About the Waterford Method

The Angry Poodle piece of October 26 contained some critical errors having to do with the end of the Waterford program.

  1. The administration did not close the program because it was too expensive. Grants paid for the whole thing. In fact, the Women’s Fund had just committed funds to cover the next several years.
  2. The program did not die slowly and ignominiously. It died immediately when the van teachers were fired for not taking the children out of the van for finger play and singing, as instructed by the new preschool program director and the computers in all the preschool classrooms were removed and stored in a shed behind Parma School.
  3. While the issue of phonics-based teaching vs the Calkins method never came up during this whole closing down of Waterford, it is true that phonics training is at the heart of the Waterford program. What was also important about that program is that it was delivered to individual children by computers, eliminating some of the time-consuming one-on-time by teachers and allowing children to learn at their own pace. This is the reason proficiency test failures dropped by 45 percent over the last three years of the program. The van only reached 96 children each year, the 43 computers reached almost 500.
  4. Just to elaborate on this last point. The Calkins approach was in use in elementary grades at the time Waterford was introduced in the vans. It continued to be used in elementary grades after the preschool Waterford program was discontinued and still does, as far as we know. The only abrupt discontinuity in proficiency test scores occurred at the preschool level when proficiency tests failures dropped by 81 percent over the time phonics training was delivered by computers to all preschool children. Whether this improvement continued in the elementary grades for children benefitting from Waterford prior to elementary school is something no one has been able to investigate.


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