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Pedagogies for the Poor?

Realigning Reading Instruction for Low-Income Students with Scientifically Based Reading Research Author(s): Jim Cummins Reviewed work(s): Source: Educational Researcher, Vol. 36, No. 9 (Dec., 2007), pp. 564-572 Published by: American Educational Research Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30137942 . Accessed: 28/03/2012 14:48
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Pedagogies for the Poor? Realigning Reading Instruction for Low-Income Students With Scientifically Based Reading Research
by JimCummins
Inthis article,the authorarguesthat there is minimal scientificsupport for the pedagogical for low-incomestudents in approachespromoted the federalReading Firstinitiative. combination In with high-stakes testinstruction ing,the interpretationof the construct systematic in phonics ReadingFirst has resulted in highlyteacher-centered and inflexible classroom environments. By privileging these approaches, Reading Firstignoredthe NationalReading Panel's that finding systematicphonics instruction was unrelated to reading comprehension for lowachievingand normally achieving students beyond Grade I. Also ignored was the significant body of research suggestingthat reading is an important predictor of achievement.Alternative engagement evidence-based directions for rebalancingreading instruction for low-income students are suggested in the context of the impending reauthorization the No ChildLeftBehindlegislation. of

students textthatprovides read practice to usingtheserelations decode words. Instruction an on lacking emphasis phonics instructiondoesnotteach letter-sound relations and systematically selects textforchildren to according other principles. 2-132) (p. The NRP alsoreported systematic that was phonicsinstruction unrelated the development spellingandreading to of comprehensionfornormally and students after Grade achieving low-achieving 1. Ehri,Nunes, Stahl,andWillows(2001) acknowledge patthis tern as follows:"Amongthe older studentsin 2nd through6th grades... phonics instructionwas not effective for teaching spelling(d= 0.09) or teaching (d= reading comprehension 0.12)" has (p. 418). This finding,however, beenlargely ignoredby policy makersin applyingthe NRP's articulation scientifically of based research policyandpractice U.S. schools. to in reading I arguein this article that the interpretation application and of the NRP findings the educational in arena beenselective has policy andproblematic. the of Specifically, interpretation theconstruct systematic both by the NRP itselfand (as docuphonicsinstruction, mentedbytheOfficeof theInspector General, 2006) in subsequent federal the government policy,hasexacerbated already patexisting tern of differentiated instructionacrosssocioeconomicgroups. Lower-income studentsaremorelikelyto be taughtin classroom environments wherethereis lessopportunity read to and extensively lessencouragement engage inquiry-oriented to in than learning was the case beforethe implementation the 2001 No Child Left of & Behind(NCLB)legislation (McCarty Romero-Little, 2005). In raising theseissues,my goalis to stimulatedebateabout(a) the extent to which thereis a pedagogical divide that limits the of learningopportunities low-incomestudents,(b) the extentto whichthispedagogical dividehasbeenexacerbated federal and by state policy directivesassociatedwith NCLB and the Reading Firstprogram, (c) the extentto whichpotentially and moreeffective approaches literacyinstructionfor low-income students to canbe articulated the basisof the empirical on evidence. With the of pendingreauthorization NCLB, it is timelyto askwhetherthe readinginstructionbeing implementedin schools servinglowincomestudentsis, in fact,consistentwith whatwe know about how literacydevelopsand how people learn.The followingsection addresses problematic the way that the centralconstructof instructionwas definedand operationalized systematicphonics in the NRP's meta-analysis.


low-incomestudents;pedagogy; literacyengagement; readinginstruction; systematicphonicsinstruction

he debatein the United Statesabout what constitutes basedreading research remained has intense scientifically T since the publicationof the National ReadingPanel's (NRP, 2000) report.Established the U.S. Congressin 1997, by the NRP was mandatedto reviewthe scientificresearch readon and the of ing instruction to articulate implications that research forimproving students' achievement. panelanalyzed The reading the experimentaland quasi-experimental researchliterature in judgedto be of centralimportance teachingstudentsto read. A majorfinding of the NRP was that there is "strongevidence the substantiating impact of systematicphonics instructionon to of learning read" 2-132). The hallmark systematic (p. phonics programs,according to the NRP, "is that they delineate a set planned,sequential of phonic elements,and they teachthese elements,explicitlyand systematically" 2-99). This descrip(p. tion is elaborated follows: as instruction involves Systematic teachphonics typically explicitly a set relations having and ingstudents prespecified of letter-sound
Educational Vol. Researcher, 36, No. 9, pp.564-572 DOI:10.3102/0013189X07313156 http://er.aera.net C 2007AERA.

