reading recovery/synthetic phonics

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ealteacher
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reading recovery/synthetic phonics

Post by ealteacher » Fri Feb 26, 2010 2:41 pm

Hi
At a local meeting yesterday, I met Diana Johnson, the junior minister for schools. Ms Johnson mentioned government initiatives in the area of reading. She mentioned the use of Reading Recovery.
I spoke to Ms Johnson and said that there was a large body of opinion that thought that Reading Recovery was more expensive and less effective than a synthetics reading programme. I also mentioned the Diane MacGuinness book Why Children Can't Read.
Ms Johnson seemed keen to read it. and also expressed interest in finding out more.
Why has reading recovery got such a good reputation so that it forms part of national strategies?
Pat Oxley

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Susan Godsland
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Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Feb 26, 2010 2:58 pm

Well, I find that her apparent lack of awareness rather strange seeing as she was one of the main witnesses at the S&T evidence check on early literacy interventions :???:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/p ... 110901.htm

Did she not bother to read the committee's conclusions?

'The Government's decision to roll out Reading Recovery nationally is not based on the best quality, sound evidence'.


'Teaching children to read is one of the most important things the State does. The Government has accepted Sir Jim Rose's recommendation that systematic phonics should be at the heart of the Government's strategy for teaching children to read. This is in conflict with the continuing practice of word memorisation and other teaching practices from the 'whole language theory of reading' used particularly in Wave 3 Reading Recovery. The Government should vigorously review these practices with the objective of ensuring that Reading Recovery complies with its policy'
Last edited by Susan Godsland on Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ealteacher
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Post by ealteacher » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:05 pm

Well it seems that I am a bit naive or just don't know enough of what's going on.
At the very least, I would hope that reading Diane MacGuinness's book would inform Ms Johnson's input into policy.
Pat

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palisadesk
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Re: reading recovery/synthetic phonics

Post by palisadesk » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:30 pm

ealteacher wrote:
Why has reading recovery got such a good reputation so that it forms part of national strategies?
They are positive geniuses at marketing (I am not being facetious here). They take it seriously and are very deliberate in how they present the program, how they "pitch" their wares, and how they release their data in a not-so-transparent fashion. I would suspect they have professionals in the organization devoted to just these topics. They are the same people who market "balanced literacy" packages and assessments and related materials, also with superb marketing.

It is dangerous to underestimate the impact this level of expertise can have. One reason RR and BL are so successful in the USA and Canada is that none of the alternatives have organized themselves to the same extent or developed the same level of skilled marketing.

Susan S.
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Susan Godsland
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Post by Susan Godsland » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:34 pm

Pat, what you said to Diana Johnson was completely correct :smile: I just don't understand the lack of transparency in her reply to you.

I do hope she reads Diane McG's book but, unless someone lends her a copy, she'll have to get it through Amazon marketplace as it's been out of print for a while now.

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Post by kenm » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:36 pm

The present Government has many ministers who adhere to the same (usually somewhat concealed) principle: "I have made up my mind; do not confuse me with the facts." Civil servants may not be as ignorant as they appear, because they have to avoid contradicting their masters.

Other recent examples: the last two Home Secretaries (on drug policy), and Ed Balls (frequently).
"... 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

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Post by chew8 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:08 pm

Diane McGuinness's Why Children Can't Read may not be an ideal book for Diana Johnson to read. It's pretty negative about 'phonics' in places - it was written before Diane knew about UK synthetic phonics. We don't want Diana Johnson thinking that the government has been wrong to back phonics as it has done.

Jenny C.
Last edited by chew8 on Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Derrie Clark
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Post by Derrie Clark » Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:30 pm

Unfortunately, I think it is highly unlikely that Diana Johnson will read 'Why Children Can't Read'. She could hardly say "no thanks, we know what we are doing and have adequate processes in place" (even though this is the general belief within Government). I think it's called diplomacy!

Jenny, perhaps you could clarify where Diane McGuinness is negative about 'phonics'.

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Post by chew8 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:00 pm

Derrie - if you have the British edition of Why Children Can't Read, you could start with pages 96-7 and 100-102. But there are other relevant sections too - look up 'phonics' in the index and take it from there.

