As I write this post, well-known figure, Dylan Wiliams is defending the continuation of, and up-scaling of, Reading Recovery
via Twitter to the consternation of others across the world with various roles and responsibilities.
Why is this so problematic?Reading Recovery
is known to be a whole-language programme that instructs weak readers to read books that they cannot read without the need to apply what's called 'multi-cueing' for word-guessing - that is, to lift the words off the page using strategies such as guessing from the picture and context cues. Many people raise grave worries about research on Reading Recovery
because of issues such as lack of independence of the researchers and/or funders of the research, or missing statistics for large numbers of children. IFERI provides a number of articles and reviews by researchers meticulously looking at the figures and circumstances of various RR research projects:viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1054viewtopic.php?f=2&t=861
Dr Kerry Hempenstall writes about 'multi-cueing' for lifting the words off the page via his blog:https://www.nifdi.org/resources/hempens ... er-go-away
The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away?
Published: Wednesday, 06 November 2013
Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Senior Industry Fellow, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.
First published Nov 28 2012, updated 29/10/2017
The three-cueing system is well-known to most teachers. What is less well known is that it arose not as a result of advances in knowledge concerning reading development, but rather in response to an unfounded but passionately held belief. Despite its largely uncritical acceptance by many within the education field, it has never been shown to have utility, and in fact, it is predicated upon notions of reading development that have been demonstrated to be false. Thus, as a basis for decisions about reading instruction, it is likely to mislead teachers and hinder students’ progress.“The 3-cueing approach is a microcosm of the culture of education. It didn’t develop because teachers lack integrity, commitment, motivation or intelligence. It developed because they were poorly trained and advised. They didn’t know the relevant science or had been convinced it was irrelevant. Lacking this foundation, no such group could have discovered how reading works and how children learn.”
(Seidenberg, 2017, p.304)
In the Primary National Strategy
(2006a), the three cueing model (known in England as the Searchlight model) was finally and explicitly discredited. Instead, the Strategy acknowledged the value of addressing decoding and comprehension separately in the initial stage of reading instruction. “ … attention should be focused on decoding words rather than the use of unreliable strategies such as looking at the illustrations, rereading the sentence, saying the first sound or guessing what might ‘fit’. Although these strategies might result in intelligent guesses, none of them is sufficiently reliable and they can hinder the acquisition and application of phonic knowledge and skills, prolonging the word recognition process and lessening children’s overall understanding. Children who routinely adopt alternative cues for reading unknown words, instead of learning to decode them, later find themselves stranded when texts become more demanding and meanings less predictable. The best route for children to become fluent and independent readers lies in securing phonics as the prime approach to decoding unfamiliar words"
(Primary National Strategy
, 2006b, p.9).Primary National Strategy
(2006b). Phonics and early reading: An overview for headteachers, literacy leaders and teachers in schools, and managers and practitioners in Early Years settings. UK: Department of Education and Skills. Retrieved from http://studylib.net/doc/8836766/phonics ... n-overview “Phonic work is best understood as a body of knowledge and skills about how the alphabet works, rather than one of a range of optional 'methods' or 'strategies' for teaching children how to read. For example, phonic programmes should not encourage children to guess words from non-phonic clues such as pictures before applying phonic knowledge and skills.”
Department for Education (2010). Phonics teaching materials: Core criteria and the self-assessment process. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.u ... rocess.pdf
I am personally contacted by people in England reporting to me that Reading Recovery
is the dominant training teachers are encouraged to undertake in various local authorities in England. The ethos underpinning Reading Recovery
is in direct contrast to the official guidance in England encapsulated in the National Curriculum For English for Key Stages 1 and 2
This is a very serious state of affairs. What are teachers to provide for their practice? Whole language Reading Recovery
or Government guidance embedded in statute of 'systematic synthetic phonics' which does not include multi-cueing word-guessing? At the heart of this issue is that children's reading instruction clearly remains based on 'chance'
- even in England. And, to be honest, teachers and parents should be pretty outraged to think this is not being addressed transparently by Ofsted and by the DfE because it is 'in plain sight' and 'on their watch'.
It suggests that the weakest readers in Year One will experience some level of systematic synthetic phonics in their mainstream provision which is undermined by Reading Recovery's multi-cueing word-guessing if that is their reading intervention. Intervention, however, should be in line with the mainstream teaching. It is well-noted in the body of research findings that it is the WEAKEST readers who manifest word-guessing - a very damaging reading habit and this contradictory state of affairs should not be tolerated in any professional development for teachers and teaching assistants.
In England in 2009, the parliamentary Science and Technology select committee investigated the, then, Government's roll out of Reading Recovery
under the Every Child a Reader
umbrella around the same time (2005-6) that Sir Jim Rose was conducting his independent national review commissioned by the same Government. The Government accepted the Rose recommendations and the Rose Report is now internationally renowned. I wrote about the criticism clearly outlined by the select committee - and I provide a link now to evidence that Reading Recovery
is acknowledged to be based on 'whole language':https://phonicsinternational.com/forum/ ... .php?t=586
I think this simultaneous promotion of Reading Recovery
by large institutions (such as the Institute of Education) and rich business organisations (such as KPMG) and Dylan Wiliam and others is very, very worrying with teachers' professional understanding at stake but also children's educational and mental health at stake. How can this not be considered enormously serious and unsatisfactory - it is unaccountable.We should not, and cannot, continue like this without someone with great authority grasping the nettle firmly and publicly. This brings to mind the concept of Orwell's 'doublespeak'. See the definition in the Wikipedia link below:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublespeak
What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it; and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.
In his essay "Politics and the English Language", George Orwell observes that political language serves to distort and obfuscate reality. Orwell’s description of political speech is extremely similar to the contemporary definition of doublespeak:
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible … Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness … the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Where there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, ...
Coincidentally, I have to admit that I just suggested to Dylan Wiliam via Twitter that he is 'defending the indefensible
' - and then I note this notion is included in the description of 'doublespeak'.
But then, are Ofsted and the DfE, along with others, burying their heads in the sand and betraying our teachers and children?