Fad, fraud and folly in 'dyslexia' and the teaching of reading.
Personal beliefs or evidence-based practice?
'(T)here is a mistaken belief that current knowledge in [genetics and neuroscience] is sufficient to justify a category of dyslexia as a subset of those who encounter reading difficulties' (Elliott/Gibbs p475)
Neuromyths in Education.
Video: Russell Mayne's talk on aspects of English language teaching which have little or no scientific credibility. He examines practices such as neuro-linguistic programming (see 'Magical Spelling' below), learning styles, multiples intelligences and Brain Gym. He also includes a guide to spotting pseudo-science in education. There's an excellent ppt to accompany the video:
Video: Prof. Bishop discusses Dore, cognitive dissonance and evaluating research.
Video. Prof. Bishop: The Science of Bad Neuroscience
Why bogus therapies seem to work:
Pioneering treatment or quackery? How to decide.
Macquarie University examines the research behind some SpEd. treatments and programmes including:
- Behavioural Optometry
- Fast ForWord Language
- Cellfield Program
- The Listening Program®
- Irlen Tinted lenses and Overlays
- Sensory Integration
- Dore/DDAT Exercise Program
- Reading Recovery for Young Struggling Readers
'Research says....' is just the start. Then you have to find out what TYPE of research it is.
If the only research you're offered, or can find as evidence, is described in the following way, then however great the volume or the impressive-sounding credentials of the researchers, treat it with extreme caution:
- Observational studies
- Case studies
- Based on clinical intuition
- Based on questionnaires
- Based on testimonials
- Based on interviews
- Non-mathematical analysis
- Subjective experience
- Based on tacit, non-scientific knowledge
- Based on 'belief systems'
- Ideological / academic / theoretical / socio-cultural... 'perspectives'
- Action Research.“Action Research is a fancy way of saying let’s study what’s
happening at our school and decide how to make it a better place”...''Those
who carry out ‘conventional’ research may well criticise action research,
often alongside other qualitative approaches, for lack of research questions,
quantification, control, objectivity, etc'' (www.becta.org.uk - research paper)
''If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion'' Robert A. Heinlein.
'(I)f you think you know the truth without having to collect
any data, that saves a lot of time'' Stanovich
(W)hat can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence' C. Hitchens.
Alternative Therapies, Treatments and Programmes
''There is an established, and very rewarding, dyslexia industry. There is considerable academic and commercial vested interest. There seem to be as many aetiologies for (causes for or origins of) dyslexia as there are researchers into it, give or take, and as many wonderfully special assessment methods, remedial schemes, dedicated schools and distinguished gurus as the market will carry''(Kerr p89)
(W)hen a child has problems, parents often feel guilty, and they can to some extent assuage that guilt by doing something. So alternative interventions are especially likely to be taken up in situations where the mainstream options are seen as ineffective and parents feel powerless to make a difference (Prof. Bishop. BDA 2008 ppt)
'(T)he word "dyslexia" has taken on a variety of interpretations over the years, and it has provided a vehicle for people who want to make a quick buck from distraught parents' (Prof. Tymms. TES.04/11/05)
'It is time that the dyslexia industry was killed off and we recognised that there are well known methods for teaching everybody to read and write', says Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley, Manchester (Stringer.12/01/08)
Alternative therapies for reading difficulties, ''generally have a weak (or non-existent) evidence base and poor efficacy, and often rely on the superficial attractiveness of a promised instant (and comparatively effortless) ‘cure’' (Singleton p22)
Sense about Science: Ask for evidence:
Emptor: Buyer Beware!
The vision of some struggling readers taught with mixed methods can be badly affected by stress and anxiety when they are asked to read aloud from a book which is not well matched to their actual phonics decoding ability; they may complain about the letters 'moving and jumping
around'. Part of the difficulty is the panicky search for clues (word-shape?initial
letter?last letter?picture clue?word within word?context?...) rather
than the consistent use of left to right all-through-the-word
tracking when reading.
''Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities..Diagnostic and treatment approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy, including eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses, are not endorsed and should not be recommended''
Vision Therapy: ''Parents are attracted to VT for several reasons. It's medical. The therapist does all the work. The child has to practice at home but it's drill that can be easily monitored by the parent. They see that the child is improving on the VT tasks, and believe that this is "progress." The thing is, VT doesn't transfer to reading. At times, it can help indirectly like a Dumbo feather in increasing a child's confidence. And some children do "catch on" with or without VT and despite mal-instruction. Parents would do well to spend their money elsewhere. On the other hand, VT won't damage the child and it will make the parents feel better. There are cheaper and better ways to "feel better", but it's their money, their choice'' (Prof.Schutz. 3RsPlus)
Questioning the benefits that coloured overlays can have for reading...
Optometric Visual Training (a critique)
Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome and Tinted Lenses Critique
The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of coloured filters for reading disability: A systematic review
'Wilkins et al. went on to conclude that the wearing of tinted lenses is unlikely to have a direct effect on the child's level of reading skill' (Muter p 179)
Prof. Wheldall's blog on 'Magic Glasses'
Is difficulty with reading a visual problem?
