TES: critics say KS1 results cast doubt on synthetic phonics

Moderators: Debbie Hepplewhite, maizie, Lesley Drake, Susan Godsland

User avatar
Susan Godsland
Administrator
Posts: 4973
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:10 pm
Location: Exeter UK
Contact:

TES: critics say KS1 results cast doubt on synthetic phonics

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:23 pm

We knew it would happen :mad:

KS1 results cast doubt on phonics
The latest Key Stage 1 results revealed this week have rekindled the row over mandatory use of synthetic phonics in English primary schools after the same proportion of children reached the expected level in reading as in 2008.

The 2009 cohort is the first to have been exposed to compulsory use of the teaching techniques for a full two years - but the results have shown no significant improvement.

The technique became a legal requirement in 2007, after Sir Jim Rose recommended that daily 20-minute phonics sessions should begin in reception as part of a broader English curriculum.

This year, 84 per cent of pupils reached the expected level 2 in reading, the same proportion as in 2008. And some 81 per cent did so in writing, a rise of 1 percentage point.

To reach level 2, pupils must read and understand simple texts, use more than one strategy to read unfamiliar words, spell simple words correctly and write in sentences using interesting vocabulary.

Pupils who are well within this level are deemed to be working at level 2b - this year 72 per cent of seven-year-olds were at this level in reading and 60 per cent in writing, an increase of 1 and 2 percentage points, respectively.

Critics of phonics have seized on the results to launch a new attack on the synthetic phonics teaching method.

Colin Richards, emeritus professor at the University of Cumbria, said: "At the very least, these results cast severe doubt on the claims of the synthetic phonics lobby that their favoured methods would dramatically improve early reading.

"There's clearly far more to early-reading than a heavy dose of synthetic phonics, as so many early-years teachers realise."
http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6021536

I notice that the TES didn't see fit to include a comment from at least one of the 'synthetic phonics lobby'.

jenny
Posts: 120
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 9:23 pm
Location: Leeds

Post by jenny » Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:42 pm

What a typically kneejerk, unscientific response!
1 Most schools have NOT been using SP for two full years- many are STILL not using it
2 What many people don't realise is that in order for a school to achieve a satisfactory value added score at the end of KS2- which is what schools are increasingly judged on- particularly by OfSTED-it is NOT in the schools' interests to assess children too highly at the end of KS1. These assessments are mainly teacher assessments with tests being used only to 'inform' judgements. Witness the decline in the number of level 3s given since the introduction of the present method of calculating VA.

This is sloppy, sensationalist journalism and those academics who put their names to it should be ashamed. What is the 'University of Cumbria' anyway- no doubt an ex teacher training college.

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3654
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Aug 28, 2009 1:06 pm

See my comment in response to this article. ;-)

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3654
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Aug 28, 2009 1:07 pm

Jenny - you should add your comment as well - it's very pertinent! :grin:

User avatar
maizie
Administrator
Posts: 3121
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:38 pm
Location: N.E England

Post by maizie » Fri Aug 28, 2009 2:19 pm

I think a letter to the editor would be more pertinent.

'Comments' don't seem to be taken any notice of and are not printed as 'letters'.

User avatar
palisadesk
Posts: 549
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 2:11 pm

Post by palisadesk » Fri Aug 28, 2009 3:27 pm

Something important to keep in mind, and to continually remind others when discussing reported results: always check the actual parameters and details of the study or the experimental treatment. Without knowing those details, you can very easily be misled (and the public often *is* misled) by the published summary.

A good example is the recent Haan Foundation "Power 4 Kids" study in the U.S., which compared four reading intervention schemes with virtual non-readers in 3rd-5th grades in Pennsylvania. The study was very properly done, with randomized groups, controls, systematic training of the teachers and monitoring for fidelity of implementation.

Sounds like that should tell you what programs work, or not. Right?

Wrong. A critical factor omitted from most reporting of the results (so far only the preliminary reports have been published, as the final data-crunching is supposed to be much more extensive and broken down into detailed analyses) is the matter of instructional time.

Anyone who has taught seriously delayed older readers knows that it is a challenge to get them caught up to their same-age peers: they have not only much new learning to do, they have to unlearn bad habits or misrules, practice new skills over time to make them automatic, master different techniques for different types of text, and so forth. Pretty well all school-based data that show students closing this gap involves providing intensive daily reading tuition, usually double or triple the instructional time allocated to normally achieving pupils.

In the Haan study, the students received on average 20-25 minutes of group instruction daily -- to make up a 3-5 year gap. That's less than half the time allocated to average pupils, and less than a third of what has been shown effective with delayed readers. Say what?

Without knowing anything else about the study, one can confidently predict that few pupils will close the performance gap with so little instructional intensity. That amount of time is not enough to get through even one level of DI Corrective Reading (one of the four interventions studied, and one that does reliably "work" if implemented effectively over time -- usually 2-3 years, with instructional periods of 40-60 minutes). Also, the study required most of the programs used to modify their lessons, leaving out critical components. Thus, what is being measured is not the "real" program but an abridged and bowdlerized version, taught for less than half the usual time (and less than a third of the required time for optimal outcomes). But published discussions of the results do not point out these facts.

As jenny points out, these reports on how SP "doesn't work" fail to emphasize details, such as what kind of synthetic phonics teaching was introduced, how thoroughly, how consistently, and over what period of time (in duration and also in instructional intensity). Ten minutes here and there is not going to get the job done. Also, as we all know, if SP is introduced along with multi-cueing and guessing, it will be less effective.

