Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

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geraldinecarter
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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by geraldinecarter » Mon May 06, 2013 10:04 pm

One of the reasons that I'm concerned about too much emphasis on cumulative word banks is that these remove the focus from reading continuous text. A keen 6 year old reader may well have read 100,000 + words in continuous text, struggling readers 1,000+ words. The gap is already huge; once the logic of the Alphabetic Code is understood it is surely more beneficial to close the gap by ensuring that children are reading widely? Some 1%-5% need very specific decoding-based help beyond this point but I honestly think we are losing far more than we are gaining by concentrating on the technicalities of the Alphabetic Code for the rest of our children.An exceptional teacher may juggle the two and not lose sight of reading per se but many may just relentlessly continue to over-use 'detached from reading' materials.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Mon May 06, 2013 10:45 pm

I did not mean to suggest that 'any error' is a bad sign at all.

But some of the comments about the test talked about 'better readers' actually failing the test and doing worse than children with a 'level 1' reading capacity. If children are reported as having 'failed the test', this means they would have 8 errors or more.

If pupils reported as 'level 1' readers are making fewer errors on the screening check, I would suggest that is not a good sign for the decoding of the 'better readers' even if they have good comprehension and get through reading books at infant level well. What will happen to at least some of these children as they get older? Some, at least, may become habitual word skippers - eitehr through pure habit - or because they cannot actually decode the words, or decode the words accurately.

Surely children described as 'good readers' should be able to be good decoders of new and unknown words - and this would include simple nonsense words of the type in the phonics screening check.

Phonics is a life-long skill. We all know that when there are no pictures and the words are new to the reader, there is only some form of phonics which will help the reader to lift the word off the page - be they child or adult.

Re the cumulative word bank - of course this is not the only diet: with the 'teaching and learning cycle', my interpretation of that is to introduce the focus code, then practise at word level, sentence level and text level and then return to the revisit and review, introduce more code, then practise at word level, sentence level and text level - and so on AND read cumulative reading books.

The 'text level' in some programmes might be through the reading books material - but in both ORT Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters and Phonics International, the sentence and text level material consists of 'plain texts' (that is, without pictures) in addition to the children reading cumulative words in reading books. The plain texts are all about decoding the words and then making sense of the texts from the words alone - no pictures tell the story - the learner creates the pictures after the reading.

[Phonics International does not provide the reading books.]

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by volunteer » Tue May 07, 2013 4:48 am

Maybe schools could just stop calling some learner readers 'good' and others not. Instead they could focus on identifying each child's current competence in all the different ingredients that ultimately will make a good reader and work out how to move each child forward in each of those areas ( decoding, comprehension, speed, reading out loud with expression, reading in one's head, reading widely, motivation to read etc).

The year 1 phonics check would only be a tiny part of the information a teacher holds on a child's decoding.

The thing I would find very interesting would be to compare a large sample of results from the phonics check with results from the same large sample taking the gl assessment test of word reading processes.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by geraldinecarter » Tue May 07, 2013 8:36 am

What's the 'gl assessment test of word reading processes', Volunteer?

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by chew8 » Tue May 07, 2013 8:44 am

It's the Diagnostic Test of Word Reading Processes (DTWRP), Geraldine. It was published in March 2012 and tests the reading of non-words, regular real words and irregular real words.
volunteer wrote:The thing I would find very interesting would be to compare a large sample of results from the phonics check with results from the same large sample taking the gl assessment test of word reading processes.
I probably have results on the screening check and DTWRP from a small sample, though not from a large sample. I’ll try and dig them out.

I think that a large-scale comparison of screening check results and results on a test which focuses more on comprehension would also be useful, particularly as reading for meaning is such a key concern of those who criticise the screening check. In fact, even the most ardent supporters of an early focus on decoding would surely agree that reading for meaning is important – the only point of disagreement would be whether or not this is best fostered by an early emphasis on decoding. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to set up an experiment where children aged (say) 9 or 10 would read, from cold, a set passage of continuous text, one by one, to a panel of judges containing a mix of people who were for and against an early emphasis on decoding but who did not know how the children had been taught as beginners. There would probably be a high level of agreement among the judges about which children were good readers and which were weak, and one could then relate the judgements to the earlier teaching the children had received.