''There are a lot of abnormalities of the eyes that normal readers have as well, so tinted lenses and overlays have no foundation as a bona fide treatment for reading problems in any research that I'm aware of'' (Prof. Vellutino quote in Mills. The Dyslexia Myth)
'(T)here is no evidence supporting a causal link between visual stress and dyslexia...assessment of visual stress and response to treatment is usually by subjective report'' (Rose 2009. p115)
'The Raviv Method is a focussed and effective neuro-cognitive programme that consists
of stimulating the brain to generate the specific brain structures that are essential
for the learning process, practising strategies for controlling brain activity
and training the brain for well-established two-dimensional perception.'
consists of applied kinesiology, physical manipulation, massage, homeopathy and herbal remedies, plus 'Magical Spelling' which is based on neuro-linguistic programming -see link below. A randomised, controlled trial of Sunflower therapy, (Bull, L. 2007), for children with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia), found that there were similar gains in test scores for clinical and control children.
'(C)ontrolled trials show that the claims of applied kinesiology have no basis in reality' (Singh/Ernst. p164)
Magical Spelling, as taught by Empowering Learning™ http://www.thehickmottpartnership.co.uk/empoweringlearning/index.htm, is based on the ideas of NLP practitioner Robert Dilts http://nlpu.com/Articles/artic10.htm ''a remarkable quick way to improve your spelling, reading, memory and dyslexic symptoms, in any language...the way that nature intended, by being able to visualise''.
It is promoted by the Arkell Dyslexia Centre -see the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust's spring/summer 2014 newsletter
Magical Spelling is incorporated into Sunflower Therapy: ''After just a few sessions, Carolina says she can get dyslexic children to spell eight-letter words backwards. "Kids are often taught to learn through writing, left to right, and that doesn't often help dyslexic kids, so we use the whole body to learn through movement," she said. Carolina will show a child a word and tell him to visualise it. Then, she teaches him to spell using the whole body, often jumping or waving an arm to each letter, or spelling the word from the outside in, rather than from left to right''
''NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) has little to do with serious neuroscience or linguistics, and is not taken seriously by academics in either field''
01/14: NLP Magical Spelling is endorsed by the DfE in training materials they commissioned for teaching children with SpLD Dyslexia: see http://www.advanced-training.org.uk/ -> http://www.advanced-training.org.uk/module4/M04U15.html
The Tomatis method or Audio-Psycho-Phonology (APP) 'is very controversial and not accepted by specialists'... 'Eventually [Tomatis] left the orthodox medical community, admitting that his practice was beyond the scope of normative allopathic comprehension' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_A._Tomatis)
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): Where commercial and clinical interests collide: ''Given the lack of agreement on diagnostic criteria and lack of recognition in formal guidelines, it’s impossible to find sensible epidemiological data on APD''
http://auditoryintegrationtraining.co.uk/ ''There is a small scientific literature on Auditory Integration training (AIT), which has many features in common with aspects of the SAS package; most studies focussed on autism, where there is little evidence of efficacy (Sinha et al, 2006). The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association concluded a review of AIT thus: Despite approximately one decade of practice in this country, this method has not met scientific standards for efficacy and safety that would justify its inclusion as a mainstream treatment for these disorders''. http://deevybee.blogspot.com/2012/02/neuroscientific-interventions-for.html
www.inpp.org.uk/ 'Primitive reflexes develop during uterine life. They should be fully present
at birth and are gradually inhibited by higher centres in the brain during the
first 6 to12 months of post-natal life. If they are activated by minor stimuli
in the environment at a later age, they can interfere with the development of
more complex skills.' http://deevybee.blogspot.com/2011/06/its-tough-being-parent-of-child-with.html
Quack Watch examines Doman and Delacato's 'patterning' theory.
Psychomotor Patterning =pseudoscience
'(I)t is still a concern that there has been a failure on the part of advocates of primitive reflex therapy to establish any convincing connection between infant motor reflexes and the complex process of learning to read' (Muter p 181)
BadScience on Dore
Video: Prof. Bishop discusses Dore, cognitive dissonance and evaluating research.
www.braingym.org.uk/ ''Brain Gym® is an educational, movement based programme which uses simple
movements to integrate the whole brain, senses and body, preparing the person
with the physical skills they need to learn effectively'' http://www.badscience.net/category/brain-gym/ 'Brain Gym is a set of perfectly good fun exercise break ideas for kids, which costs a packet and comes attached to a bizarre and entirely bogus pseudoscientific explanatory framework'.
Sense About Science 'Brain Gym' leaflet: www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/pdf/braingym.pdf
http://www.dyslexiaonline.com/ 'Dr. Harold Levinson's groundbreaking research has continued to demonstrate that
the symptoms of dyslexia or Learning Disabilities (LD), Attention Deficit Disorder
(ADD), and related Phobic symptoms are due to a simple signal-scrambling disturbance
of inner-ear (cerebellar-vestibular) origin'...'75–85% of medically treated children and adults respond favorably, rapidly, and often dramatically to simple and safe combinations of inner-ear-improving medications and related nutrients'
Neurophysiological Approaches (a critique)
'Once a learning profile has been established, a programme of mental and physical
exercises is compiled which is tailored to enhance the strengths of their individual
learning pattern and to overcome the accompanying weaknesses.'
http://www.blueberry-centre.co.uk/ ''The Davis® Dyslexia Correction Programme was developed by Ronald Davis to
overcome his own learning difficulties. Davis sees dyslexia as a talent...The
Programme helps the individual to discover his innate gift, and to apply it to
the learning difficulty. In this way the blockages to effective learning are removed.
