Year 1 phonics check: will it help or hinder students’ literacy?
by Brett Henebery
https://www.theeducatoronline.com/k12/n ... acy/264588
David Hornsby has been a teacher, principal, university lecturer, author and literacy consultant for 52 years. Hornsby is disturbed by the current push towards what he calls “robotic, mechanical, joyless, methodologies which are one-size-fits-all recipes for turning kids off learning”.
“One of the hardest things to understand is the recommendation of the synthetic phonics advocates to use the test at the end of Year 1,” Hornsby said.
“Why? As principal of a school, I insisted that assessment was a continuous process, not an event held on one day.”
Hornsby said that if teachers wait until the end of Year 1, “they have just wasted two years”.
“Teachers test phonics knowledge daily, from very early in the Prep year. If proponents of the phonics test would also like continuous assessment of phonics knowledge, why would they still insist on the test being used on one day toward the end of Year 1?” he said.
“It would only tell teachers what they already know from two years of testing.”
What this form of continuous assessment does not do, however, is inform the teacher of relative teaching effectiveness to teachers in like-schools. Literacy is so important, that understanding the bigger picture of teaching and learning effectiveness is central to raising standards everywhere. Any good teacher should want to know how well they can teach even if it means changes to their provision. That is the point we are at across the world where the English language is taught for reading and writing - we need to know the results of the teaching to inform us if improvements and/or changes would work better.
And this principal's lack of knowledge and understanding about the state of play of levels of literacy in Australia, and about what evidence-informed reading instruction requires, is positively chilling:
However, Meadowglen Primary School principal, Dr Loretta Piazza, is one principal who has serious misgivings about the plan.
“What Jennifer Buckingham is publicly advocating does not align with current Victorian Education Department policy regarding how we teach literacy,” Dr Piazza told The Educator.
Dr Piazza said that if Dr Buckingham’s thinking is permitted to take root, the nation faces “jeopardising years and years of wonderful and successful literacy teaching and learning” in its schools.
“Many principals are very concerned that the integrity of our work in literacy, which is based on evidence, strong research and proven practices, will be eroded if people like Jennifer Buckingham continue to be vocal in their views and provide counsel to the politicians,” she said.
“At the centre of reading and writing is ‘meaning’, which brings a richness and authenticity and demonstrates how teaching is truly a craft. This must be where we put our energy and refuse to be distracted by the purporters of synthetic phonics.”