The South Carolina Department of Education distributed an infographic on the “science of reading” (SOR). The flyer includes a number of mischaracterizations and misinformation, which is a common event since the SOR movement now drives new or revised reading legislation in 47 states (often emphasized strongly in Republican-led states along with CRT bans, curriculum gag orders, and book censorship).
This is a fact check for educators, elected officials, media, and the public interested in supporting effective and accurate information about students learning to read and teaching reading in SC.
What is the state of reading achievement in the US and SC?
FACT: Reading achievement in the US and most states has remained essentially flat for three-plus decades. There is no credible evidence of a reading crisis, although historical negligence to serve marginalized populations of students is supported by the data.
Was there a Mississippi “miracle”?
FACT: The Mississippi “miracle” is a manufactured narrative created by the media. MS has had steady increases in early reading achievement for over three decades, well before any SOR legislation or LETRS training. MS also has a very high rate of grade retention and flat grade 8 achievement despite the grade 4 increases, suggesting that the early score increases are a “mirage.” There simply is no scientific evidence of a MS “miracle” or that implementing SOR and LETRS training increased reading achievement.
Recommended: A Critical Examination of Grade Retention as Reading Policy (OEA)
Does LETRS training improve reading instruction or reading achievement?
FACT: There is no scientific evidence that LETRS training is effective for increasing student reading achievement. Teachers seem to feel more confident after the training, however.
LETRS [access materials HERE]
Hoffman, J.V., Hikida, M., & Sailors, M. (2020). Contesting science that silences: Amplifying equity, agency, and design research in literacy teacher preparation. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S255–S266. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.353
Research Roundup: LETRS (PDF in link above also)
Have whole language, balanced literacy, and three cueing failed to provide students with adequate reading instruction?
FACT: There is no research showing WL, BL, or three cueing (multiple cueing) have failed students. WL and BL do include phonics and skills instruction, and achievement over many decades has remained flat regardless of the teaching theory or reading program being implemented. Multiple cueing is a research-supported practice, but political attacks on three cueing are based in caricature.
Recommended: Thomas, P.L. (2022). The Science of Reading movement: The never-ending debate and the need for a different approach to reading instruction. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/science-of-reading
Multiple Cueing Approaches [access materials HERE]
Compton-Lilly, C.F., Mitra, A., Guay, M., & Spence, L.K. (2020). A confluence of complexity: Intersections among reading theory, neuroscience, and observations of young readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S185-S195. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.348
What is the value of the National Reading Panel (NRP) report?
FACT: The NRP report is now 20+ years old, and reading research has advanced beyond the report’s findings. The report also was underfunded and incomplete and should not be viewed as “settled” science. The media and political misrepresentation of the NRP report, however, continues to mislead; the report found systematic phonics instruction increases pronunciation of nonsense words in grade one, but does not improve comprehension. As well, the report found systematic phonics was no more effective than WL or BL.
National Reading Panel
Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read. (2000, April). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/nrp/smallbook
Reports of the subgroups. (2000, April). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/nrp/report
Phonemic awareness. (n.d.). Big ideas in beginning reading. Center on Teaching and Learning. Oregon University. http://reading.uoregon.edu/big_ideas/pa/pa_what.php
Stephens, D. (2008). The federal government wants me to teach what? A teacher’s guide to the National Reading Panel report. National Council of Teachers of English. https://cdn.ncte.org/nctefiles/resources/newsletter/magazine/nrp_report.pdf
Shanahan, T. (2005). The National Reading Panel report: Practical advice for teachers. Learning Point Associates. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED489535.pdf
Shanahan, T. (2003, April). Research-based reading instruction: Myths about the National Reading Panel report. The Reading Teacher, 56(7), 646-655.
