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Teaching Needy Kids in Our Backward System Hardcover – November 13, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Siegfried Engelmann is Professor of Education at the University of Oregon and Director of the National Institute for Direct Instruction. He has authored over 100 instructional programs, ranging from beginning reading to elementary chemistry and earth sciences. His principal efforts have focused on at-risk, deaf, Down syndrome, and autistic children. He has authored 50 chapters, 95 articles, and 20 books on educational psychology and instruction, including Theory of Instructon (with Carnine). He received the 2002 Award for Education Research form the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 379 pages
  • Publisher: ADI Press (November 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880183005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880183007
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,009,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Siegfried "Zig" Engelmann is professor emeritus of education at the University of Oregon and the primary architect of the Direct Instruction (DI) programs, an approach based on the principles originated in the Bereiter-Engelmann Preschool in the late 1960s. Engelmann has been the senior author of more than 100 curricula using DI principles and numerous other articles and books. He has a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Illinois and an honorary doctorate from the Psychology Department of Western Michigan University. He is the 1994 recipient of the Fred S. Keller Award from the American Psychological Association's Division of Experimental Analysis of Behavior. In 2000 the journal Remedial and Special Education named him as one of the 54 most influential people in the history of special education, and in 2002 the Council of Scientific Society Presidents awarded him the 2002 Award of Achievement in Education Research.

To learn more about Zig, visit

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Hancock on April 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Reading Zig Engelman's latest book, "Teaching Needy Kids," you realize that education in the United States really has very little to do with teaching kids and everything to do with how teachers feel, the revenues of text book publishers, bureaucrats and other special interests. Despite the constant talk of education reform, reformers hardly ever get around to changing the most important thing: how instruction is delivered to students.

"Teaching Needy Kids" is essentially the story of one of the biggest cover-ups in the history of the United States: how the establishment prevented the wide-scale adoption of the most effective literacy program ever developed and instead deliberately promoted (and still promotes) alternatives that are less effective and in some cases even harmful to kids.

I would call this a "must read" for anyone interested in education reform and effective teaching. Be forewarned: Engleman's righteous indignation is contagious.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Hylen on April 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I found out about Direct Instruction through the book "Super Crunchers". The book mentioned it as an instructional technique that had very substantial statistical evidence of effectiveness, yet it was widely ignored or even discredited by the educational establishment. As I did further research, I found this portrayal of DI to be accurate, and I discovered this book (right as he published it).
It is essentially a tale of Zig Engelmann and his struggle to get schools to adopt Direct Instruction (DI). I like the book because it give great color and background to the development of DI, its uses throughout the years, and his struggle to gain adoption. It's very readable, and quite enjoyable. If you're interested in DI, you'll find it a very worthwhile read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dvoira Yanovsky on February 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
With the spotlight on education more firmly fixed than ever, educator Siegfried Engelmann's timely "Teaching Needy Kids in our Backward System" is a clear, intelligent, and ultimately inspiring memoir of a man devoted to bringing effective instruction to the educational world in general, and at-risk children in particular. It is also an indictment of a bloated, hypocritical educational system that exists to sustain itself while denying success to the very clients it serves.

Engelmann has spent the last forty-two years trying to bring effective instruction to at-risk children - children of poverty, whose best hope, and sometimes only hope for success, is a good, effective education. This book documents Engelmann and his colleagues' success in devising an effective instructional model - Direct Instruction - and the educational establishment's willful failure to recognize and adopt its tenets.

Engelmann's no-nonsense, scientific approach to developing effective instruction demolishes the received wisdom of educational theories that continue to hold sway in both universities and school districts. For example, through a carefully designed experiment Engelmann once demonstrated that, "Piaget's notion of the relationship between development and performance was wrong." Since Piaget's universal development schedule is an essential element of constructionist, progressivist educational philosophies, one might think this would result in further research, and perhaps a reevaluation of those philosophies. But in a continuing pattern of rejecting objective data for subjective dogma, academicians disdained or ignored Engelmann's research.

Nowhere is this pattern more apparent than in the history of Project Follow Through, recounted by Engelmann in great detail.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Creature on February 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Throughout history, adventurers have chronicled their journeys though strange territories to the great benefit of mankind. Marco Polo's journals introduced the West to the Orient. Columbus' logs opened the western hemisphere to European exploration. Magellan, Cook, Lewis and Clark, Shackleton ... their journals were invaluable to those travelers who came afterwards.

In a similar manner, Dr. Engelmann's gripping journal of his forty-two year travel through ed land and his novel discoveries and fascinating inventions could serve us well. We may view his book as a travelogue with a wealth of "how to" information for those who may seek to follow him. He guides you successfully around the quicksand of Paiget-spawned mythology and the infamous truth-devouring bandersnatches who inhabit the dark underworlds of the treacherous territory we call our education system.

Or a second perspective of 'Teaching Needy Kids in Our Backward System' could be as an informal revelation for the layman of Dr. Engelmann's theories, now scientifically proven beyond any dispute, which should occupy a place in education similar to Newton's Principia Mathematica in physics or James Clark Maxwell's A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field dealing with his field equations.

Finally from a third point of view, Engelmann's 'Teaching Needy Kids' could rank with Upton Sinclair's 'The Jungle' which exposed the horrors of the nation's meat packing industry and resulted in the establishment of the FDA and the closure of many food processors. It could even rank with Abraham Flexner's 'Report' in 1910 that produced a national outcry to revamp the country's medical standards causing nearly half the country's medical schools to close.
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