Tuesday, 17 July 2012

URGENT Attn: New Education Secretary

If Elizabeth Truss becomes the new Secretary of State for Education (it's a job that doesn't last long, it's for people who want to play at bossing teachers around as some kind of unworked out stuff they've got left over from their childhoods), I thought I would send her Professor Stephen Krashen's letter to the Telegraph (not published) and ask if she can find any evidence to show that Krashen is wrong. If not, then hadn't it be best to scrap the whole expensive and useless apparatus of intensive phonics teaching and testing, along with the Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar test (a thinly disguised attempt to control teaching in Years 5 and 6) as soon as possible?  Quick, no time (or money) to waste.

Here's the letter again, albeit addressed to Michael Gove:

Education Secretary Gove and his staff are clearly unaware of some very well-established results: (1) studies done over the last 100 years show that spelling instruction has very little effect on spelling accuracy; (2) studies done over the last 100 years show that the formal study of grammar does not improve students’ reading and writing; (3) studies done over the last 25 years show that systematic intensive phonics study only helps children do better on tests in which they pronounce lists of words out-loud. It has no significant effect on tests in which children have to understand what they read.

The best way to make sure students “leave primary school with a strong command of both written and spoken English, with high standards of literacy” is to encourage wide self-selected reading, which is only possible when all children have access to reading material.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California