Clients are shown how to clear up confusions regarding letters, numbers, words
and language symbols and are aided in the process by the use of clay''
'The Gift of Dyslexia' by Ronald Davis (a critique)
Blog posts discussing the Davis® Dyslexia Correction Programme
Fast ForWord.This is a teaching programme that focuses on helping learners become
more fluent at processing rapidly changing sounds. Its underlying hypothesis is
that dyslexic learners' brains can be taught to operate more like those without
dyslexia. The programme offers training designed to help learners hear sounds
in words by exaggerating and slowing them down (DfES)
“The collective results of our studies suggest that improvements in language abilities after FFW training did not result from changes in temporal processing. It is possible that similar improvements in language may be obtained from a variety of interventions that are presented on an intensive schedule, that focus the child’s auditory and visual attention, that present multiple trials that vary task complexity as a function of response accuracy, and that reward progress.”
Looking back: A summary of five exploratory studies of Fast ForWord. Ronald B. Gillam, Diane Frome Loeb, Sandy Friel-Patti.
Fast ForWord ® for Children with Dyslexia (a critique)
Ingestive Treatments for Learning Disabilities (a critique)
Omega-3 Fish Oils.
Specialist dyslexia teaching and programmes:
The dyslexia lobby suggest that the qualifications they endorse and for which they provide training (see OG below) come at the very top of a 'training pyramid of expertise':
http://www.xtraordinarypeople.com/news/ ... expertise/
Nevertheless, a teacher who got to the top of this 'dyslexia training pyramid' reported that the particular course of study that she followed to gain AMBDA status 'was next to useless' as far as enabling her to teach anyone to read and write.
The majority of so-called 'specialist dyslexia teachers' are trained, solely, in programmes based on the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach. For many decades OG was the recommended form of reading intervention with far more phonics content than would be encountered in the average classroom, and for that it should be given credit. Unfortunately, it remains mired in the theories and beliefs from the time it was first devised, early in the 20th century. The OG programmes have failed to incorporate the best of recent, research-based practice or eliminated content which is now known to be unnecessary and ineffective. Many common OG procedures, such as the laying out wooden alphabet letter shapes in an arc whilst naming the letters, have no research base and are simply time-wasting. Several OG practices are actually detrimental to the effective teaching of reading, such as 'finding little words in big words' and the use of sound units larger than the phoneme such as onset and rime - see 'what not to do'. Additionally, many specialist dyslexia teachers remain in thrall to the myths of learning styles, multiple intelligences and left brain/right brain dominance theories, which have no credence except in pop psychology circles.
The inadequacy of specialist dyslexia teaching was confirmed in Singleton's 2009 Dyslexia Review; ''Brooks (2007) has described ratio gains of between 1.4 and 2.0 as having ‘small impact’ and being ‘of modest educational significance’; ratio gains less than 1.4 he classes as being of ‘very small impact’ and ‘of doubtful educational significance’. On this basis all the results reported from studies in UK specialist [dyslexia] schools and teaching centres would be regarded as disappointing (or even disregarded altogether), since the largest ratio gain was only 2.0 (except at Moon Hall School [which uses a linguistic phonics programme similar to the Sound Reading System]'' (Singleton p74) In the Journal of Special Education (2006), Ritchey and Goeke concluded that, “the research is currently inadequate, both in number of studies and in the quality of the research methodology, to support that OG interventions are scientifically based''.
The International Dyslexia Association (IDA: formerly the Orton Dyslexia Society) is the umbrella organisation for Orton-Gillingham teaching programmes in the USA. The British Dyslexia Association is its UK partner. In a recently published article requesting donations to carry out research, the IDA admitted that, 'there is no substantial body of scientific research supporting the efficacy of the *multisensory component in structured-language reading instruction' i.e. OG specialist dyslexia teaching. In the same article, the IDA acknowledged that, in an 'era of evidence-based instruction, citing clinical intuition and testimony may not suffice, even when authoritative and compelling' and, as a result, they risked 'criticism of the sort directed at whole-language and other unfounded or discredited approaches' http://www.interdys.org/ResearchMSIGrantProgramandDonors.htm.*OG programmes aim to differentiate themselves from other reading interventions by describing themselves as 'Multisensory, structured language' (MSL) instruction, but as this description applies equally well to other reading programmes, including those based on synthetic phonics principles, it is not useful and very misleading.
Report on British Dyslexia Association Courses for Reading and Spelling -includes comparison with synthetic phonics course content: http://www.rrf.org.uk/pdf/Report%20BDA%20Training%202012.pdf
Edge Hill University: specialist dyslexia course provider:
Discussion on the teaching of Open/Closed syllables as used in Orton Gillingham programmes
There is an
All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dyslexia and Specific Learning Difficulties.
