222 propose to make law. As a researcher who is well acquainted with the political and policy agenda of the Science of Reading movement, I suspect that “structure and syntax” are code for morphology and syntax, two of the multiple subsystems of language. The language subsystems are categories of “cueing systems” that linguists and psycholinguists and others use to describe how language works to convey meaning.

I will post more about this topic, which is what I term the Science of Language, in future posts. But for now, let us consider whether or not we literacy educators can support legislation that intends to enshrine these bans on instructional approaches and strategies into law. We must speak out against this proposed legislation to protect all our students from misunderstandings of the role of language and literacy research in ensuring high quality reading instruction, but most especially our multilingual learners.

Here’s an example of the role of meaning in reading: I am urging you not to jump on the Science of Reading Banned Wagon.

Facebook Post: The Science of Reading: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing 2/16/24
Jill Kerper Mora

I am writing this morning to again urge you to oppose the legislation AB 2222 (Rubio) Science of Reading introduced by Assembly Member Blanca Rubio on February 7. Many ordinary citizens who are not involved in education policy may wonder what could possibly be wrong about basing reading instruction in our schools on a “science” of reading. Advocates for this “Science of Reading” legislation use many buzz words and terms that make it sound more than just benign but beneficia for students. Think about terms like “research-aligned” and “evidence-based” and “effective” instructional approaches and strategies validated by “science” that teachers should be using to improve students’ achievement in reading and writing. Why would well-meaning citizen object? In reality, the Science of Reading (SoR) movement is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, to use a popular metaphor. Please allow me to explain why.

Through the media and through various private institutions and organizations involved in lobbying for education policy, the SoR movement is making war on certain approaches to reading and writing instruction. They have chosen a certain body of research and certain prominent literacy scholars to blame for what they claim is low reading achievement. Their claim is that teachers are not teaching reading and writing effectively because they are using approaches that are based on wrong theories of how students learn to read. The SoR movement specifically targets models of reading that they call “cueing” and “three-cueing” approach. They have successfully convinced the legislatures of multiple states to actually ban teachers from using instructional approaches derived from research on language learning and teaching, or what we literacy scholars refer to as the Science of Language.

In a previous post, I quoted directly from the AB 2222 bill that spells out what this legislation proposes to ban in California. I referred specifically to Section 10. 60011, p. 19-20:

(5) Does not rely on any model for teaching word reading based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues, including a three-cueing approach, with the exception of instruction to pupils who are identified as deaf or hearing impaired, as defined in paragraphs (3) and (5), respectively, of subdivision (c) of Section 17 300.8 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations.”

Importantly, we need to observe that this provision of the bill refers to “any model for teaching word reading” because many ordinary citizens will not immediately recognize what this means. The term “model” is a technical term used in education research to refer to a detailed, usually graphic description of a body of theories that are investigated through multiple research studies to confirm their applicability to understanding a certain learning process or phenomenon. Think for example of a graphic that describes the component parts of a molecule. The purpose of the model is to display how these components work together within the molecule to produce matter.

Models of reading can be simple or complex, but they are designed to break down a complex process into component parts in order to examine how each part works together to produce certain behaviors and outcomes. SoR advocates invented the term “three-cuing approach” to refer to their interpretation of a vast body of research primarily from the academic disciplines of linguistics and psycholinguistics. However, the SoR is now engaged in a misinformed and misguided media campaign and in the education policy arena that is focused on discrediting decades of legitimate and valuable multidisciplinary research that has informed effective literacy instruction.

So, what is three-cueing (my preferred spelling) and why is it under attack? The answer is simultaneously both complicated and simple. IMHO, the primary reason for attacks on “cueing” is that the SoR movement needed to find a scapegoat. It is not sufficient to be in favor of “science” and “scientific research” as the basis for effective literacy instruction. Advocates for the “science of reading” feel obliged to be against what they deem to be unscientific and not evidence based and not research-aligned in order to convince policymakers and voters to grant them regulatory power over the academic research community using “science” as a cudgel.

This leads us to the essential question for California voters, who are now asked to support or oppose AB 2222 legislation to enshrine the Science of Reading into the Education Code: Do we citizens of California really want the state government to mandate what “models for word reading” our classroom teachers are allowed to rely on for decision-making about effective reading instruction?

Facebook Post: SoR’s Miscue on “Cueing” 2/18/24
Jill Kerper Mora

In the Bonus 2 Episode: The Impact from Emily Hanford’s Sold a Story Podcast on American Public Media.  In this Podcast, an Indiana state legislator who sponsored a ban on the “three cueing model” is quoted as making the following assertion: “You cannot require the science of reading and also leave in three cueing. In order to do this correctly, you have to adopt the science of reading, and you have to outlaw three cueing.”

