Reading First program ineffective

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Scott
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Reading First program ineffective

Post by Scott » Fri May 02, 2008 3:58 pm

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/ ... irst_N.htm

Advocates of Reading First, an integral part of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, have long maintained that its emphasis on phonics, scripted instruction by teachers and regular, detailed analyses of children's skills, would raise reading achievement, especially among the low-income kids it targets.

Reading First teachers spent more time emphasizing phonics and other aspects of what many experts consider solid instruction — about 10 minutes more a day, or nearly an hour more a week. "Teachers' behavior was changed," Whitehurst says.
...

The National Reading Panel report and Reading First were steps in the right direction for improving reading instruction, but they're incomplete. As Dr. Dan Willingham states, "RF has become crystallized as the final word on reading in state and federal legislation..." Published in 2000, the NRP report said nothing about background knowledge or spelling and, as we all know, important evidence (The Rose Report) continues to accumulate supporting synthetic phonics as the most effective way to teach decoding skills.

Sadly, I do think there was a bit of cronyism at work with regard to the programs funded by RF, which is why Reading First doesn't discern between the most effective phonics programs (synthetic phonics) and less effective methods. Sure, they teach phonics, but it's usually some mediocre RF "approved" approach (Voyager Expanded Learning) or in the case of most other schools, some whole language guru's (Pat Cunningham, Fountas & Pinnell) ineffectual approach.

Also, RF schools have spent too much time and effort on teaching (and training teachers to teach) the "five essential components of reading instruction." Reading comprehension strategies seemed to especially appeal to meaning-based advocates. Many schools have also become bogged down in "detailed analyses of children's skills." They can't see the forest for the trees. They spend a great deal of time assessing (DIBELS) skills that they do a mediocre job of teaching...

Reading research has moved on...It's time for RF to catch up. We need to teach our kids to read by using an evidence-based synthetic phonics approach.

Bob Boden
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Washington Post article

Post by Bob Boden » Fri May 02, 2008 7:39 pm

Hi Scott,

from an Article by Maria Glod in The Washington Post Friday May 2, 2008:

"The report from the Institute of Education Sciences found the students in schools that use Reading First, which provides grants to improve grade-school reading instruction, scored no better on reading comprehension tests than peers in schools that don't participate. The conclusion is likely to reignite the long-standing "reading wars," because critics argue that the program places too much emphasis on explicit phonics instruction and doesn't do enough to foster understanding."

------ ------- ------ ----- ----

Understanding what?

Bob Boden

JIM CURRAN
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Subject

Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri May 02, 2008 8:54 pm

Hi Scott, you might like to read what Matthew Davis, Project Director of the Core Knowledge Reading Programme has to say. He posted some messages on this board a few weeks ago.

viewtopic.php?t=3369&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=30

AngusM
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Post by AngusM » Sat May 03, 2008 6:36 am

I think we're being too judgmental when it comes to Reading First.

If Maria Glod (of the Washington Post) says: "schools that use Reading First, which provides grants to improve grade-school reading instruction, scored no better on reading comprehension tests than peers in schools that don't participate" - then Reading First has been an outstanding success! Because, don't forget, Reading First targeted failing schools. If failing schools have reached parity with more successful (non-participating) schools then it has achieved it's purpose.

'Comprehension' is, of course, a stalking horse for those who disagree with RF. Reading First concentrates on 'decoding' (not comprehension) as do all good SP beginning reading programs because children in failing schools have not been taught their GPCs. Comprehension comes later. Even in Clackmannanshire, where children had been taught 'ur-echt' SP, comprehension scores were ultimately not as high as reading and spelling scores. This was (and can be) attributed (as with RF schools) to the lower socio-economic status of the students involved.

In fact, Grover Whitehurst (who did the Education Dept's study) pretty much confirmed this by saying:

"It's possible that, in implementing Reading First, there is a greater emphasis on decoding skills and not enough emphasis, or maybe not correctly structured emphasis, on reading comprehension," he said. "It's one possibility."