MP Ian Liddell-Grainger is its chair. The lobbying organisation 'Dyslexia Action' acts as the group’s secretariat. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/register/dyslexia-and-specific-learning-difficulties.htm
N.B. All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within Parliament. They are essentially run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords, although many groups involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities. Also, ‘'All-Party Groups often attempt to draw attention to certain aspects of public affairs or act as pressure groups to promote some particular cause’'.
SNIP Literacy Programme. A literacy intervention programme written by a couple who describe themselves as ‘qualified dyslexia tutors’ ''The programme is aimed at increasing reading and spelling and uses the primary high frequency words (HFW).These words are grouped by selecting those that visually look different to each other...The programme approaches literacy acquisition at the word level and addresses the gaps in phonics knowledge through the application of analytic phonics''
Part 1 (KS1/2) http://www.snip-newsletter.co.uk/pdfs/downloads/literacy_programme_1.pdf
Critique: The Dyslexia-SpLD Trust: ‘No to Failure’ Project final report. 2009
'Dyslexia expert' Neil MacKay believes that, ''The most effective readers no longer need to use synthetic or analytic techniques unless strictly necessary. Instead they rely on cues from the first and last letter of each word, the shape of the word and from the “comprehension big picture” afforded by context, syntax and grammar''. http://www.4d.org.nz/edge/reading_accuracy.html
Independent schools' for 'dyslexics':
- Maple Hayes: 'The Maple Hayes technique sorts words into morphemes (units of meaning). These are either spelt conventionally by a combination of letters, or represented by simple images called icons. The approach uses only one sense at a time, to block out distractions. Reading is visual rather than aural (early lessons are almost silent), while writing practice is by touch, using cursive script where the pen stays on the paper. To help pupils concentrate, they will be blindfolded at first.' http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6002967
- Fairley House: 'Multi-Sensory Approach: To help learn words beginning with "squ", pupils squeeze oranges. For "shr", they shred paper'.
''A pupil at Fairley House, Pimlico has used his mouth to retrive a raisin from a bowl of flour. The 'what have you found in the mound of flour?' reinforces the use of the vowels o and u'' (Times article)
For a list of unnecessary and unhelpful content to avoid in any dyslexia / literacy intervention / basic skills programme -see What NOT to do
"The true believer is never swayed by evidence, and will continue to believe despite any amount or strength of evidence. And remember, the believer not only wants the delusion to be true, but in most cases desperately needs it to be true.'' James Randi.
Non-systematic, multi-cueing reading schemes and reading intervention programmes:
Oxford Reading Tree 'Biff, Chip and Kipper' Classic readers. Pub. OUP. Despite embracing synthetic phonics through the Read Write Inc. programme (RWI) and Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters, OUP continue to publish the early levels of Biff, Chip and Kipper 'Classic' whole language reading scheme and brought out new editions in 2011. http://www.oup.com/oxed/primary/oxfordreadingtree/resources/biff/newedition/
Reading Recovery (RR)
is a 1-1 intervention
(Wave 3) programme which uses 'word memorisation and other teaching practices from the 'whole language theory of reading'(HoC Sci/Tech committee). It is taught by extensively (and very expensively) trained teachers and used with a very narrow age group; children in Y1. Note that, '(T)eacher judgement of need determines entry to the programme' (Rose 2009 p63). In an article for the Independent, National Co-ordinator for RR, Julia Douetil, claimed that, "These are children for whom, for some reason, phonics hasn't worked" (Independent 30/10/08). Over the course of a year the school's RR teacher will give a handful of children individual tutoring for half-an-hour daily; around 90-100 sessions for each child. Despite this massive input, a significant number (23% RR's own figures) of children are failed by the programme and are 'referred on' i.e. need further intervention. Documents on the then DCSF's RR 'Toolkit' webpage revealed that it cost a school £82,830 to employ an RR teacher part-time (0.5) for 4 years. Using RR's own figures which have each teacher tutoring 9 pupils a year, RR costs over £2,600 per child. Independent researchers put the cost closer to £5,000. Because of the extremely high cost of implementing Reading Recovery, many cheaper copies have appeared which are based on exactly the same principles -see below.
