In Memphis, the Phonics Movement Comes to High School

In Memphis’s Oakhaven High School, a comprehensive literacy curriculum is integrated into every academic class, including unexpected subjects like biology. Students are equipped with reading strategies such as decoding words and expanding vocabulary, aimed at bolstering comprehension and aiding learning across disciplines. This approach stems from a national movement emphasizing the “science of reading,” which advocates for systematic phonics instruction and vocabulary building. Despite some concerns about an overemphasis on mechanics, Memphis educators believe addressing literacy challenges head-on is essential, especially given the high rates of reading difficulties among students. The program’s early results show promise, with improvements noted in student engagement and performance, signaling a potential shift in the way reading is taught and learned in high school settings.

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