It is also true that RF did not manage to win every battle to eliminate bogus reading programs. But, this is because of the intense pressure put on by various states (Kentucky, for one) and Bob Slavin who implied that there was cronyism involved in the selection of the reading programs involved. If you watched the Congressional Hearings, I think you would agree with me that they were the most malicious hatchet job ever. Here is wnat Reid Lyon had to say:

"... whether we like it or not, it was the case that some states and local districts indicated that they would adhere to the criteria, but then selected and, in some cases, implemented programs that did not meet the criteria. In essence, they were breaking the law. Chris then had the responsibility to work with the states and districts to correct the error.

Let me give you an analogy. Suppose a state or local district promised that it would implement effective instruction based on the best science to date, but actually implemented balance beams, leeches, or apricot pits to improve reading. The decision to do this was wrong, it did not adhere to the requirements of the law, and it placed students at risk for educational malpractice and continued failure.

Again, Chris's job was to take corrective action and inform the state that it was out of compliance, as the Reading First legislation required him to do. In fact, we should be outraged if he did not carry out these responsibilities."


And later he said about the scandal mongering:

"I have been disappointed that no respected education researcher, policy researcher, or Department of Education entity has fully dissected Slavin's allegations, identified all the evidence he used to support each allegation, and then examined the strength of that evidence in supporting the accusations. No doubt, this is tedious work but it must be done and preferably by a number of independent individuals and entities. As I am carrying out my own research on the veracity of the "evidence" I have been surprised at the amount of scandal mongering based, as best as I can identify, on back-fence gossip, and hearsay. I am hopeful that those who have generated the accusations against individuals and the Reading First program will step forward and provide objective evidence that the allegations are valid.I cannot find any evidence of illegal or unethical behavior in the massive amount of emails between the Reading First office and state and district Reading First officials. Nor can I find any evidence of this in the emails I am reviewing between the TACs and publishers/vendors, and Reading First state and district officials."

Ken DeRosa reports all this on his web site (D-EdReckoning). He quotes Zig Engelmann on the subject of Chris Doherty (who managed the RF program):

"Lyon’s position about Chris Doherty is solid. Chris was butchered and broiled not because he did anything questionable, unethical, or self-serving but because he was a convenient target. Chris is a man of high character; he’s very smart; and he’s a doer, not a political goon. I found Lyon’s coverage both interesting and consistent with what facts I know about this neo-McCarthy witch hunt that served the hunters, but at a serious cost to Chris and the kids he was trying very hard to serve."

It is true that there are all kinds of bogus programs which were 'approved" but this was because (as Lyon says about Slavin):

"Bob Slavin expected to reap substantial market share because his program had clearly been found to be effective. In the best of all worlds his and other programs' high evidentiary quality should have enabled them to acquire that market share. But recall, program specific evidence of effectiveness as a requirement was overturned by Congress, thus allowing funds to be provided for programs BASED on SBRR."

The RF remains a program dedicated to evidence-based approaches to teaching reading, which is more than you can say of it's opponents. I agree that it would be a better program if it simply mandated Synthetic Phonics - but no doubt that would entail an equally divisive debate about what constitutes SP.

Reid Lyon's EdNews interview is here:

http://ednews.org/articles/24407/1/An-O ... Page1.html

g.carter
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Post by g.carter » Sat May 03, 2008 9:29 am

Thank you so much, Angus. When I first heard about the witch-hunt against Chris Doherty it made chilling reading, and it still does. Here the level of 'evidence' for WL/mixed methods is remarkably fugitive but it doesn't stop ill-educated educationalists producing the flimsiest of arguments for keeping the status quo. It doesn't help either that the DCSF is looking in two directions - on the one hand working hard to introduce SP, on the other working hard to dismantle it.

Perhaps our PM's response to disasterous local elections :

'We must Listen and Learn'

could be put to the test. The Education Secretary certainly hasn't listened so far and has allowed/promoted confusing mixed messages at enormous cost, financially, and to those children who are still failing.

What is SBRR, by the way?

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat May 03, 2008 9:52 am

"... whether we like it or not, it was the case that some states and local districts indicated that they would adhere to the criteria, but then selected and, in some cases, implemented programs that did not meet the criteria. In essence, they were breaking the law. Chris then had the responsibility to work with the states and districts to correct the error.

