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The 49th National Direct Instruction Conference and Institutes was held in Eugene, Oregon, July 25-29. At the opening, IDEA Travis Academy was recognized as the recipient of the Wesley Becker Excellent School Award. NIFDI Implementation Manager Kris Althoff told the 250 attendees about the dramatic turnaround in student performance at Travis. Due in part to the use of DI, Travis now has most students performing at or above grade level and has been removed from the Texas Education Agency watch list.

After the Travis presentation, Doug Carnine presented keynote speaker John Wills Lloyd with the Direct Instruction Hall of Fame Award. Doug highlighted John’s longtime association with Direct Instruction. John studied under Barbara Bateman and Siegfried Engelmann in the 1970s and spent most of his career working in the area of learning disabilities. His engaging keynote compared instructional design with making biscuits. His main point was you need to know far more than just the ingredient list to come out with a quality instructional program. You need to know how much and when to add each component, and many other factors.

Click here to view the opening. Note this link will also take you to an archive of the past 13 years of conference keynotes.

RM OriginalA celebration recognizing the 40th anniversary of the release of Reading Mastery took place at the National DI Conference. In 1983, SRA (now McGraw-Hill Education) published the first major revision of DISTAR Reading Levels I-III and the new publication of Reading Mastery Levels IV-VI. With a complete 6-level series, SRA was able to submit the programs for adoption to many state departments of education. The celebration event was attended by many authors of Reading Mastery. Original program author Elaine “Cookie” Bruner and her son Dan sent a greeting to the attendees. Click here to view their informative and entertaining message.

TeachersChangeLivesTeachers Change Lives is an Australia-based podcast. Two recent releases featured Direct Instruction. The first one is about THRIVE Community School, a new charter school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Co-founders Amy Chacon and Sean Duncan sat down with interviewer Mrs. Angel and talked about their journey from being classroom teachers to having their own school. It is an interesting story and shows their dedication to giving students the education they deserve. Click here to listen to the 40-minute podcast.

The second podcast is an interview with NIFDI President Kurt Engelmann. Kurt talks about his education from elementary to his Ph.D. in Geography. He then details his involvement in writing stories for the early Direct Instruction programs and gaining teaching experience as a tutor at the Engelmann-Becker Corporation. Kurt gives his insights into Project Follow Through, its impact, and his goal of seeing a fully implemented Direct Instruction school. Click here to listen to the 40-minute podcast.

ZigTwinsSiegfried “Zig” Engelmann began his investigation into education when he was in advertising. He needed information on how many exposures it took for children to recognize or remember slogans presented on TV. Finding very little research, Zig set out on his own to get the answers to his questions.

As Zig writes in his book Teaching Needy Kids in Our Backward System, he wanted to get a job in education, so he decided to create a film of his sons Kurt and Owen (four-year-old fraternal twins) “working math problems–areas of rectangles, simple algebra, and other skills that were not generally mastered until children were in fourth grade. To show I was not 'cheating,' there was only one camera and no cuts in the action.”

He showed the film to 17 organizations and companies concerned with educating children, and “although they had never seen 4-year-olds perform like the boys did in the film, they did not seem even slightly impressed. One of the last presentations I made was to four people from SRA (Science Research Associates), the publisher that would later publish over thirty instructional programs my colleagues and I developed.”

Ultimately, the eighteenth and last entry on Zig’s list of places to contact was the prestigious Institute for Research on Exceptional Children at the University of Illinois. Zig presented to James Gallagher and Carl Berieter, who, after viewing the film, were very intrigued. They hired Zig as a research associate, and the rest is history.

Click here to watch the film that started it all.

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