Some years ago, I arranged to hear the text-reading of over 100 Year 6 children at two different schools. One of these schools was an all-through primary where phonics was taught very systematically in Years R to 2, whereas most of the children at the other school had attended infant schools where this was not the case. I got all the children to read the same passage of about 300 words from a book that my contemporaries and I had read as a class text in our 5th year of school. I marked the children for accuracy and expression and I also timed them, without making it obvious that I was doing so, on a 100-word section – this was in the middle of the passage, so I started timing only once the children had got into their stride. If these children had done the equivalent of the screening check in Y1, I would have been able to look at the correlation between those scores and their fluency etc. 5 years later. All the children at the phonics-first school were fluent and got through the whole 300-word passage very comfortably, but some of those at the other school struggled so much that I let them stop. Unfortunately the position was complicated by the fact that the phonics-first school was private, so factors other than the early phonics teaching might have been involved.

I gather that the DfE has done a study of results on the 2011 pilot and the results of the same children on the Key Stage 1 assessment a year later – I’m hoping that we may hear about this soon.

Jenny C.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by chew8 » Tue May 07, 2013 11:00 am

Hi volunteer - in case this is of interest:

I found those results for the screening check and the Diagnostic Test of Word Reading Processes. There were 28 children and the correlation for total scores on the two tests was .74. As the screening check consists just of non-words and regular real words, however, a fairer comparison would probably involve just the same two categories on the DTWRP (i.e. omitting the scores for 'exception words'). This correlation was indeed slightly higher at .77.

1.0 would be a perfect positive correlation and -1.0 would be a perfect negative correlation, both unlikely, as I understand it, in this sort of situation. I'm not a statistician, but .74 and .77 are probably quite high.

Jenny C.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by geraldinecarter » Tue May 07, 2013 12:05 pm

Thanks, Jenny.
I think that a large-scale comparison of screening check results and results on a test which focuses more on comprehension would also be useful, particularly as reading for meaning is such a key concern of those who criticise the screening check. In fact, even the most ardent supporters of an early focus on decoding would surely agree that reading for meaning is important – the only point of disagreement would be whether or not this is best fostered by an early emphasis on decoding. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to set up an experiment where children aged (say) 9 or 10 would read, from cold, a set passage of continuous text, one by one, to a panel of judges containing a mix of people who were for and against an early emphasis on decoding but who did not know how the children had been taught as beginners. There would probably be a high level of agreement among the judges about which children were good readers and which were weak, and one could then relate the judgements to the earlier teaching the children had received.
What a brilliant idea. An annual experiment and to make sure to limit the shenanigans you'd almost need to throw the net widely - say 100 schools - with 25/25 schools randomly chosen from these sample schools.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by chew8 » Tue May 07, 2013 12:58 pm

Well, one would have to be careful not to equate correlation with causation, but as the people opposed to an early focus on phonics tend to take the view that this 'causes' poorer reading for meaning, one would at least have the chance of proving them wrong.

Now that we have the screening check, some conclusions should be able to be drawn from the relationship between children's results on that and their later performance on comprehension tests. The Key Stage 1 and 2 tests might serve that purpose.

Jenny C.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by john walker » Thu May 09, 2013 9:11 am

In the absence of a reply from Susan, I want to take up an issue to which she might be alluding [I could be wrong!]. She writes:
...the phonics check needs to be well understood by advocates of good SP instruction; that means that some of the legitimate concerns raised by teachers who have seen proficient readers do poorly (and who are correct in their observation) need to be taken on board. I have seen many such cases over time, though they are a fraction of the poor performers. Furthermore, there is a possible way to improve the format of the phonics check so as to identify these students so that we know which student lack appropriate skills and which are single-mindedly determined to make "real words."
No-one on this thread has talked about the errors children are making when they perform the check. What, I ask, is the good of testing all these children only to discover that some don't manage to read successfully four-fifths of the total? That might tell us which children, the odd lapse taken into consideration, are relatively good at decoding and those that aren't, with the same proviso. It doesn't tell us diddly squat about the kinds of errors they make. This is fundamental! Are they, as I suggested in a recent blog posting http://literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013 ... loney.html, missing out consonants in consonant clusters, are they lacking in a good knowledge of the code, are they looking at the first sound of a word and guessing, and so on? These are very different kinds of errors and they need to be corrected in a way that teaches the child something so that they don't continue making the same error. This point touches on but goes beyond Susan's point about 'appropriate skills'.
However, we come back to the age-old problem: if teachers don't have a very good knowledge of the code, don't know which skills are key to being able to use it, and don't understand how it works conceptually, they won't have the foggiest notion of how to intervene in ameliorating the difficulties the child is having. Neither will they be able to group children properly, so that children who have never got over the problem of being able to blend and segment consonants in consonant clusters are grouped with children who have and simply lack code knowledge.
John Walker
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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu May 09, 2013 10:06 am

The complication is multi-fold isn't it!