After reading the book in 1998 I wrote to Diane saying that I liked much of it but I thought that programmes such as Jolly Phonics didn't have all the faults she attributed to 'phonics' programmes. She then investigated, got back to me saying she agreed, and said she would say different things in future - which she did, first in RRF Newsletter 49 (2002) and then in Early Reading Instruction (2004).

Jenny C.

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Post by ealteacher » Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:14 pm

Thanks for all the comments on this issue.
things are more complicated than I thought.
If I should ever have the opportunity to meet Ms Johnson again in similar circumstances (there was a smallish group of us) any ideas of what I should refer her to?
thanks
Pat

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Fri Feb 26, 2010 11:21 pm

Well, there's Diane McG's 'Early Reading Instruction', but I can't see a government minister wading through that!

Bonnie MacMillan's 'Why Schoolchildren Can't Read' 1997 ?:

Amazon

That seems to be still in print

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Post by g.carter » Sat Feb 27, 2010 12:32 am

I'd ask her when they are going to implement the recommendations of the All-Party S & T Committee - Evidence Check 1.

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Post by yvonne meyer » Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:15 am

ealteacher,

I assume your UK politicians are pretty much the same as our Australian pollies in which case, don't bother giving any of them a book or a lengthy paper to read. Politicians only read very short 'briefs' (no more than half a page I am told) prepared for them by their department and their advisors.

In their defense, a friend who is a very experienced and competant politician tells me that it is not possible to read all the stuff they are given as there is just too much of it. A less competant pollie wouldn't even try.

I suggest you cut & paste highlights from Louisa Moats, "Whole Language Lives On; The Illusion of Balanced Instruction" and give that to every pollie to happen to meet.

Palisadesk's point about the WL/RR marketing gurus is one that I agree with strongly. I would even take it further and say that the failure of evidence-based reading instruction to take hold is because the scientists who do 'Gold Standard' research believe that self-promotion denigrates the work that they do.

Again, in their defense, they have protocols they have to follow in which they send their work out for evisceration by peer-review and can only publish if the work survives the process, leaving little time and energy for marketing.

Also, the reading scientists, eg, Diane Mcguiness, do not work in the field of Education but in psychology and cognitive science. Therefore, the Education Establishment take no notice of them.

The person who was most successful at being both a reading scientist and at marketing evidence-based reading instruction was Reid Lyon but the Education Establishment just waited him out and appear to halted much of the progress he was able to force through.

The only way to dislodge the WL/RR Establishment is to implement universal, objective testing of the sub-set skills of reading and writing mapped to a common standard and to publish the results openly.

The greatest success of the WL/RR mob in Australia was that they made 'testing' a dirty word.

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Post by chew8 » Sat Feb 27, 2010 9:15 am

If the issue that Diana Johnson needs to understand is Reading Recovery, then I agree with Susan G. and Geraldine that she ought to be taking on board the recent Science and Technology Committee report, She herself gave evidence to this committee, and as it's a parliamentary committee and she is a government minister, she surely has an obligation to take the report seriously.

If the issue is that she needs to understand about the teaching of reading in a more general way, then she could do worse than the Rose Report. Again, she is under some obligation to know it well, as it was commissioned and accepted by her government and it's now the basis for the teaching of reading and spelling in Key Stage 1.

There's also the 2007 book Teaching Synthetic Phonics by Rhona Johnston and Joyce Watson, which is a much easier read than Diane McG's Early Reading Instruction and more relevant to the current UK situation.

I think it's really quite hard, however, for politicians to understand all the ins and outs.

Jenny C.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:15 pm

When it comes to matters of reading instruction and literacy/illiteracy/semi-literacy, I have no real sympathy with Ministers and politicians and their apparent lack of knowledge on the subject.

The issue of literacy standards is a truly fundamental one which affects all aspects of our lives and work.

Also, matters of different types of reading instruction have become a matter of public information and articles in newspapers are not infrequent.

Thus, for Ministers associated with the department of 'Education' not to be knowledgeable about the House of Commons inquiry and report, 'Teaching Children to Read' and the Rose Report, the summary of the Science and Technology committee with regard to Reading Recovery and the general debate and issues surrounding different types of reading instruction is simply not acceptable.

It raises the question as to the efficacy of our political structures if Ministers and politicians are too busy to know their way around such fundamental topics as reading instruction considering its importance and its well-pubicised history.

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