The Construct of Systematic Phonics Instruction in the NRP Report Debateaboutthe NRP findingsandclaimshasbeenintense(e.g., Allington, 2004; Camilli, Vargas, & Yurecko, 2003; Garan, 2001; Krashen, 2004a; Lyon & Chhabra, 2004; Pressley, Duke, & Boling,2004; Shanahan, 2004). However,little attentionhas been paid to one of the key elementsin the report,namely,the conceptual coherence of the construct of systematicphonics instruction. As theNRP (2000) itselfpointsout, a widerange approaches of to promoting in decodingskillscanbe accommodated its description of systematic is However,the construct phonicsinstruction. defined so loosely that it has very limited value for policy purset poses.Does teachinga "prespecified ofletter-soundrelations" 2-132) referto teachinga basicset of phonicsrulesor teach(p. all Does ing virtually the phonicsrulesin an invariant sequence? textthat"provides theserelations decode to reading practice using words" 2-132) refer reading to children's literature (p. high-quality or reading decodable textsthatembodythe specificphonicsrules thathavebeentaught? The NRP (2000, p. 2-137) acknowledges that there is no researchthat specificallysupportsthe use of decodabletexts.Thus any readingthat allowschildrento apply to theirknowledgeofletter-soundrelationships would appear fit within the definition. The problematic natureof what constitutessystematic phonics instructionis evident in the fact that, in the NRP (2000) are report,the followingverydifferentinterventions givenequal as reflectingthe constructof systematicphonicsinstrucbilling that and tion: (a) scripted phonicsprograms continuesystematic for explicitphonicsinstruction a significant of the schoolday part well beyond the primarygrades;(b) a 15-minute programfor students,Jolly Phonics (Lloyd, 1993), involving kindergarten creative,flexibleteaching"(Ehriet al., 2001, p. 422); "playful, and (c) a 5- to 6-minutedailywordstudycomponentintroduced into a 30-minute-per-dayindividual tutoring program,titled EarlySteps, for Grade 1 students(Santa& Hoien, 1999). The other componentsof this last programinvolved book reading instruction(8-10 with an emphasison comprehension strategy and introduction of a new minutes), writing (5-8 minutes), book, which the child was expectedto readwithout much help the next day.The book reading,writing,and new book components of this intervention are typical of whole-language to approaches reading.Thus the NRP's designationof this proas systematic gram phonicsinstructionimpliesthat 5 to 6 minutes of explicit word study (phonics) injected into a broader is readingprogram sufficientto qualify comprehension-oriented an intervention systematic as instruction. phonics of haveany Does the construct systematic phonicsinstruction in that or if coherence usefulness it is equallyreflected a program 6 minutesof instructional time and one that occuoccupies5 to time?Why shouldpolpies90 minutes(ormore)of instructional phonicsinstruction icy makersregard90 minutesof systematic as any more scientifically basedthan 5 to 6 minutesor 15 minutes?If the constructhas little coherence,then policy recommendations basedon that constructhaveminimalutility. phonAlthoughthe NRP's (2000) descriptionof systematic such ics instructionlackscoherence,the panel clearlyenvisaged instruction an important,but not dominant,componentof a as

balancedreadingprogram.The panel articulated numberof a cautionsagainst of its findings.It emphasized, for misapplication example,that "systematic phonics instructionshould be integratedwith other readinginstructionto createa balancedreading program" 2-136). The panel also advocatedthe use of (p. and cautionedthat phonics "shouldnot high-qualityliterature becomethe dominantcomponentin a reading neither program, in the amount of time devoted to it nor in the significance attached"(p. 2-136). The panel expressedconcernabout "the commonlyheardcall for 'intensive,systematic' phonicsinstruction" (p. 2-135) and drew attention to the possible effects of scripted programs on teachers' orientation to instruction: instruction,they may reduce "Although scriptsmay standardize teachers' interestin the teachingprocessor their motivationto teachphonics"(p. 2-135). The reportalso cautionedagainstone-size-fits-all approaches becausein the earlygradeschildrenvarygreatlyin the skillsthey the bringto school.Underthesecircumstances, NRP (2000) sugto geststhat it is desirable placechildrenin flexibleinstructional to groups.However,flexiblegroupingmaybe challenging implement given that "manyphonics programs.., present a fixed sequenceof lessonsscheduledfrom the beginningto the end of the schoolyear"(p. 2-136). thesecautionswereignoredin the implemenUnfortunately, tationof the ReadingFirstprogram in established the contextof to ensurethat low-income childrenreceived NCLB legislation high-qualityreadinginstructionin the early grades.As documented in the next section, ReadingFirst stronglypromoted intensive,uniformphonics instructionfor the low-incomestudentswho werethe beneficiaries its funds. of The Interpretation of Scientifically Based Reading Instruction in Reading First of ReadingFirstreceivedappropriations close to $1 billion per between2002 and 2007. The programis describedas folyear of lows on the U.S. Department Education's (2006) website: Thisprogram focuses putting on methods early of proven reading instruction classrooms. in states districts and First, Through Reading willreceive to based researchscientifically reading support apply andtheproven instructional assessment consistent this and tools with
research-to ensure that all children learn to read well by the end of third grade. ("ProgramDescription" section, para. 1)

