The reality of being a reading specialist in Florida

In September of 2013, I wrote an honest post lamenting my disillusion with the state of reading education in Florida. In 2014, I wrote a paper for one of my doctoral classes titled, "Leaving FCAT Behind: A chance to end harmful impacts in remedial reading classrooms" and it was my great hope as we transitioned to FSA from FCAT (Florida terms for standardized tests) that the politicians would be swayed to abandon the reading mandates in light of a new and untested assessment. In 2015, I was excited to see the mandate dissolve (at least while we awaited calibration of the new assessment)!

A full two years from my original heartfelt posting on being a reading specialist in the state of Florida, I have resigned my position as a reading specialist. My district and school's choosing to continue the segregationist marginalization of minority populations was too much for me to bear. Blaming the politicians in Tallahassee was one thing, being unable to affect change in my own realm of influence was another.

I am now working as a library media specialist. So far, it's just not the same. Don't get me wrong, it has been kind of fun playing with books and technology, planning exciting literary events for the students, but I am having a hard time keeping my mouth shut. Most of what I have contributed in my new role has been either clerical or manual labor. I long to tell the uniformed parents to get their kids out, that there is no mandate, that their child can have music or art classes, that they can learn Spanish or be a part of our awesome STEM classes.

People like to throw research at all sorts of ideas in education and there is enough reading research to fill our remaining days in contradictory contemplation. You can find research backing glorious programs (most sanctioned by the publishers of said programs) and heralded researchers of reading arguing the merits of fluency versus comprehension, phonics versus whole language, and all sorts of ideas on struggling adolescents. Bottom line? It's all lost in the experience of being a student, of making decisions based upon individuals and not simply numbers on a page.

I have posted my original paper as a Google document HERE. It's filled with research citations, reads sort of like a literature review, but it tells the story of a passionate lifelong reading educator who thought there was still a chance to end the insanity.

© 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for