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Bush Adviser Casts Doubt on the Benefits of Phonics Program
The New York Times ^ | January 24, 2003 | By ABBY GOODNOUGH

Posted on 01/24/2003 9:52:14 AM PST by Uncle Bill

Bush Adviser Casts Doubt on the Benefits of Phonics Program

The New York Times
By Abby Goodnough
January 24, 2003

resident Bush's top adviser on reading said yesterday that the citywide phonics program unveiled this week by Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein had no proven track record, suggesting that its adoption could cost the city millions of dollars in federal aid.

The adviser, G. Reid Lyon, a researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said there is no scientific evidence that the curriculum, called Month by Month Phonics, is effective with students who struggle academically.

"We can find no published research indicating that this program has been tested with well-defined groups of kids and shown to be effective," Dr. Lyon said. "And clearly one would want to know those kinds of details before incorporating any program into use."

Under the new federal education law, No Child Left Behind, school districts can receive federal funds for reading instruction only if their curriculum is scientifically proven to improve children's reading skills. Each state must submit a grant application detailing the programs and strategies it intends to use to improve reading scores; New York has not yet filed its application with the federal Department of Education.

New York State is scheduled to receive about $70 million of the total $900 million that the law provides for reading instruction this year. And much of the state's allotment would go to New York City, the nation's largest school system.

A federal rejection of the city's program would be a major embarrassment for Mr. Klein and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who are imposing uniform reading and math curriculums on all but the top-performing city schools as part of an overhaul of the school system.

Mr. Klein announced on Tuesday that Month by Month Phonics would be a cornerstone of the reading curriculum for students in kindergarten through third grade. In addition to phonics, students will practice reading and writing for 90 minutes a day using books from classroom libraries instead of basic readers.

But in assessing whether the overall curriculum qualifies for federal funds, the Bush administration will look especially hard at the phonics component. The No Child Left Behind law, which Dr. Lyon helped write, steers grant money toward programs that embrace explicit training in phonics.

Phonics instruction involves practicing the sounds that build words and matching them with letters. There is a longstanding and bitter debate over whether phonics instruction has more proven results than "whole language" teaching, which relies on stories to capture children's interest in reading and uses phonics secondarily. The program that Mr. Klein has in mind — Month by Month Phonics combined with using books — treads a cautious line between the two methods.

Dan Langan, a spokesman for the federal Education Department, said that Rod Paige, the education secretary, who is in charge of approving or rejecting states' reading grant applications, was enthusiastic about New York City's overall plans for improving student achievement.

"Secretary Paige has had very good conversations with both the mayor and the chancellor generally about No Child Left Behind and what they are doing to try to implement the law," Mr. Langan said.

New York State has until July to submit its application for reading funds, he said.

Diana Lam, New York City's deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, said yesterday that she chose Month by Month Phonics because she did not want a rigid approach to teaching phonics, which is what many better-known, more expensive phonics programs offer. Month by Month Phonics will cost about $4 million, she said, compared with about $20 million for the more scripted Open Court reading program, used in Los Angeles.

Ms. Lam and other department officials said that test scores had risen in District 15 in Brooklyn and District 10 in the Bronx, which used Month by Month Phonics. "There's no reason for us to believe it's not aligned" with the No Child Left Behind law, she said.

Dr. Patricia Cunningham, one of the program's authors, said studies showed little difference between phonics programs, and that what was important was doing phonics instruction systematically as part of a broader program.

But Louisa Moats, who advises states on applications for federal reading instruction funds, predicted that Month by Month would not pass muster. "It's just not in line with what we know works," she said.


Education Bill Urges New Emphasis on Phonics


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: education; phonics

1 posted on 01/24/2003 9:52:14 AM PST by Uncle Bill
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To: Uncle Bill
Pardon me, but it was my understanding that the government schools turned away from phonics some years back for some unproven, liberal alternative and it was collossal failure with huge illiteracy rates. At least with phonics kids can learn to speak/spell out words. Someone tell me what the deal is? Maybe someone with a better understanding of education than myself?
2 posted on 01/24/2003 9:57:24 AM PST by KC_Conspirator
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To: Uncle Bill
How about that for a skewed headline.

"Bush Adviser Casts Doubt on the Benefits of Phonics Program"

It is ONLY this particular program that is in question, not phonics in general.

3 posted on 01/24/2003 9:58:14 AM PST by InspiredPath1
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To: KC_Conspirator
Apparently there are established phonics programs which have been tested and proven effective. This program being instituted by New York apparently has NOT been tested and the administration questions it's validity.
4 posted on 01/24/2003 10:00:35 AM PST by InspiredPath1
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To: KC_Conspirator
You're right in that phonics was tossed out for whole language. Some areas in the USA have brought in a 1/2 and 1/2 of phonics/wl.

The public school kindergarten classroom I visited 8 years ago used whole language...what a joke, imo.

I also visited a private school using phonics...guess where my daughter attended kindergarten?

About 5 years ago on a 60 minutes type show, the level of success was documented contrasting phonics and whole language. Phonics won out big time.

5 posted on 01/24/2003 10:04:58 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: InspiredPath1
In our area there is a phonics program named Zoofonics. 1/2 whole language and 1/2 phonics. The reading rates of elementary students in my area are depressing.
6 posted on 01/24/2003 10:06:40 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: InspiredPath1
The adviser, G. Reid Lyon, a researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said there is no scientific evidence that the curriculum, called Month by Month Phonics, is effective with students who struggle academically.

Phonics instruction involves practicing the sounds that build words and matching them with letters. There is a longstanding and bitter debate over whether phonics instruction has more proven results than "whole language" teaching, which relies on stories to capture children's interest in reading and uses phonics secondarily. The program that Mr. Klein has in mind — Month by Month Phonics combined with using books — treads a cautious line between the two methods.

