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Reading Recovery: A Scientifically Based Analysis - page 14 / 21





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phonics. Phonics instruction improves reading ability more than non-phonics instruction

not only among beginning readers but also among normally progressing readers above

first grade and older readers with RD. In contrast, phonics instruction did not enhance

reading among low achieving older readers nor was phonics effective for teaching

spelling or teaching reading comprehension. This brings up a question of definition.

What constitutes reading? A list of words or reading for meaning and comprehension?

Whereas phonics instruction produced an effect size of d=.27 in 2nd through 6th grade,

fluency instruction produced an effect size of d=.47 and some forms of comprehension

strategy instruction produced effect sizes above d=.80. . An effect size of 1.0 indicates

that the treatment group mean was one standard deviation higher than the control group

mean while an effect size of 0 indicates that treatment and control group means were

identical. According to Cohen (1988), an effect size of 0.20 is considered small, an effect

size of 0.50 is moderate, and an effect size of 0.80 or above is large. Translated into

percentiles, d=.20 indicates that the treatment has moved the average child from 50th to

the 58th percentile; d-.50 indicates that the treatment has moved the average child to the

69th percentile; d->80 indicates that the treatment has moved the average child to the 79th

percentile. This suggests that phonics instruction must be coupled with other forms of

effective reading instruction in order to achieve maximum impact. Moderate to large

effect sizes indicated that phonics helped to prevent reading difficulties in beginners at

risk for developing reading problems. In fact, effects were significantly greater in first

graders at risk for future reading difficulties than in older students who had already

become poor readers using the DSTAT program (Johnson, 1989). This underscores the

special importance of teaching phonics early, especially in schools with large numbers of

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