Feedback on Phonic Check

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JIM CURRAN
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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Oct 04, 2013 8:39 am

One in three six-year-olds in England struggle with reading, figures show
Nearly 180,000 children fail to meet expected standard in government's new reading check

http://www.theguardian.com/education

volunteer
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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by volunteer » Fri Oct 04, 2013 10:02 am

chew8 wrote:Hi volunteer –

Even if only 8 of what you call Phase 5 graphemes have cropped up in each year so far, teachers would have to have covered all those listed in the specification in order to be sure of having covered the few which would be included in any particular year.

In any case, what counts as a ‘Phase 5 grapheme’ is not set in stone: what counts as an 'alternative' depends on what has been taught as the first grapheme for a particular sound, and that can vary from programme to programme. This was probably one reason why it was decided to have the screening check in Year 1 rather than in Reception – there might have been too much variation in what had been covered by the end of Reception.

Jenny C.
Yes, but it does seem more than coincidence that two years on the run there have been 8 phase 5 graphemes, and 40-8 = 32, and that there has been a spike at 32. Yes there is some blurring here as to exactly what is a phase 5 grapheme both according to the original document, and according to the order that individual schools introduce things. It could however be enough maybe to cause a spike at 32 -- only continuing to construct tests in the same way and not announcing the threshold could start to show if the reason for the spike is fiddling, or some a figment of the test construction like this.

It certainly doesn't seem to be a test where a stratified sample from each phase of GPCs is included in the test in order to push on the teaching of the later phases, and it doesn't seem to be a check where decoding words of more than one syllable is considered necessary to get through the threshold.

It's a bit of a compromise job really, which probably reflects in part the way it was developed.

Certainly at my children's school they don't cover all those listed in the specification prior to testing. I help hear reading with the current year 2. There are some children who are not great readers in there who would still benefit from a more systematic approach to phonics teaching than the school provides, decodable readers to take home and / or read regularly in school that introduce GPCs slowly and systematically, and good phonics training for the teachers.

I read with one of these children this week. The previous week we had stumbled through some old ORT book together and she was guessing like anything whenever she came to a word with code in it that she couldn't use e.g. sea - she didn't know ea could make an /ee/ sound so she intelligently substituted the word ocean instead. Her reading record includes recent instructions from the teacher (who qualified in the last 5 years) to use picture clues and context when reading unfamiliar words.

This week I took in some phonic readers and started at what I felt was an appropriate point (hard without testing her GPC knowledge first) and we had a great time. Instead of fidgeting around and finding it hard to stay seated she read a whole book continuously to me. Then she wanted to read another one. We added one new GPC to her word decoding skills during the session.

I don't know whether this child passed or failed the phonics check. But either way she seemed to me to be a child that could be reading considerably better now than she is at the start of year 2 if she was to benefit from the kind of teaching that this site advocates.

chew8
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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by chew8 » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:17 pm

I agree with a lot of what you say, volunteer. It’s quite unacceptable that teachers should still be telling children to guess from pictures etc. Unfortunately it can take a long time to change a mindset that has prevailed for many years.

It would be useful if you could find out how the child you mention did in the screening check. The impression I have so far, from my own voluntary work with Y3 children at a junior school, is of the weakest ones resorting more spontaneously than in previous years to sounding out and blending when they get stuck on words, but I haven’t yet heard the reading of all the children in the 90-strong year-group so my impression may change. I've helped at the school for 13 years and this year's intake is the first cohort to have done the screening check in Y1, so if the pattern is different from previous years it may have something to do with the screening check.

Jenny C.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by kenm » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:05 pm

volunteer wrote:Yes, but it does seem more than coincidence that two years on the run there have been 8 phase 5 graphemes, and 40-8 = 32, and that there has been a spike at 32. Yes there is some blurring here as to exactly what is a phase 5 grapheme both according to the original document, and according to the order that individual schools introduce things. It could however be enough maybe to cause a spike at 32 -- only continuing to construct tests in the same way and not announcing the threshold could start to show if the reason for the spike is fiddling, or some a figment of the test construction like this.
There was no pass mark set before the pilot study and no spike in its results. Did its test material have phase 5 graphemes?
"... 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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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:20 pm

http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/article/1 ... ding-check

Read all about the negativity towards the check in Nursery World and note the clear signs of lack of understanding about the essential role of phonics for reading reflected by our teachers' union leaders!
More six-year-olds pass the phonics reading check
4 October 2013 by Catherine Gaunt,

Teaching unions have renewed calls for a ban on the phonics reading test, following the publication of the provisional results of this year's check.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:31 pm

http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and ... nics-test/

Read the comment on the National Association of Headteachers' website!

Phonics teaching raises standards, not the phonics test

Commenting on the results of this year’s phonics screening check, Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said: “Phonics is a vital strategy in helping young children learn to read, but it is the teaching of phonics that raises standards, not the testing. We congratulate all schools on the hard work they put into giving children this vital skill and into opening the doorway to the world of literature.

“Despite the government's belief, few children are identified as needing extra help as a result of this test, as they have already been identified the year before in reception. The test just takes time out from helping them.