These two paragraphs pretty clearly define the problem. While the "whole language" approach is flawed at best for good students, as a parent of a one time special ed child, I can state without reservation, it is an unmitigated disaster for children with learning challenges.

7 posted on 01/24/2003 10:09:00 AM PST by gov_bean_ counter
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To: homeschool mama
Yes, "whole language". That is the failed program I was referring too. Did'nt this untested and unproven method originate in Sweden or something?
8 posted on 01/24/2003 10:09:08 AM PST by KC_Conspirator
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To: homeschool mama
Whole language has proved to be a crock, just like "invented" spelling. The teachers who have been trained to use whole language in ed schools aren't going to give up easily, however. They aren't "hooked on phonics."

People wonder why kids hate to read and why they act up in class. It's because a lot of these destructive reading and math programs frustrate them.
9 posted on 01/24/2003 10:09:25 AM PST by ladylib
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To: KC_Conspirator
Good thinkers are free thinkers and less easy to manipulate.

I am sorry but teaching reading is easy if you use the phonics method. Even when whole language is successful it doesn't prepare a kid for new words. I taught my kid to recognize the alphabet by the time he was 16 months old. We went right into phonics after that. Little bitty kids are capable of doing it, pre preschool even. Every parent should teach their kid how to read BEFORE kindergarten, imo. Then the schools can't mess 'em up.

And all the "readers" I've seen are BORING!!! My kid loves to read precisely because I never bored him with readers. There is a mountain of fantastic children's literature out there. No one should ever need stupid readers that ask stupid questions that supposedly get the child to "think." Kids brains are amazing little sponges and they all have a tremendous, natural love for life and learning. Give them quality material, present it in a logical manner, and success is easy. Bore or defeat them early and you may never capture their attention again. They will learn. The question is what will they learn?

10 posted on 01/24/2003 10:11:13 AM PST by RAT Patrol
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To: KC_Conspirator
You know, this hits close to home.

I have one son who is a remarkable reader, way ahead if his peers. My other, struggles everyday with reading. Both went through the same program...and it was phonics based.

After years of dealing with this exact issue, I think I can speak from a base of experience.

Phonics works with a majority of the kids in school. That is why it's utilized in the public school system. They have to produce the most benefit for each class. The problem comes with thosae who struggle with phonics....I call them "sight readers".

Some children, my son included, don't have brains which are wired to "assemble" words from their phonic pieces. They need to "recognise" each word as a whole and its meaning. In other words, the old memorization method. So we work on vocabulary memorization. A slower method, but working.

I don't know what the answer is for the public schools. They need to benefit the most kids with their programs, but the programs designed for kids who have trouble reading, are sorely lacking.

Oh, I should also say that the school district my kids attend is the top rated district in the state. It's just a function of how to benefit the maximum number of kids with the resources provided.

11 posted on 01/24/2003 10:13:19 AM PST by MarketR
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To: homeschool mama
They could just purchase "Hooked On Phonics" at about $150 a crack (and think of the discount if they paid to be able to copywrite! or bulk purchase!) Takes all the effort of turning on a cassette, and monitoring progress. Even a brain dead NEA retread could do it. And the good news is that the teacher would barely have to say a word. Hey, she might even learn to read herself!!!
12 posted on 01/24/2003 10:13:45 AM PST by widowithfoursons
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To: KC_Conspirator
I'm not sure of where it originated but it sure failed soooo many students in America's govt schools.
13 posted on 01/24/2003 10:14:26 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: ladylib
BUMP!
14 posted on 01/24/2003 10:14:50 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: RAT Patrol
Traditional classrooms only offer the 'cookie cutter' approach to learning.
15 posted on 01/24/2003 10:16:00 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: InspiredPath1
How about that for a skewed headline.

I noticed that too. Typical New York Times misinformation.

16 posted on 01/24/2003 10:16:54 AM PST by B Knotts
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To: widowithfoursons
Ha! There ya go!
17 posted on 01/24/2003 10:17:00 AM PST by homeschool mama
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To: KC_Conspirator
I'm not an education expert, but I can go by on what I have experienced.

I was taught by my mother and then school the phonics method. In school we had to wear these huge headphones and listen to the lesson plan and then follow along. 6 of us could go through the short lesson at a time.

By the time I hit the third grade I was reading at college level and writing at a high school senior level.

My younger sister was taught that whole language crap and suffered for it.
18 posted on 01/24/2003 10:28:12 AM PST by zx2dragon
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To: homeschool mama
We use Samuel L. Blumenfeld's 'How To Tutor'. And use 'workbooks' to supplement.

Our 15 y.o. reads at MY age level.(really, really old.) Our 8 y.o reads ABOVE her 5th grade sister's level. And the 5th grader is 'slow' because she has the mindset that if she doesn't think she has it 'right' she isn't gonna say/do something to 'prove' it. LOL! Our twins (7 y.o.) are something quite 'unique'. Quite the 'bang-your-head-against-the-wall' experience. I'm told it's normal since twins are so 'wrapped up tight' with each other.

19 posted on 01/24/2003 10:31:28 AM PST by mommadooo3
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To: Uncle Bill
Anything dreamt up by the good for nothing Klein deserves to be criticized. His claim to fame is trying to destroy Microsoft, how this makes him qualified to build a successful school system is beyond me.
20 posted on 01/24/2003 11:16:14 AM PST by OldFriend (SUPPORT PRESIDENT BUSH)
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To: Askel5
Bttt
21 posted on 01/26/2003 10:04:48 AM PST by Uncle Bill
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