Only in England, Pity
Of course, there is no such thing as a silver bullet in education, but systematic phonics comes pretty close. Doubters ought to read this report by Dr. Marlynne Grant, an English educational psychologist. Dr. Grant is actually reporting on two studies. The first is a two-year study of "reception" (our JK) children who were taught to read using systematic phonics. At the end of two years, when they were just six years old, all 30 children were fluent readers who could read well above grade level - despite being children with a high level of social and special education need, including ESL. The second study is a larger longitudinal study following up on a much-earlier cohort of 700 disadvantaged children who had been taught to read using systematic phonics but then received no special treatment. At the end of grade 8, the group as a whole could read significantly above the national average and not one child had difficulties with literacy.
From the study's conclusions: "These studies with Reception and Year 1 children demonstrate that teaching with a government-approved systematic, synthetic phonics programme can be a brilliant opportunity to drive up reading standards. There is no evidence to indicate that such phonics teaching is a 'straightjacket' or that it will 'switch off' children from a love of reading books. Nor is there any evidence that such teaching damages children's development. On the contrary, children taught in this way pick up reading quickly. They become enthusiastic and confident in their reading and are more able and willing to engage in the world of reading around them. Teaching in this way also appears to be more powerful than potential barriers to learning experienced by vulnerable groups such as boys, children with summer birthdays, children entitled to free school meals, travellers and children with English as an additional language. Children who are slow-to-start, for a variety of possible reasons, can be identified early and are responsive to catch-up intervention in small groups, also using synthetic phonics teaching. These early strugglers were shown to close the gap with both reading and spelling."
Possibly even more exciting, the boys did as well as the girls and there were no dyslexic students. These findings suggest that Ontario's gender gap and the high incidence of learning disabilities are an artifact of the way reading is taught. H/T SL