Dr.Singleton was a key contributor to the now archived, DCSF-commissioned, Rose report on Dyslexia (Rose. 2009). On the subject of Reading Recovery, he said, ''Only 12%–15% of Reading Recovery children completing their programmes between 2003 and 2007 achieved a Level 2a or above in Key Stage 1 Reading National Curriculum assessments, the level at which children can tackle unfamiliar words and have therefore developed a self-sustaining word recognition system'' (Singleton 2009 p11)
Singleton also pointed out that Reading Recovery measured children's progress using the BAS-II word reading test; 6yrs.7mths ''was the average reading age of only those children who responded well to Reading Recovery''. Singleton added that a child can achieve a RA of 6.7 on BAS-II ''with knowledge of only a few words'' as ''only 21 words on the test have to be read correctly, which can be easily achieved by a child who has memorised some very high frequency common words (e.g.the,up,you,at,said,out) and knows and can use single letter sounds, plus the simple digraphs 'sh' and 'th'' (Singleton p117)
Reading Recovery is ''a multi-cueing, non-systematic approach'' (Sir Jim Rose SPELD conference AU)
''Several years ago, a letter was sent to members of the U.S. Congress with 31 signatures of the top researchers in the field of reading urging Congress to suspend support for RR because independent research showed the method had no effect. It is extremely costly to implement, re teacher training, tutoring time, and materials. Not only this, but RR "research" is notorious for misrepresenting the data. In a recent publication by the Institute of Education, the same problems appear. 1. Nearly half of the children from the 145 strong "RR-tutoring group" were dropped from the study at post-testing, while the control group remained intact. (Barely a mention of this, and no attempt to solve the problem this creates.) 2. The RR group received individual tutoring, the control group got none. One could go on. The published paper bears the hallmarks of a bona fide "scientific" journal, until a closer inspection reveals it is published by Reading Recovery. No chance for an impartial peer review process here''
(D. Mcguinness. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/evchlint/me1302.htm)
Reading Recovery: an evaluation of benefits and costs:
Time to stop digging
Small Bangs for Big Bucks: The long term efficacy of Reading Recovery
July 2013. WHY THE NEW ZEALAND NATIONAL LITERACY STRATEGY HAS FAILED AND WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT: Evidence from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2011 and Reading Recovery Monitoring Reports
International research on long- and short-term outcomes of Reading Recovery, and comparisons with other programmes:
Julia Douetil, Reading Recovery Trainer and National Coordinator. IOE.
Professor Diane McGuinness examined the document above and her comments follow:
1) You cannot compare a programme that teaches children 1-to-1 for up to 80 hours, with a group of children that had no individual tuition, and certainly NOT 80 hours worth. This means that in most cases, the so-called "control" group is not a control group at all - it is simply the kids left in the classroom. For RR results to be considered valid, these two groups must receive the same tutoring time using TWO different methods. Otherwise, all this proves is the one-to-one tutoring is better than classroom teaching. I note that in some instances the claim is they did have a proper control group, but one would have to read the original paper and not a brief summary to find out.
2) All studies "published" by the organization that is promoting RR (I.O.E.) are also invalid, or at least suspect, no matter what they find.
3) I could find no study that used a REAL synthetic phonics programme for the same number of hours one-to-one, as the RR comparison group received. But I may be wrong. I would have to read them in the original.
4). There is the continual problem that they fudge their data over and over again, eliminating about 40% of the children from the original "experimental group" for failure to progress, and then not mentioning it. You can only see this in their tables and not in the text. In order to make this point stick, one would have to read each of these studies in their original form, and not in these truncated versions. So reading this review is not helpful in pinpointing what really happened. The definitive studies which point this out, are on the list of studies they provide. Several large, well-controlled survey studies are discussed in my book: Why Children Can't Read. These find little to no effect, and/or major design flaws in the research - one consistent one is dismissing so many children from the study. .
5). There is also a major question that I would like answered, and that is - when children begin with a good synthetic phonics programme, WHY THEN are they shifted to a programme (RR) which contradicts everything the children have been taught so far? Surely the REAL test for what works is one-to-one teaching with the same programme they were being taught. If they get JP/PhonoGraphix (Bristol schools) why then, don't they get one-to-one tutoring using these programmes?? What would happen if they did? It would be FAR FAR cheaper to do it this way. So what is the problem?
6). Another point is what happens when children DO NOT get exposed to RR, but get a good programme from the start. One should really compare the data from children taught properly in the first place to the RR claims. These are the data I presented at the 2007 RRF conference (see http://www.rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?t=3785
), and this includes just about everyone's programme except for Ruth Miskin's.
A large number of these studies have nothing to do with Reading Recovery at all, though the title of this paper indicates that EVERY study is about RR. All these studies must be dismissed for lack of relevance. Also, I note in reading through these again, that some of the studies (those I review in my book) had a different focus than the writer of this review claims - so this is misleading at best. The writer of this review is an employee of the IOE. This mini-review has no "status" i.e. it is not an independent analysis carried out by someone who has no vested interest in the outcome.
OUP's Project X CODE intervention programme for Y2-4 Wave 2 or ''lighter touch’ Wave 3 support''.
With its superficial and 'embedded' phonics content, miscue analysis assessment, inclusion of pseudo words (some with illegal spellings) and highly illustrated, text-lite readers, CODE, cynics would say, seems to have been designed from its inception to appeal to SENCos and teachers who are reluctant to change from the mixed method-style interventions with which they are familiar. A synthetic phonics expert said that in Project X CODE, 'the phonics is much too simple and slowly taught and loads of time is wasted on comprehension for children whose language comprehension is fine'.
CODE is NOT included in the DfE's synthetic phonics match-funding catalogue, perhaps because it doesn't meet the criteria for a systematic synthetic phonics programme. Caution -don't confuse Project X CODE with Project X Phonics, which IS in the DfE catalogue.
In a publicity flyer for the programme, OUP said, ''Project X CODE was trialled with 61 children in Years 1 to 4 in 11 schools in 8 local authorities in 2012. After only 2½ months of support, they had made an average of 8 months of progress on a standardised reading test'' The test used was the PERA test, standardised for 'Reception,Years 1 and 2'. The actual report says that some children in the trial, ''fell outside the age range within which standardised scores could be calculated''. The figures given in the report show that nearly half (29) of the children in the trial were in Years 3 and 4.