Let me give you an analogy. Suppose a state or local district promised that it would implement effective instruction based on the best science to date, but actually implemented balance beams, leeches, or apricot pits to improve reading. The decision to do this was wrong, it did not adhere to the requirements of the law, and it placed students at risk for educational malpractice and continued failure.

Again, Chris's job was to take corrective action and inform the state that it was out of compliance, as the Reading First legislation required him to do. In fact, we should be outraged if he did not carry out these responsibilities."
This reminds me very much of our own scenario in England:

I took my own local authority to task on this. The chief person, advisors, councillors and the local Member of Parliament claim to be in line with the Rose recommendation and yet very actively promote the Catch Up programme which is not at all in line with Rose and 'Letters and Sounds'. The propoganda on how incredible Catch Up is should be seen/heard to be believed - it is horrifying. One of the worst schools in the local authority is a follower of Catch Up for its weakest pupils.

You all know the story. I was asked to leave the school on a budget pretext despite the clear success of the synthetic phonics special needs teaching. None of my queries were ever answered by my local authority (just like the government) and now I have been told by the chief person in my local authority (by letter) that her 'officers' have been instructed to have nothing more to do with me.

All I can say is thank goodness for the internet which allows at least some people to be informed of these issues.

The trouble is, the vast majority of TEACHERS are clue-less as to the debate and the issues - and the teaching methods and their differences.

But our situation is much more confusing in the UK because some branches of our government promote both the Rose recommendations and the Reading Recovery programme simultaneously despite the fact that the RR approach is not at all in line with Rose and 'Letters and Sounds'.

This really does highlight flaws in government where ministers and politicians can exercise power in areas where they simply do not have the expertise. :roll:

Angus - your posting is essential reading. Thank you!

kenm
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Post by kenm » Sat May 03, 2008 8:55 pm

AngusM wrote:[...]'Comprehension' is, of course, a stalking horse for those who disagree with RF. Reading First concentrates on 'decoding' (not comprehension) as do all good SP beginning reading programs because children in failing schools have not been taught their GPCs. Comprehension comes later.

I read somewhere that the average 5 year-old has an aural vocabulary (i.e. understood, not necessarily spoken) of 5000 words, so I would suggest, "Comprehension comes separately".
Even in Clackmannanshire, where children had been taught 'ur-echt' SP, comprehension scores were ultimately not as high as reading and spelling scores. This was (and can be) attributed (as with RF schools) to the lower socio-economic status of the students involved.
Another reason is that reading had badly taught in most schools during the preceding 30 years, so reading tests had been amended to accept lower levels of achievement. The "normal" (by older standards) capability of the Clackmannanshire children compared very favourably with their mistaught contemporaries. Their comprehension was better by a smaller margin, which was a pretty good achievement, considering their S-E status. Has anyone done a study in which comprehension of a group taught by SP was compared with a matched control group taught otherwise?
In fact, Grover Whitehurst (who did the Education Dept's study) pretty much confirmed this by saying:

"It's possible that, in implementing Reading First, there is a greater emphasis on decoding skills and not enough emphasis, or maybe not correctly structured emphasis, on reading comprehension," he said. "It's one possibility."
How much is enough? The problem addressed was inability to turn letters into sounds. A corollary of the simple view of reading is that understanding the sounds is for every teacher and every parent to address, not solely the responsibility of whoever teaches decoding.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

AngusM
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Post by AngusM » Sat May 03, 2008 9:36 pm

I think SBRR means science-based reading research.

Scott
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The Continued Need for Reading First

Post by Scott » Sun May 04, 2008 4:46 am

http://www.ednews.org/articles/12326/1/ ... Page1.html

The Continued Need for Reading First
By Reid Lyon and Patrick Riccards

As the history of Reading First is written, much will be told about the initial intent of Reading First. The legislation itself was first softened during the legislative process, well before it became law. Instead of requiring reading programs to have data on effectiveness, the law required only that programs be "based on" scientific reading research. Those of us involved in the process, though, were clear on what Reading First was intended to do. We urge legislators, policymakers, educators, and community leaders to remember three essential points as we continue to implement research-proven reading instruction and reauthorize and strengthen Reading First...Federal officials must be empowered to enforce this law by establishing very clear, objective and impartial guidelines for defining effectiveness and what it means to be scientifically based, both for programs and for assessments. The absence of these guidelines is the root cause of the controversy surrounding Reading First...