“Given that primary schools have been intensive users of phonics for many years the rise in pass marks this year may well be due to additional training of children to cope with the made-up nonsense syllables used in the test. This just shows that performance in crude tests is not always a reflection of real skills abilities. Ironically, some of our most able readers do least well in the phonics test."

Page Published: 03/10/2013
First of all, is there no room in Russell Hobby's thinking to consider that teachers may not have taught phonics increasingly effectively year on year if the Year One phonics screening check was not introduced?

Further, why is it so hard for professional representatives of the teaching profession to understand that the 'most able readers' should be able to read the non-words as well (if not better than...) the less able readers?

The irony is the exposure of both personal and widespread misunderstanding!

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by volunteer » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:33 pm

kenm wrote:
volunteer wrote:Yes, but it does seem more than coincidence that two years on the run there have been 8 phase 5 graphemes, and 40-8 = 32, and that there has been a spike at 32. Yes there is some blurring here as to exactly what is a phase 5 grapheme both according to the original document, and according to the order that individual schools introduce things. It could however be enough maybe to cause a spike at 32 -- only continuing to construct tests in the same way and not announcing the threshold could start to show if the reason for the spike is fiddling, or some a figment of the test construction like this.
There was no pass mark set before the pilot study and no spike in its results. Did its test material have phase 5 graphemes?
Good question - I don't know if the word I lists were made public. There was more than me version in the pilot.

I can't help thinking that announcing the threshold afterwards next year is because of the spike. But why announce it before the tests results are returned to the dfe?


Why was there no statistician's comment on the spike in this year's test analysis. Government still employs trained statisticians.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by maizie » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:58 pm

kenm wrote:There was no pass mark set before the pilot study and no spike in its results. Did its test material have phase 5 graphemes?
As I recall, the technical report on the Phonics Check pilot said that the test items were chosen by looking at a number of SP programmes (five, I think, of which Letters & sounds was one) and choosing graphemes common to them all which would have been taught by the time in Y1 when the Check was administered. This seems to me to make the question of whether the graphemes were 'phase 5' or not rather irrelevant as different programmes introduce the Advanced Code graphemes (which is mainly what phase 5 covers) at different times.

Of course, if schools will persist in using the 'phases' as a method of streaming pupils there will be a significant number of children who have not been taught some of the Advanced Code graphemes by June of Y1.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by chew8 » Fri Oct 04, 2013 10:23 pm

I drafted the following before seeing the most recent postings by volunteer and maizie, so there's some overlap, though my response is mainly to kenm.
kenm wrote:There was no pass mark set before the pilot study and no spike in its results. Did its test material have phase 5 graphemes?
It’s hard to give a simple answer. For one thing, 18 different versions were used in the pilot. Some of the teachers who had been involved were then invited to meetings at the DfE in order to decide what the threshold mark should be. Booklets were issued at the meetings with all the 300-odd items arranged in ascending order of difficulty, but no one was allowed to take these booklets away and there was no indication of which items had been in which versions. I certainly don’t have copies of any of those versions, so don’t know what ‘Phase 5 graphemes’ they contained.

For another thing, the very concept of ‘Phase 5 graphemes’ probably applies only to Letters and Sounds, the government programme published in 2007 – as far as I know that’s the only programme organised by ‘phases’. Phase 1 is really pre-Reception and involves no letters. Phases 2 and 3 introduce just one grapheme, by and large, for each of 42 phonemes (Diane McGuinness’s influence, I think) - /zh/is omitted because there’s no simple beginner-type spelling, and the diphthong in the ‘conservative’ pronunciation of ‘poor’ and ‘tour’ is omitted because many people don’t use it. Phase 4 introduces no new graphemes and Phase 5 is all about alternatives: alternative graphemes for sounds and alternative sounds for graphemes.

What I do have is the version of the check used in the pre-trial carried out before the pilot. In that, 9 of the graphemes would count as Phase 5 graphemes by L and S criteria – i.e. they are not the first graphemes taught for the relevant sounds. But if ‘Phase 5 graphemes’ = ‘graphemes other than those first taught for particular sounds’,12 pre-trial graphemes would be ‘Phase 5’ by Read Write Inc. criteria and 10 by Jolly Phonics criteria. I don’t see the differences in these numbers as a problem, though - by the end of 2 years at school, it shouldn’t matter whether or not graphemes have been taught first, as children should know them either way.

The DfE people obviously know that there was no spike in the pilot when no threshold mark was known (it wasn't set until later) and are also aware that the spike in 2012 and 2013 might be the result of some massaging of borderline marks - they've made this clear in reports. As I’ve said, I’ve always felt that the threshold mark, as set by the teachers involved in the pilot, was on the high side, and the spike therefore doesn’t bother me too much. It will be interesting to see how the DfE handles things next year, though.

Re. volunteer's point about DfE statisticians: last year, the spike issue was dealt with in the technical report, which came out in December, I think. It was also mentioned in the 'Topic Note' which came out in May2013. I've already referred to these:

http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/fi ... rt_001.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/s ... -RR287.pdf

Perhaps something similar will happen this year. In the meantime, I don't think we should assume that the DfE statisticians are not on the job.