The researcher, who analysed the results and wrote the report, dismissed the trial's lack of a randomised control design because she says an RCT would not, ''give sufficient detail of local conditions or give information about how the intervention worked'' (p5) Hence the reason why the majority of the report consists of non-scientific qualitative data (description, views and opinions). The researcher admits, ''It is well established that interventions may have a short term affect because they are new and all those involved have much invested in the programme.Their very newness provides a motivation to teachers and pupils''(p4). Her candid assessment of CODE's possible limitations may be to forestall criticism when the claimed meagre gains 'wash out'.
For Prof.Diane McGuinness's damning critique of the CODE research http://www.rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5467.
The Catch up Literacy programme is recommended as a Wave 2 literacy intervention to 'layer' with Reading Recovery. http://www.catchup.org.uk/CatchUpLiteracy/IntroducingCatchUpLiteracy.aspx '(T)he clearest
evidence of the success of the Catch Up Programme is the marked
improvement in attitude to reading shown by the children'. Catch Up Literacy is based on the same multi-cueing principles as Reading Recovery . A comparison of the recommendations of the Rose Report and Catch Up programme training: http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID=185&n_issueNumber=60
Better Reading Partnership was ''developed by Bradford Local Education Authority (LEA) in 1996 and is based on the Reading Recovery Programme'... 'The reading partner notes the child's use of the three BRP reading strategies: grapho-phonic (visual), syntactic (structure) and semantic (meaning). Weaknesses are addressed through prompts: "Does that look right?", "Does that sound right?", and "Does that make sense?" (Dunford. LiteracyTrust). This Wave 2 intervention programme is recommended for 'layering' with Reading Recovery.
Pearson-Heinemann 'Rapid Reading' KS2 Wave 3 intervention http://www.pearsonschoolsandfecolleges.co.uk/Primary/Literacy/AllLiteracyresources/RapidReading/RapidReading.aspx
The series editors, Dee Reid and Diana Bentley, also devised the 'Catch Up' programme -see above.
Pearson publish packs of Reading Recovery whole language readers through their Heinemann imprint http://www.pearsonschoolsandfecolleges.co.uk/Primary/Literacy/SpecialNeedsandStrugglingLearners/ReadingRecovery/ReadingRecovery.aspx
Pearson also have many NON-decodable books for beginning readers as part of their Bug Club, ostensibly 'for further practice and enjoyment'.
http://www.readingquest.org.uk/ ''Reading Quest is inspired by Marie Clay’s Reading Recovery programme''
Fischer Family Trust (FFT) Wave 3. www.fischertrust.org/lit_wave_3.aspx Another programme based on Reading Recovery principles and recommended for 'layering' with Reading Recovery.
R + P interventions (reading instruction based on Reading Recovery + phonological awareness training)
Sound Linkage. Peter Hatcher. A 'phonological awareness training' programme where children are trained to manipulate sounds in words orally (see method 3 for discussion of phonological awareness training) and designed to be used alongside reading instruction based on the Reading Recovery approach. ''In Hatcher's own work, he has incorporated Sound Linkage into the Marie Clay Reading Recovery framework'' (The Study of Dyslexia. p120)
The North Yorks Reading Intervention Project: ''In the R+P intervention study reported here, 28% of the 20-week and 21% of the 10-week Intervention group had standard scores below 80 at the end of the intervention.. Moreover, children varied in their responsiveness to the teaching they received and about a quarter could be defined as treatment 'non-responders''
Phonology with Reading programme (Nuffield Foundation.Language4Reading) was a research project using an R+P intervention with at-risk children. It combined Jolly Phonics materials (for teaching 36 GPCs over 20 weeks) with 'oral phonological awareness' exercises (Hatcher's Sound Linkage), plus 'direct teaching in [global] sight word recognition' and immediate reading practice using real books, levelled using Hatcher's whole language banding system. ''The Teaching Assistant monitored the child’s reading ability by taking a running record of the child reading a book at the instructional level in each individual session. One new book was introduced per session, which the child attempted to read independently, before finishing off with guided reading of the new book''. The resulting research paper by Bowyer-Crane et al (2007) revealed that, 'At the end of the intervention, more than 50% of at-risk children remain in need of literacy support'
N.B. the actual Jolly Phonics programme teaches a Basic Code of 42 GPCs over 7 weeks -> 1 term, with phonically decodable words and sentences provided for reading practice in order to avoid needing multiple decoding strategies and global sight word memorisation.
A version of the R+P Phonology with Reading programme -see above, was used in a study for children with Down Syndrome (Kelly Burgoyne et al) ‘'The Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome combines reading and language instruction in daily teaching sessions that are designed to meet the particular learning needs of children with Down syndrome. It incorporates work on letter knowledge, phonological awareness, whole word and book reading''.
''After 40 weeks of intervention, the intervention group remained numerically ahead of the control group on most key outcome measures; but these differences were not significant''
In contrast, as a result of her own extensive experience and research, a highly experienced educational psychologist recommends using a systematic synthetic phonics programme with children with Down syndrome. This EP comments, ''Of course we would not deny oral language development work with any children with global learning difficulties, but where we differ would be that we would start with phonics and try to establish phonics as primary strategy for reading, whereas this new initiative seems to be just a re-hash of oral language with a searchlights type approach''.