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Post by Scott » Wed May 07, 2008 5:34 am


g.carter
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Post by g.carter » Wed May 07, 2008 7:47 am

This makes such sad reading. How confused and confusing they made things in the States. The original interim Rose Report offered great clarity in the teaching of early reading - the waters have been muddied since then and are in danger of becoming more so - but the basic synthetic phonics teaching recommended by Rose doesn't have baggage!

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palisadesk
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Post by palisadesk » Wed May 07, 2008 2:38 pm

There's an insider's view of how Reading First operates at the grassroots level posted here:
http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/20 ... -shop.html

The source is not named, but I know who it is and can vouch for his/her accuracy and insight.

There are some methodological concerns as well. The study was not a representative sample of Reading First schools, for one thing. Ken De Rosa at d-ed reckoning discusses some of the limitations:

http://d-edreckoning.blogspot.com/2008/ ... study.html

Susan S.

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Susan Godsland
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Post by Susan Godsland » Tue May 13, 2008 11:10 am

The Layman's Guide to Reading First

http://d-edreckoning.blogspot.com/2008/ ... first.html
There are two kinds of reading programs on the market: whole language/balanced literacy and phonics programs.

Whole language programs and balanced literacy programs are similar. Balanced literacy programs merely add a phonics component. Both programs use predictable texts which favors the guessing of text from context clues rather than the decoding of words via phonics skills.

Phonics based programs use highly decodable texts that facilitate the decoding of text via the use of phonics skills and discourages the use of context clues during the initial stages of reading instruction.

Oddly enough, the presence of a phonics component does not distinguish between between balanced literacy programs and phonics based programs. Both programs claim to have a phonics component. In fact, both will argue that they contain the five essential elements of reading instruction (ECRI), i.e., phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency, and reading comprehension strategies. These are the five components that the National Reading Panel's meta-analysis found were present in all highly-effective reading programs (though the presence of these components does not guarantee effectiveness).

Rather, the most easily ascertainable difference between the two is in the texts that are used in the initial stages of reading. Look at the texts and you'll easily see which pedagogical lineage the program belongs to.

g.carter
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Post by g.carter » Tue May 13, 2008 3:17 pm

This is essential reading - it is no mean task to make all this information easily accessible to the layman. Ken deRosa has done an excellent job.

What the government/ DCSF has singularly failed to grasp is the fact that you CAN't promote two different systems. Were air-traffic control using two antithetical systems, pharmaceutical companies including a bit of hemlock with anti-biotics, civil engineers adding compost to their concrete and so on and on, what damage would be done? Does government really think that teachers won't be confused and some children profoundly damaged by this extraordinary mix? And what does Ed Balls say to heads who won't introduce synthetic phonics as it doesn't make sense to have two conflicting systems?

Also, what about doors slamming on job/ career prospects on those children encouraged to short-circuit the acquisition of basic skills? Let alone those children who are not even helped INITIALLY by Reading Recovery? And what does Gordon Brown intend to offer those children who fail even after hours of one-to-one tuition in Reading Recovery? Any remediation for children whose default strategy is guessing, is fiendishly difficult.

I suppose these children are the ones in even more danger of ending up in YOC's, prisons, as documented by the KPMG report commissioned by Reading Recovery.

Choose one or the other....children who need a little more time and practice in acquiring basic skills - need JUST that. Not huge sums of money which other parts of the school system are crying out for.

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palisadesk
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Post by palisadesk » Tue May 13, 2008 3:47 pm

Here's another insightful analysis of the Reading First situation, from a knowledgeable contributor to some other groups I belong to:


http://www.hoover.org/publications/ednext/18844849.html

and some blog comments about it here:

http://www.edexcellence.net/flypaper/in ... cle-worker


A caveat to be drawn from the snafu is the difficulty to be expected when government mandates conflict with entrenched belief systems, especially entrenched beliefs held by a vast majority of participants in the system.

Susan S.

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