The term “three-cuing model of reading” is the name of a theoretical model from scientific studies of reading. The term “model” in the Science of Reading research refers to theoretical models and processes, which are elaborate and complex descriptions of empirically observed behaviors of readers and writers documented by researchers from multiple theoretical perspectives. When we track the history of “cueing systems” in the research literature over the past several decades, we discover that the idea of “three cueing” actually originated from the use of a Venn diagram used in professional development sessions for teachers to explain the different features or “cues” that language uses to convey meaning. A three-circle Venn diagram schematic was used to illustrate the linguistic features of words that convey their meaning (Marilyn Jager Adams, 1998). SoR advocates complain about the three-cueing system Venn diagram because of its interpretation. For example, Seidenberg (2017: 310), criticizes the cueing schematic because it is “…open to many interpretations. In fact, it is compatible with every theory of reading. . . It is a Rorschach blot on which to project one’s beliefs about reading.” This is odd because most researchers believe that if a theoretical model of reading is compatible with every theory of reading, that indicates that it is a valid and widely applicable explanation of how reading (and how language) works. So what’s the problem with cueing?  

The word “cues” in literacy research means the signals that language provides through speech and written text to communicate meaning. Therefore, “cueing” is what language does, not what teachers do. Where there are “cues” in reading, there are also miscues. Miscues are mismatches between the exact words of the text and what the reader said in reading orally. Professor Goodman and other psycholinguists over several decades compiled a vast scientific database where they categorized readers’ naturally occurring “miscues” into three categories: grapho-phonics, semantics, and syntax. These three categories emerged from miscue analysis research through hundreds of hours of recorded sessions and post-analysis of readers’ oral language performance. This research is based on theories about which of the language subsystems is possibly the origin of a reader’s miscue in his/her oral performance.

Based on the mountains of data from miscue analysis, Professor Goodman developed a complex theoretical model of the reading process that has many more components than just a “three-cueing model.” Linguistics actually describes five or six language subsystems (cue sources): phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics. Sometimes orthography (spelling) is considered a subsystem of language. Different researchers identify and investigate different subsystems of language using different labels (Babayiğit & Shapiro, 2020). For example, vocabulary and grammar are studied as components of language comprehension. Furthermore, these components are often further broken down into morphology and syntax to examine their contribution to the broader variables of vocabulary knowledge and grammatical skills. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of research studies based on the language subsystems that provide insights into the contributions of the components of language to decoding, word recognition and reading comprehension. This research is the deeper and broader study of how language works, called metalinguistics.

Elected officials cannot possibly be familiar with the entire range of scientific research and all the different theoretical models of how students with different demographics and learning characteristics learn to read and write. Nor can they be expected to be knowledgeable about research from multiple academic disciplines, such as research on how curriculum and instruction for multilingual learners either parallels or differs from instruction for fluent native speakers of English. Nonetheless, it appears to be an article of faith among advocates for the Science of Reading to discredit any research or instructional materials that reference the “three cueing system(s).” Even if there is debate among literacy scholars about the explanatory power of a particular theoretical model of reading, California legislators should not get involved in picking winners and losers from among the multitude of  models that depict reading processes. Legislators are in over their heads in designing Education Code provisions that mandate and restrict curriculum and instruction through bans on programs, materials, and classroom practices.

Unfortunately, some legislators are listening to people who are proposing sweeping policy changes based on “science” without having the knowledge themselves to question the validity of these advocates’ claims. The AB 2222 policy legislation is unlikely to produce education reforms that will benefit all of California’s students. In fact, the mandates proposed by AB 2222 would deprive teachers of language minority students of the pedagogical knowledge and skills that they need to support high levels of achievement for multilingual learners. Commercial language arts programs, methods, approaches, and strategies do not teach students to read and write. Teachers do. The AB 2222 legislative bill does nothing to provide California teachers with the professional pedagogical knowledge and skills that they need to be maximally effective in their instruction, while burdening school districts and teachers with multiple layers of unnecessary and counterproductive regulation. I urge California voters to oppose AB 2222.

Facebook Post: Chutzpah 3/6/24
Jill Kerper Mora

Today, as I continue working to oppose Assembly Bill AB 2222 (Rubio) Science of Reading, I am thinking of the meaning of the word chutzpah. Here is the definition from Wikipedia: Chutzpah is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. It derives from the Hebrew word , meaning “insolence”, “cheek” or “audacity”. Thus the original Yiddish word has a strongly negative connotation but the form which entered English as a Yiddishism in American English has taken on a broader meaning, having been popularized through vernacular use in film, literature, and television.

I am thinking in particular of this definition of the Science of Reading from AB 2222: Section 10 60011p. 19-20 “(5) Does not rely on any model for teaching word reading based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues, including a three-cuing approach….”

The National Literacy Association (formerly the National Reading Association) has published the sixth edition of “Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading.” In my library I have the Fourth Edition, which is 1,275 pages, with a Foreword by Marie Clay (Ruddell, Rapp Ruddell & Singer, 1994). 

