In the UK, with the new phonics matching funding, lots of schools will be looking for good programmes to invest in that can secure real progress for their students. So a note I received recently from David Morgan of Easyread caught my eye. How do you make sure that your literacy programme is the real thing, and you’ve not been saddled with snake oil?
When a literacy system is being promoted, the company will often publish “research-based evidence” for its success with schoolchildren. In itself this is a good thing, of course, but there are a few reasons to be wary of these results. The truth is that if the results achieved in these trials were routinely reproduced, then we would not have around 20% of children still struggling to learn to read.
So, if you are evaluating a new product, here are three questions to ask the publisher:
If it is the publisher that will often influence the processing of the results. It is only human nature!
These trials are often conducted in a small cluster of schools under close personal supervision by the publisher throughout the trial. That is quite different to a nationwide implementation of the same product. Ask to see the results of local schools already using the system but not in the trial.
You are being asked to make a substantial investment in a new system, both in purchase cost and internal reorganisation. Does the publisher take an equal risk, by guaranteeing the results you see match the trial results? If not, why not?
David Morgan is the Managing Director of Easyread, an international synthetic phonics system based in Oxford specializing in teaching struggling children how to read using multimedia materials delivered over the Internet. For more information, visit www.easyreadsystem.com