During the 1990s, Jackie Goldberg undermined California’s academic content standards for K-12 and strongly pushed implementation of highly destructive educational fads in LAUSD. Chief among these was a program called Whole Language Learning that replaced phonics by omitting instruction in how letters of the alphabet sound, and forced children to try to guess entire words or sentences at a time. The basis of this destructive program was analyzed and condemned by Harvard researcher Jeanne Chall decades earlier, but Goldberg either ignored this or didn’t even know about it.
Jackie Goldberg also undermined sound math instruction in elementary schools by supporting programs that introduced calculators in kindergarten and abandoned the multiplication tables. In middle and high school programs, algebra books were locked in closets or thrown into dumpsters. These favored programs of Jackie Goldberg led to a spike in remedial courses across the entire California University System, damaging students’ chances of succeeding at the university level.
Phonics-the teaching of relationships between letters and sounds, i.e. “sounding out” words, was discarded. “Invented Spelling” replaced spelling books. Spelling books were thrown into dumpsters. I spoke to a teacher who crawled into a dumpster to rescue those books, and more than a few teachers reported to me what they referred to as teaching “stealth spelling” under the radar.
The result of the Whole Language Learning approach was that kids didn’t learn to read. The results of math by “discovery learning” didn’t teach them math. California fell to nearly the bottom of the nation in reading and math.
This educational disaster became a class issue. Kids with affluent parents could attend Saturday KUMON classes, or go to a private school. Economically disadvantaged kids were left in the lurch.