Undaunted by the lack of
good results when using an intervention in which the 'reading strand' consists of an R+P approach , researchers used this style of intervention again in a study with children 'at risk for dyslexia'. In the description of the intervention it says: ‘’In all reading activities, phonic decoding is encouraged as the primary strategy for reading unknown words; other strategies (e.g. use of context and pictures) are also taught’’ (italics added)
Study's conclusion ''This new intervention was theoretically motivated and based on previous successful interventions (sic), yet failed to show reliable effects on language and literacy measures following a rigorous evaluation''.
For a list of unnecessary and unhelpful content to avoid in any dyslexia / reading intervention / basic skills programme -See What NOT to do
THRASS -now http://www.englishphonicschart.com/ Programme developer Alan Davies stated that '(T)here is no need to look for a new model
of early reading to replace the ‘Searchlights’ model...It is wrong
to believe that synthetic phonics is the ‘best route to becoming skilled
readers’, as stated in Jim’s report'... 'Parents need to understand and use four 'searchlights' for reading with their children: a 'Word Recognition Searchlight', a 'Phonics Searchlight', a 'Context Searchlight' and a 'Grammar Searchlight', as set out in the National Literacy Strategy that the UK Government abandoned in 2005. The Government's new synthetic phonics programme, 'Letters and Sounds', focuses on the 'Phonics Searchlight', an approach which is inadequate for both parents and young children’ (THRASS press release Jan 08) ''The best phonics method is not solely Synthetic Phonics (as championed by British Prime Minister David Cameron) but Analytic AND Synthetic phonics, AnaSynth Phonics (a.k.a. Keyword Phonics), starting with pre-school children discussing the pictures, words and text in books, with their parents, grandparents and nursery teachers, giving them the opportunity to read more and more words by sight before they start formal schooling'' (H. Davies)
For details of high quality synthetic phonics programmes see- Resources 10
Bands for Guided Reading by Bickler, Baker and Hobsbaum, produced
by the UK Reading Recovery National Network. ''Designed to help teachers to audit,
organise and supplement a school's existing sets of reading materials at Key Stage 1'. Reading Recovery's Bookbands / Cliff Moon's Individualised Reading / Hatcher's Graded booklist / Nelson Thornes PM Books and the Catch Up Literacy booklist are all book leveling schemes based on the whole language notion of early reading - that is, beginners, or those requiring remedial intervention, need to use globally memorised sight words, initial letter/s, pictures and context clues to 'read'. In these schemes, books are leveled according to number of words on a line, the number of lines on a page, number of high frequency words used and the degree of repetition, NOT on the decodability of the text. For example, books in Pink Bookband (recommended for children aged 4-5), 'usually have no more than 10 pages with up to 5 words on a page' (ReadingChest/bookbands) ''At level 1 children master a growing number of high frequency words and look for meaning from a close match of words and pictures'' (PM Books)
What works for pupils with literacy difficulties: the effectiveness of intervention schemes.
Greg Brooks. Pub. The Dyslexia-SpLD Trust. 4th edition. 2013 http://www.interventionsforliteracy.org.uk/widgets_GregBrooks/What_works_for_children_fourth_ed.pdf
This publication, ''is a comparison of a collection of self reported studies on programmes used to remediate reading difficulties. There is no control over the quality of the research or the accuracy of the data. Inclusion of 'studies' is completely random, depending as it does, on the right people seeing the right 'evidence call' in the right publications, at the right moment'' (maizieD)
Box Dictations. Recommended by a 'specialist TA holding the 'Hornsby Diploma in SpLD': www.crossboweducation.com/box_dictations.htm 'Box dictations are an effective way of providing visual support for spelling for children (and adults) who experience the common dyslexia-related problem of failing to map the sounds of letters onto their shapes'
Sightword Spelling Game. Crossbow Education. www.crossboweducation.com/Sight_words.htm
www.synthetic-phonics.com The Direct Learning Synthetic Phonics Certificate course.
is affiliated to the International Reading Association and the United Kingdom
Literacy Association - both organisations are strongly wedded to whole-language
methods."Used in conjunction with the Whole Word method, synthetic phonics
is by far the best method for teachers and parents, leading to optimum learning
for children in reading and spelling." ''It is usual to include more exciting
words in beginner reading books, like ice-cream, milk-shake, elephant, dinosaur,
MacDonald's, airplane. Despite their length, these words are usually easy for
children to read because of the connections they stimulate! ''You will notice
them using other clues, like the pictures on the page, or guesses from the meaning
of the sentence, and it is good to encourage them to use these clues''.