The teachers' possible lack of knowledge and understanding of the alphabetic code, the skills, the relationship between the word decoding and language comprehension, the possible pitfalls of different approaches to teaching reading in the short term and the long term, the detailed analysis of children's decoding or lack thereof - as John describes in terms of the technical knowledge and skills (and what to do about the findings) - but, to complicate matters further...

...the underlying 'belief system' of the teachers (and others).

Haven't we found that the reading debate encompasses looking at the very bigger picture of historic and current research, classroom findings, longitudinal studies - internationally - - to understanding the political and educational complications historically and currently and to address these as well as we can - to looking at the minutiae of results, learners' individuality and needs, traits and to share our thoughts on these.

Ultimately, we can only do what we can do which is keep pursuing our own practice and build on our experiences, share our knowledge and experiences (I learn something every day from others), and keep raising attention to the issues.

All of this, hopefully, serves to draw attention to the various issues to help and/or encourage people to think in a reflective way with whatever clarity, experience and observations we can collectively bring to the table!

Regarding John's latest comments, we can bring those points to our talks, teacher-training and our writing/messages.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu May 09, 2013 10:11 am

Neither will they be able to group children properly, so that children who have never got over the problem of being able to blend and segment consonants in consonant clusters are grouped with children who have and simply lack code knowledge.
But, whilst this is about attention to the individual children's needs, it does not look at the type of teaching in the first place. One cannot look at learning without looking at teaching.

I discourage complicated grouping of children although there is naturally different levels of support in the class, extra practice for children who need it and so on.

So, in scrutinising the individual results of individual children, one teacher's class results may look very different from another teacher's.

For example, if LARGE numbers of children could not decode consonant clusters correctly, that might indicate a teaching issue.

If only a FEW children could not decode consonant clusters well, that might indeed be about the individual child.

And so on.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by john walker » Thu May 09, 2013 10:23 am

Hi Debbie,
I should have made clearer what I meant by setting in groups. I wasn't referring to whole classes, but to catch-up groups. Specifically, if one were to put together children who are still having some difficulty with CVC words, putting them with children who are able to blend and segment words with as complex a structure as CCVCC and who really should be getting on with learning one sound, different spellings and one spelling, different sounds, it is likely to slow one or other part of the group down.
Best,
J
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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu May 09, 2013 12:13 pm

You're right John.

Some children barely need any practice and other children need masses - and of different skills. It's how teachers manage that when they have 30 different children to provide for that is so challenging.

As programme authors and trainers, it's a 'big ask' to work through 'others' to get the job done as we recommend and according to our own understanding.

We make inroads, however, and a lot has changed in the last ten years. We just have to keep up the momentum and I am sure that more and more teachers ARE persuaded that phonics is essential. They are honing their skills and increasing their knowledge and experience.

What bugs me is constantly having to persuade at the 'common sense' level - that is - to sit children at desks (facing forwards as appropriate) and not see paper and pencil exercises as something draconian or inappropriate when teaching reading, writing and spelling and the multi-sensory links between those skills!

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Jul 01, 2014 11:12 am

I thought that I would update this thread - because a year or so later, David Reedy of the UKLA has headed up an 'open letter' to Michael Gove calling for the abolition of the Year One phonics screening check.

You can read about the ongoing developments here (there's quite a battle taking place via Twitter!):


http://www.phonicsinternational.com/for ... .php?t=678

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by john walker » Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:57 pm

Frankly, Frances, if only 29% of the children in your daughter's school passed the screening check, the teachers need a heavy dose of CPD. When taught properly by people who are trained, almost every child can do anything the phonics screening check can throw at them. I've just been speaking at St Thomas Aquinas school to the parents of next year's intake of YR children. They are entirely relaxed about the check. Why? Because (97% of the children in Y1 passed it and most of them scored 40/40 or very close to it. One child didn't get the needed 32 but then that child has multiple special needs. The same story is true in every school where teachers know what they are doing and have confidence in themselves as practitioners. When they don't feel confident and when they're not sufficiently skilled, the check finds the school out. And, that's what it is designed to do!
Children taught through the medium of high quality phonics programmes also begin to write the moment they start learning to read. This is because the reading and writing systems are reversible. In fact, writing helps children to remember more efficiently the connection between the sounds and their spellings.
Neither is there the slightest need to tell a child they have failed. Good teachers don't do that because it's completely unnecessary. And, at St Thomas Aquinas, the school Christmas play goes ahead as usual and so does every other activity. They have forty clubs going on at the school and the children love it. How do I know? Because I sent my youngest daughter there.
If teachers don't teach the basics of reading and writing and maths, they will end up in secondary school unable to access the curriculum and then they really will be miserable.
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