So, what does this have to do with chutzpah? Consider the fact that the California State Assembly proposes a bill that will change the Education Code to mandate that no “model of teaching word reading” contained in the six editions and thousands of pages written by scholarly experts in literacy about literacy research can inform reading instruction in California’s classrooms that is based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues… including a non-existent “three-cuing approach.” The fact that our Assemblypersons deem themselves capable of mandating models of reading is what I call CHUTZPAH!

Facebook Post What does SoR have against syntax? 3/7/24
Jill Kerper Mora

I am writing this morning to follow up on yesterday’s post about the chutzpah of the California Assemblypersons in daring to tell California educators what models of reading instruction we are permitted or banned from relying on as a basis for effective literacy instruction. Today, I wish to inquire as to what the Science of Reading allegedly, according to the exact language of AB 2222, has against teaching syntax. I ask because my understanding from many hundreds of research studies and fellow literacy scholars, syntax is a very important subsystem (cueing system) of language for students to know and be able to use for comprehending both oral and written language. Here is what A.W.F. Huggins and Marilyn Jager Adams had to say on the subject in 1980 (and still true today):

Huggins, A. W. F., & Jager, A. M. (1980). Syntactic aspects of reading comprehension. In R. J. Spiro, B. C. Bruce, & W. F. Brewer (Eds.), Theoretical issues in reading comprehension: Perspectives from cognitive psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and education (pp. 87-112). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

“There are several aspects of syntax that children must acquire. First, they must learn how single words are combined to form larger syntactic units, such as a noun and a verb to make a sentence, or later, a determiner, an adjective, and a noun to make a noun phrase. Then they must learn simple syntactic rules, such as those used to generate the passive or the negative, which modify the order of constituents or introduce auxiliary verbs or function words where necessary. Later still, they must learn how single syntactic rules are combined to generate complex sentences. In addition to learning each construction, they must learn to restrict the construction to appropriate contexts… In spoken language, the prosodic pattern of what is said (pitch, stress, timing, and pauses) contains many clues about how spoken words should be grouped and how the resulting groups of words are related. In written language, this information is not explicit, except minimally as punctuation. … [Poor readers] seem not to understand the concept of a “sentence,” … but when shown explicitly what to do, they catch on very quickly. Thus, some of the difficulties faced by poor readers can perhaps be ascribed to the lack of instruction (as opposed to practice) in reading after a child has mastered word decoding skills. For, in addition to recognizing the words in a text, the reader must divine their syntactic function.” (p. 87-89)

Another author, Paul Bloom published a book with a very relevant title is an enlightening source of knowledge about how children use syntax. Dr. Bloom provides an entire chapter on this topic in this delightful book about how children learn the meanings of words (except perhaps not in California if AB 2222 becomes law.)

My question is this: What does the Science of Reading or its proponents and advocates, have against syntax, such that they are proposing to exclude it from being relied on by teachers in reading instruction in the AB 2222 (Rubio) bill now under consideration in the California Assembly? Can anyone answer this question?


Adams, M. J. (1998). The three-cueing system. In J. Osborn & F. Lehr (Eds.), Literacy for all: Issues in teaching and learning (pp. 73-99). The Guilford Press.

Babayiğit, S., & Shapiro, L. (2020). Component skills that underpin listening comprehension and reading comprehension in learners with English as first and additional language. Journal of Research in Reading, 43(1), 78-97.

Bloom, P. (2001). How children learn the meanings of words. MIT Press.

Goodman, K. S. (1964). The linguistics of reading. The Elementary School Journal, 64(7), 355-361.

Goodman, K. S. (1965). A linguistic study of cues and miscues in reading. Elementary English, 42(6), 639-643.

Huggins, A. W. F., & Jager, A. M. (1980). Syntactic aspects of reading comprehension. In R. J. Spiro, B. C. Bruce, & W. F. Brewer (Eds.), Theoretical issues in reading comprehension: Perspectives from cognitive psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and education (pp. 87-112). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Mora, J. K. (2023). To cue or not to cue: Is that the question? Language Magazine, June, 18-20.

Pearson, P. D. (1976). A psycholinguistic model of reading. Language Arts, 53(3), 309-314.

Ruddell, R. B., Rapp Ruddell, M., & Singer, H. (Eds.). (1994). Theoretical models and processes of reading (Fourth ed.). International Reading Association.

Seidenberg, M. S. (2017). Language at the speed of sight: How we read, why so many can’t, and what can be done about it. Basic Books.

Smith, F., & Goodman, K. S. (1971). On the psycholinguistic method of teaching reading. The Elementary School Journal, 71(4), 177-181.

Tierney, R. J., & Pearson, P. D. (2024). Fact-checking the Science of Reading: Opening up the conversation. Literacy Research Commons. https://literacyresearchcommons.org