Bowers, J.S. (2020).Reconsidering the evidence that systematic phonics is more effective than alternative methods of reading instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 32(2020), 681-705. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10648-019-09515-y
Collet, V.S., Penaflorida, J., French, S., Allred, J., Greiner, A., & Chen, J. (2021). Red flags, red herrings, and common ground: An expert study in response to state reading policy. Educational Considerations, 47(1). https://doi.org/10.4148/0146-9282.2241
Garan, E.M. (2001, March). Beyond smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(7), 500-506. https://doi.org/10.1177/003172170108200705
Seidenberg, M.S., Cooper Borkenhagen, M., & Kearns, D.M. (2020). Lost in translation? Challenges in connecting reading science and educational practice. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S119–S130. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.341
Yatvin, J. (2002). Babes in the woods: The wanderings of the National Reading Panel. The Phi Delta Kappan, 83(5), 364-369
Yatvin, J. (2003). I told you so! The misinterpretation and misuse of The National Reading Panel Report. Education Week, 22(33), 44-45, 56. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2003/04/30/33yatvin.h22.html
Yatvin, J. (2000). Minority view. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/nrp/Documents/minorityView.pdf
What is the “SOR”science of reading”?
FACT: Starting as a media movement supported by state-based dyslexia organizations, SOR has become a political movement due to its direct impact on state legislation. That movement has misrepresented the reading sciences. Further, SOR has increasingly become a marketing label for reading materials and programs, often identified as “structured literacy,” which can be scripted programs that de-professionalize teachers and impose a one-size-fits-all approach to phonics on all students.
Note: Mark Seidenberg, a key neuroscientist cited by the “science of reading” movement, offers a serious caution about the value of brain research: “Our concern is that although reading science is highly relevant to learning in the classroom setting, it does not yet speak to what to teach, when, how, and for whom at a level that is useful for teachers [emphasis added]” (RRQ 441).
Recommended: SOR Movement Maintains Conservative Assault on Teachers and Public Schools
Simple View of Reading (SVR) and Structured Literacy [access materials HERE]
Compton-Lilly, C.F., Mitra, A., Guay, M., & Spence, L.K. (2020). A confluence of complexity: Intersections among reading theory, neuroscience, and observations of young readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S185-S195. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.348
Duke, N.K. & Cartwright, K.B. (2021). The science of reading progresses: Communicating advances beyond the simple view of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S25-S44. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.411
Filderman, M.J., Austin, C.R., Boucher, A.N., O’Donnell, K., & Swanson, E.A. (2022). A meta-analysis of the effects of reading comprehension interventions on the reading comprehension outcomes of struggling readers in third through 12th grades. Exceptional Children, 88(2), 163-184. https://doi.org/10.1177/00144029211050860
Barber, A.T., Cartwright, K.B., Hancock, G.R., & Klauda, S.L. (2021). Beyond the simple view of reading: The role of executive functions in emergent bilinguals’ and English monolinguals’ reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S45-S64. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.385
Cervetti, G.N., Pearson, P.D., Palincsar, A.S., Afflerbach, P., Kendeou, P., Biancarosa, G., Higgs, J., Fitzgerald, M.S., & Berman, A.I. (2020). How the reading for understanding initiative’s research complicates the simple view of reading invoked in the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S161-S172. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.343
Brain Research [access materials HERE]
Seidenberg, M.S., Cooper Borkenhagen, M., & Kearns, D.M. (2020). Lost in translation? Challenges in connecting reading science and educational practice. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S119-S130. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.341
Yaden, D.B., Reinking, D., & Smagorinsky, P. (2021). The trouble with binaries: A perspective on the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S119-S129. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.402
A Critical Examination of Grade Retention as Reading Policy (OEA)
Mississippi Miracle, Mirage, or Political Lie?: 2019 NAEP Reading Scores Prompt Questions, Not Answers [Update 7 December 2022]
Reading Science Resources for Educators (and Journalists): Science of Reading Edition [UPDATED]
The Negative Legislative Consequences of the SOR Media Story: An Open-Access Reader
Open Letter on Reading Legislation
Open Letter: S.418 Reading Bill in SC – Diane Stephens
Thomas, P.L. (2022). The Science of Reading movement: The never-ending debate and the need for a different approach to reading instruction. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/science-of-reading