I was chatting to a colleague in the publishing industry recently. We were talking about the Headsprout Reading programs….Early Reading and . My colleague shall go nameless (to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent!), but he told me that publishers find Headsprout “very controversial.”
Hmmm. That made me wonder. I’ve known the principals at Headsprout for many years and when I worked for Mimio Interactive Teaching Technologies I initiated and spearheaded Mimio’s acquisition of Headsprout. I had been tasked with finding a content partner who had high quality instruction, and Headsprout, with its money-back guarantee of effectiveness, was a no-brainer for me.
Now, this post isn’t intended to be a sales pitch, so stick with me for a minute, because the good part is still coming. I chatted further with my publishing colleague. He was aware of Headsprout’s effectiveness data…he agreed that Headsprout “works” in teaching kids to read. So why the controversy?
It turns out that Headsprout’s program does not follow the “agreed upon” sequence that “reading experts” espouse. Publishers follow this “standard” sequence in their textbooks and extension products. According to my colleague, this means that Headsprout is off-limits for partnerships because it doesn’t support the sequence of the existing products. In spite of the fact that these same publishers recognize that Headsprout works.
Which leads me to my ponderings here. We want kids to read. I think we can all agree on that. But here is a program that works….it just isn’t the traditional ordering of the material…so we’re not going to advocate its use? That blows my mind.
Let’s all reexamine our values for a minute. Do we care about the structure of instruction, or do we care about the function of instruction? Because if it’s the former, let’s just keep doing what we’re doing…not just with textbooks, but with everything. But if we care about the latter then let’s try to break out of this box, just like we’re trying to do with delivery systems for instruction, location of instruction, and how kids interact with instructional material.
If we get caught up in things like everyone following a specific sequence we are just never going to get there.
What do you think? Too heretical?