"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Reading "Research" Presents More Questions Than Answers

Stephen Krashen recently noted that a "group called The74’s posted an outrageous but slick-looking column":  “Curriculum case study: How grade-level literacy doubled in just two months in a rural Tennessee District.” 

Dr. Krashen posted this comment following the propaganda piece:

Some questions and a comment


“Grade level literacy doubled in just two months”  meant that in the beginning of the year, seven first graders were reading at “grade level” and two months later 15 were. Thus, the spectacular headline is based on the improvement of only eight children.  What about the other children?


The usual definition of grade level is the 50th percentile. Did children move from the 49th to the 51st percentile or from the 5th to the 95th? We have no idea.


We also don’t know what kind of tests were used.  We are told only that it is based on the district’s “universal screener.” It has been established that instruction based on the “science of reading” involves heavy phonics. Studies show that heavy phonics results in better pronunciation of words  presented on a list but not in improved comprehension.

Only one case history is provided, a first grader who was “really behind and is now writing stories.” Is she the only one? 

Strong claims about “unprecedented rates of reading growth” should be made of sterner stuff. 


Stephen Krashen

Prof Emeritus, University of Southern California


The effect of heavy phonics: 

Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive reading instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74. https://tinyurl.com/jc6x8mk

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