In many reports of "results," however, what may well happen is that a district asks schools to report whether they are doing SP (or some other instructional initiative), and they answer Yes or No, without providing details or even any substantiation that the requested initiative is being implemented at all. I know well from experience that if teachers are told to do X (but are not provided with time and resources), they will indeed reply that they are "doing" it but the reality is likely very different. They know from past experience that, like Soviet 3-Year-Plans, "this, too, shall pass away."

Details, details. Get the details! And constantly remind others to do the same.

Susan S.

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3654
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:18 pm

And from my experience in my local authority, it has proved to be impossible to get any details or, indeed, any responses which address the issues raised.

So, even with all the will and direct questions involved, this does not guarantee good information.

For example, my local authority claimed to be 'in line' with the Rose recommendations a long time ago, but the advisors also promote the 'Catch Up' programme which contradicts the synthetic phonics teaching principles (definitely not 'in line').

Only a short time ago, I attended teacher-training for Year Two national assessments to discover that the local authority's criteria for reading assessment was still in line with the discredited 'Searchlights' reading strategies - definitely not 'in line' with Rose.

No wonder, then, that this authority has an apparent gender gap at the end of key stage one and an 'action plan' under government supervision. An authority that purports to be in line with Rose clearly isn't - except it's not clear at all because the advisors claim to be in line.

If this is the kind of less-than-transparent information upon which national reporting (that is, the TES article above) is based upon, we shall never get a truly clear picture of what works or what is being used in the actual classrooms.

User avatar
Susan Godsland
Administrator
Posts: 4973
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:10 pm
Location: Exeter UK
Contact:

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:26 pm

Debbie, I noticed the following in the TES article -is that still correct, as it sounds like multi-cueing to me?
To reach level 2, pupils must read and understand simple texts, use more than one strategy to read unfamiliar words,

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3654
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:29 pm

I noticed that as well. We've queried on previous threads if the national guidance for teachers in Year Two (for measuring children's reading ability) was changed to bring it in line with Rose. Maybe this shows that it has not been changed.

It's some time since I was a Year Two teaching doing the reading assessments - but undertaking a miscue analysis (a mixed methods approach) was the prevailing guidance in the 'Searchlights' era.

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3654
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:32 pm

What I did discover this year is that whilst national assessment at the end of key stage one is now based on teacher assessment - the children still have to take the actual reading comprehension tests to inform the teacher assessment!

So, the children still have to 'take the tests' and yet isn't this what all the teachers and parents were complaining about? What difference does this national change to teacher assessment really make to the children's experience at school then?

User avatar
maizie
Administrator
Posts: 3121
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:38 pm
Location: N.E England

Post by maizie » Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:32 pm

To reach level 2, pupils must read and understand simple texts, use more than one strategy to read unfamiliar words,
Perhaps Lesley D might be able to shed some light on this?

JIM CURRAN
Posts: 3190
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2003 7:18 am

Subject

Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:33 pm

Here’s what Margaret Bishop had to say in her excellent book ‘‘The ABC’s and All Their Tricks’’ which was first published in 1985.

“Furthermore , most of the teachers now in the schools, public or independent , themselves grew up in word- memorization classrooms. Thanks to informal help from parents, they are able to read. But many of them lack confidence in their own spelling ability. And, because they themselves did not receive formal training in phonics , either in first grade or college, they have little confidence in the wisdom of using the phonics programs the parents are now demanding. They really cannot put their hearts into the task. As a result the children do not do as well as expected; everyone is disappointed ; and often the school goes back fairly soon to the word-memorization method with which the teachers are more familiar.’’ ( page 6 )

Hammered
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:36 pm
Location: Berkshire

Post by Hammered » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:39 am

I almost sure that assessment procedures for reading haven't changed this year in KS1, despite the introduction of APP.

Children must still take a reading test/task even though it is teacher judgement that counts. That is either:
- a task - miscue analysis of a book. Children talk about the features/story etc. and then read and discuss book.
- a test - a written comprehension paper including multiple choice questions and open and closed questions.

As for having to use a variety of cues. Assessment Focus 1 for Reading is 'use a variety of cues including decoding for meaning' so this is inevitably part of the criteria. However if a child can decode accurately then that doesn't mean they have to use other cues (although they might be at that level anyway). Obviously the miscue analysis would look at which strategies the child is using.

I think the points about value added are very important. Schools do look carefully at their KS1 scores as progress to Y6 is the basis for so much of Ofsted's judgements. A level 1 child getting a level 3 at Y6 is very different to a 2c becoming a 4c.

Finally I wonder if the scores don't improve next year we can say that obviously ECAR isn't working either on improving the bottom end so might as well give up that too...[/b]

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3654
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:58 am

Hammered - thank you for that information.

Am I a lone voice in the wilderness believing we need to move phonics throughout key stage two (juniors) as well - for spelling and writing? We haven't even achieved guarenteed synthetic phonics for the Year One and Year Two children.

I do find it depressing that the Reading Recovery establishment has had such a government and business boost to work with these weaker children - when it is the weaker children in particular for whom it is imperative they receive the highest standard of synthetic phonics teaching.

JIM CURRAN
Posts: 3190
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2003 7:18 am

Subject

Post by JIM CURRAN » Sat Aug 29, 2009 7:39 am

The idea that decoding and miscue- analysis can be used as complementary strategies is completely erroneous. Miscue- analysis is a Whole Language strategy and whole language encourages guessing. As Mona has always said you can’t mix oil and water.

The following piece from the redoubtable Dr. Kerry Hempenstall on Miscue Analysis is well worth a read.

http://www.ednews.org/articles/miscue-a ... tque-.html

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 17 guests