Jenny C.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Oct 04, 2013 11:18 pm

Whilst you think the threshold mark is rather high, Jenny, I know of the check being undertaken in Reception with an extremely good set of results whereby many children reached or went beyond the threshold, and others that did not quite reach the threshold may well have done had they been taught 'split digraphs' as those were the words causing the stumbles. This was not in a leafy suburb school.

I also have results from a school in South America which are very good and yet English is a new language for the children as their mother tongue is Spanish.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by chew8 » Sat Oct 05, 2013 8:15 am

When I say that I think the threshold is on the high side, Debbie, what I have in mind is that the object of the exercise is supposed to be to identify children who will struggle unless they receive extra help. In my experience, this is not true of most children with marks a bit below the threshold – they will be fine just with good ongoing classroom teaching. In one school where the phonics teaching is excellent, one child got only 24 in the pre-trial version of the check, but when I went back a year later and ran some different checks on reading, she was absolutely fine. I may soon have a chance to run similar checks with a Y4 child who got 25 in the pre-trial version, and with one or two Year 3 children who were in the first Y1 cohort to do the check for real in 2012 and who scored just below the threshold.

Jenny C.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:15 am

Thanks, Jenny - I appreciate that explanation.

One of the knock-on benefits of the check of sharpening teachers' minds on the effectiveness of their phonics teaching is a good thing - good that teachers aspire for all their children to reach or exceed the threshold mark.

Here's a thought about the published results: Does the 'gender gap' with girls achieving a higher average result than the boys have some significance? In some of the leading synthetic phonics studies such as Dr Marlynne Grant's reports of results in St Michaels Primary School, the gender gap was reversed.

Might the gender gap in favour of girls still reflect the prevalence of multi-cueing reading strategies being taught alongside phonics?

Or could it be an indication that teaching is not yet sharp enough to maximise boys' potential for decoding?

My observations of phonics provision in schools is that there is still a predominant sound-to-print (spelling) approach. The main activity of many teachers consists of whole class or group arrangements whereby children use mini whiteboards to 'spell' words they are supplied by the supporting adult.

I never see an activity in 'Letters and Sounds' schools where each child is supplied with a bank of cumulative words - in print - to sound out and blend.

Jenny, you yourself have gone to great lengths when evaluating the National Literacy Strategy material on phonics to point out that the dominant activities described for teachers to follow were sound-to-print (spelling) rather than print-to-sound (reading).

I see the same lack of balance in my visits to schools.

I am informed that teachers provide words for children to blend which include non-words - particularly near to the taking of the check - but I don't see this in practice.

Could the gender gap in official results then, also, or possibly, reflect a lack of print-to-sound activities at word level which could disadvantage many boys as the 'explicit' nature of quality systematic synthetic phonics teaching for reading is, in effect, missing or weak in at least some schools?

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:26 am

Another worrying issue for me is that the children who do badly on the check may well be predominantly boys or the more 'pickly' children (for one reason or another), but that teachers' mindset could think these children are unteachable - or that phonics is not suitable for them - when the reality might well be that their phonics provision simply is not sharp enough.

I have commonly seen phonics teaching sessions which teach (or practice) little or nothing effectively. Imagine this kind of provision day after day.

We all know that there are always children who are able to flourish by lots of 'mother's knee' experience and who will become readers despite what they do or don't receive in school. So, inevitably, a group of children in every class will do relatively well in the check.

So, not only must we look at the overarching national picture of results - we must continue to dig deep to examine the practices of teachers in reality.

The Sheffield Hallam study of teachers taking part in the 2011 pilot check was invaluable in my opinion. It showed that nearly three-quarters of the teachers still used the multi-cueing reading strategies.

What would be interesting to learn is how this figure might have, or have not, shifted since the continued promotion of systematic synthetic phonics, the match funded initiative and the introduction of the Year One phonics screening check.

Something is changing in schools - but what exactly is it that is changing? Not only do we need to look at the figures, we need to look at the practice and understand the fuller picture.

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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by kenm » Sat Oct 05, 2013 10:19 am

chew8 wrote:...
What I do have is the version of the check used in the pre-trial carried out before the pilot. In that, 9 of the graphemes would count as Phase 5 graphemes by L and S criteria – i.e. they are not the first graphemes taught for the relevant sounds. But if ‘Phase 5 graphemes’ = ‘graphemes other than those first taught for particular sounds’,12 pre-trial graphemes would be ‘Phase 5’ by Read Write Inc. criteria and 10 by Jolly Phonics criteria. I don’t see the differences in these numbers as a problem, though - by the end of 2 years at school, it shouldn’t matter whether or not graphemes have been taught first, as children should know them either way.
...
Thanks. I think that's an indication that differences in the test words are not likely to explain the presence of the spike in the 2012 and 2013 results versus its absence from the results of the pilot, so knowledge of the pass mark remains by far the most plausible cause.
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Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Post by maizie » Sat Oct 05, 2013 1:21 pm

It will be interesting to see if there is a spike in results next year, despite the threshold not being known at the time the check is administered.

I strongly suspect that many teachers will just assume that it is 32 because it has been for the last 3 years.

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