Kumon English programme. www.kumon.co.uk ''Kumon’s English programme has a strong emphasis on phonics in the early levels, with an initial focus on the ‘synthetic’ learning of individual letter sounds and then the sounds of combinations of letters to make words. But Kumon doesn’t do this in isolation, successfully combining that approach with what is basically pretty close to an analytic element, together with a range of other strategies.The students move on from letter sounds to looking at common letter combinations and using rhyming skills to read and spell by analogy.'' (Kumon press release March 2006)
Steiner / Waldorf ''Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner..Anthroposophy is centred on beliefs in karma, reincarnation and advancing children's connection to the spirit world'' (The Observer. 13/05/12)
The Open Waldorf website is particularly informative about the Steiner stance on teaching reading:
‘Waldorf schools discourage children from reading before the age of 7. In fact, some experts in the Waldorf community consider this type of early development "a tragedy" Why is the Waldorf point of view so different than the bulk of academic research on this subject? The answer can be found in Waldorf's alternative theory of child development, which is based on Rudolf Steiner's clairvoyant insight on the human being. The timing of this proscription against reading corresponds with the "cutting of the teeth," which Steiner indicated as a developmental milestone, with the incarnation of the etheric body in children. Steiner says early reading will hinder the later spiritual development of children’
This is what Steiner himself had to say about the teaching of reading and writing in his book, ‘The Kingdom of Childhood’:
‘'People will object that the children then learn to read and write too late. That is said only because it is not known today how harmful it is when the children learn to read and write too soon. It is a very bad thing to be able to write early. Reading and writing as we have them today are really not suited to the human being till a later age - the eleventh or twelfth year - and the more a child is blessed with not being able to read and write well before this age, the better it is for the later years of life. A child who cannot write properly at thirteen or fourteen (I can speak out of my own experience because I could not do it at that age) is not so hindered for later spiritual development as one who early, at seven or eight years can already read and write perfectly’'.
Dr. Richard House was a leading figure in the Open EYE early years anti-phonics campaign. More recently he took a major role in setting up http://www.earlychildhoodaction.com/ He is a Steiner-trained class and kindergarten teacher.
Steiner educationalists believe that the early development of intellectual abilities 'is a ‘negative development …a tragedy’. They say that teaching reading and writing before the 'cutting of teeth' around the age of seven, 'damages the etheric body', and triggers, 'cristallization processes, leading to eventual precocious sclerosis processes later on in life’ (http://www.ime.usp.br/~vwsetzer/reading.html)
Dr. House appears to agree with this mumbo-jumbo. On the subject of children starting 'formal schooling' before the age of six, he says, ''(T)he evidence is now quite overwhelming that such an early introduction to institutional learning is not only quite unnecessary for the vast majority of children, but can actually cause major developmental harm, and at worst a shortened life-span....Young children's "runaway" intellect actually needs to be slowed down in the early years if they are not to risk growing up in an intellectually unbalanced way, with possible life-long negative health effects" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18084204
Research by Steiner advocate Dr.Sebastian Suggate claims to show, 'that teaching children to read from age five is not likely to make that child any more successful at reading than a child who learns reading later, from age seven'. http://www.otago.ac.nz/news/news/otago006408.html
UK educational psychologist, John Noble, commented on Suggate's study: ''All state educated children in NZ are first taught by the language based methods of Marie Clay which are akin to Reading Recovery Methods used here. Using a picture vocabulary test to assess 'receptive vocabulary' as one of his 'controls', the study compared the later reading comprehension scores of about 50 children at 11 and 12 attending Steiner Schools (which also stress the importance of language methods) and State Schools. No differences were found at 11 and 12. This study has absolutely no implications whatsoever for the first teaching of reading in the UK using synthetic phonics, because no such comparison was included in the Otago study. After working in NZ a couple of streets away from Otago University and having assessed some dreadful cases of all round literacy skills failure in the 2 Steiner Schools sampled in this study, as well as witnessed similarly appalling cases of reading and spelling failure in NZ state schools, I think we need to advise great caution in this country about proposals about precipitous changes in the timing of first literacy teaching derivable from this amateurish bit of research nonsense from NZ''
Blogger, Simon Webb, also commented on Suggate's research:''Another point to remember is that this is not exactly an unbiased piece of work. Sebastian Sugatte was for years a leading light in the students' Anthroposophical Society at the university. He has always been a dedicated supporter of Rudolf Steiner's theories about education. In other words, he did not embark on this research in order to test whether children did better if they delayed learning to read until seven. Rather, he believed this firmly and went looking for evidence to support the hypothesis. That this is so can be seen from the wording he uses. He talks of the age at which children are, "forced to start reading"! How's that for objective, academic language? There is a lack of candour on the part of the man, as can be seen in this quotation from the New Zealand Herald. He is speaking of the apparent discovery that children learning later were not disadvantaged, "Dr Suggate said he was surprised by his own findings that this was not the case." For a dedicated anthroposophist to make such a statement with a straight face suggests strongly that there is an element of deliberate deception involved''.
'There’s a psychological phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance which is the tendency to filter out information that conflicts with what one already believes, in an effort to ignore that information and reinforce one's beliefs. In the context of intervention, it is uncomfortable to conclude that one put in a lot of time and money into a treatment that has not worked. There is likely, therefore, to be a cognitive bias to paint as bright a picture as possible. This seems supported by studies that find a mismatch between people’s perceptions of efficacy and objective evidence.'' (Prof Bishop.BDA 2008. ppt)
''The simple believeth every word'' Proverbs 14:15