- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) The Virginia Board of Education unanimously approved revised English instruction standards that put more emphasis on phonics in the early grades and grammar in all grades.
The board yesterday also reinstated some references to classic literature that had been eliminated in the draft Standards of Learning (SOLs). Critics had complained that the proposed revisions sent a message that the state was no longer interested in helping children develop an appreciation for the written word.
"In general, there was an overall feeling that this revision had taken out literature or de-emphasized it," said Linda Poorbaugh, the state's director of elementary instructional services. "That was not the intent. The ultimate goal is for all children to have a lifelong love of reading."
Roxanne Grossman of Richmond, a leader of Parents United Across Virginia to Reform SOLs, praised the board for restoring some of the language about literature but said the board did not go far enough. For example, she said in an interview, there is no longer any mention of students reading poetry in third through fifth grades.
"This should not be considered a frill," Miss Grossman said. Students "are being taken out of a literature-rich environment and placed in a print-rich environment."
She said the existing standards included reading instruction through phonics, and she wondered whether the increased emphasis was necessary.
"Phonics has to be part of the reading program because it works," President Mark Christie said after the board meeting.
Mr. Christie added that grammar has been overlooked nationally, regarded by some as a tedious discipline that makes students dislike writing. However, proper grammar is the key to good writing, Mr. Christie said.
"By the end of ninth grade, students in Virginia should be very good writers" as a result of the new standards, he said.
The previous English SOLs had been in effect since the public school accountability program began in 1995. The board already had revised the history and math SOLs, and the science standards will be reviewed next year.

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