October 23, 2006

Reading Recovery Tries to Cook the Books Again

In the Summer of 2001 Dame Marie Clay, creator of the New Zealand based Reading Recovery program, and her entourage came to the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, to speak with House Education Committee Staffer Bob Sweet. Her purpose was to ascertain whether Reading Recovery would be eligible for Reading First funding once the bill was passed. Bob explained to Ms. Clay that explicit, systematic phonics instruction had to be included in any program eligible for RF funding because it was one of the necessary key components of reading instruction that had been established through decades of carefully conducted quantitative research. ... He encouraged her to provide the leadership within the RR family to make the modifications necessary, and thus make RR eligible for RF funding consideration. With a stare as cold as ice, Marie Clay replied that RR would not be making any changes to their program; however, Mr. Sweet could be certain a new description of its components would be written in such a way as to bring it into compliance with the RF law. Momentarily dumbfounded, he maintained that Reading Recovery could not be eligible for RF funding without modification, and his initial estimation then still stands today.
By Nancay Salvato in the National Ledger.

That's the peferred way to bring your curriculum into compliance with the research, rewrite the "description of its components" to make it appear like it conforms. Here's the comical fruition (doc) of those efforts.

For those of you new to the reading wars, Reading Recovery is the ultra expensive program that uses predictible text, i.e., the stories are deliberately written so that they repeat many times certain words, phrases, or sentences, and have highly descriptive pictures, which kids use to guess the words based on these contextual clues. Phonics is thrown in as an afterthought; howeer, the phonics is neither systematic nor explicit in the manner contemplated by the research.

Engelmann has written about a demonstration that he did showing how confusing the approach is to naive kids:
We went into a first grade classroom where a teacher had worked on four different selections. Each had an illustration and the text. The kids could "read" all selections perfectly. We then switched the illustrations (paired them with different texts) and tested the kids. About half of the kids pointed to the words one at a time and, with great fidelity, recited the passage that was appropriate for the picture. In other words, half the kids didn't have the faintest idea of what reading was all about.
And, that would be the reason why Reading Recovery was excluded from reading First funding.


MikeZ said...

I just don't understand today's kids. If little J. S. Mill (among others) could read and speak Latin and Greek by age 5, I don't see why more of us can't do the same.

Anonymous said...

My mom had always bragged how she had taught me how to read before kindergarten using the look-say method. I remember doing phonics in school after I already knew how to read, and thought it was boring.

My daughter had Breakthrough to Literacy as the reading curriculum in kindergarten.

In first grade, she was placed in Reading Recovery, to my astonishment. The Reading Recovery people treated me like I was semi-literate. I asked them what I could be doing at home. They looked at me like I was crazy.

I ended up doing some research on my own, and discovered to my surprise, what my daughter needed was to have a phonics based approach to reading. So I ended up checking about a bunch of phonics based readers, and that did the trick.

1citizen said...

Funny you should mention the switching pictures exercise. 4-5 years ago, in a vain attempt to humiliate RR proponents in our school, I passed out the following brochure.


The mindless twits failed to appreciate my humor.