for Firstfundingwerereviewed expert by Applications Reading interventions were that determined whetherthe proposed panels research. Numerousapplibasedreading foundedon scientifically because cationswererejected theywerejudgedto be not scientifibased.For example,to receive$34 millionin ReadingFirst cally funding,New YorkCity in 2004 was forcedto abandonits prein schoolsto adopta "sciferred curriculum 49 elementary reading that taughtphonicsin a more highly based"program entifically structured (Goodnough, 2003; Herszenhorn, 2004). The proway Phonics gramof choiceforNew YorkCitywasMonth-by-Month & to (Cunningham Hall, 2003), which according its publisher's activities assiststuthat detailed, website,"includes easy-to-follow enhance letterandsound dentsin developing awareness, phonemic secvocabulary" recognition (phonics),and increase ("Overview" It tion,para.1;http://www.carsondellosa.com/nyc/overview.htm).
DECEMBER 2007 1565

also,however,includedan activefocuson writingand the use of classroom libraries. the conformed the to Although program clearly NRP'sdescription systematic of it phonicsinstruction, wasjudged by ReadingFirst to be insufficiently groundedin scientifically basedreading research. Herszenhorn the (2004) described conflict as follows: Schools Chancellor I. Kleinhasconsistently that Joel argued the choice reading of curriculumsuperior themore prois to city's rigid endorsed theBushadministration.... grams by ... He saidthatrecent national data that testing showed New Boston SanDiego-cities thatusea so-called and York, balanced better than literacy approach-were making progress citiesusing as programs preferred Washington "scientifically by proven."... NewYork current balanced curriculum books uses City's literacy from classroom libraries of instead basic readers encourages and studentsto read write their and on ownlevel.(para. 2-7) The criteriaused by Reading First to judge the scientific acceptabilityof proposedreadingprogramswere subjectedto intense scrutinyby the Office of the InspectorGeneral(2006). The InspectorGeneral'sreport documented how panels that reviewedapplicationsfrom statesfor ReadingFirstfunds were stackedwith advocatesof direct instruction(Carnine,Silbert, & Kame'enui, Tarver, 2003) and how fundswerewithheldfrom states and school districts that proposed to use instructional or deemedto be "balanced" taintedby or approaches programs the approaches were that whole-language assumptions. Among as not being scientifically basedwereReading explicitlytargeted and Recovery the readingprograms publishedby Rigbyand the with which those programs Wright Group. The aggressiveness were targetedis illustratedin an e-mail exchangebetween the the ReadingFirstdirectorand a staffmemberregarding Wright wrote: Group,in which the director Beat [expletive the out deleted] of themin awaythatwillstand up to anylevelof legaland[whole-language] Hit apologist scrutiny. themover over definitive and with evidence they notSBRR that are based never research], havebeenandnever [scientifically reading willbe.Theyaretrying crash party weneedto beatthe to our and out deleted] of themin frontof alltheother would-be [expletive
who are standingon the front lawn waiting to see partycrashers

balancedreadinginstruction viewedas equivalent wholewas to that language approaches; intensiveprograms taughtphononly ics in a fixed sequentialorderwere judged to be scientifically based;scriptedprogramsinvolvingpredominantly whole-class instructionwere viewed more favorably than nonscriptedproand of children's literature grams; the incorporation high-quality wasregarded contributing as littleto the scientificcredibility ofa program. In the nextsection,I explorethe extentto whichReadingFirst may have contributedto differentiated readinginstructionfor low-incomestudents. Reinforcing the Pedagogical Divide Differentiated educational to class have experiences according social been extensivelydocumented(e.g., Anyon, 1980; McQuillan, 1998; Neuman & Celano,2001; Warschauer, Knobel,& Stone, 2004). For example, based on 1992 National Assessmentof EducationalProgress(NAEP) data, McQuillan reportedthat teachers poor stateswere considerably in more likelythan those in moreaffluentstatesto usephonicsrather thanwhole-language instructionin teachingreading.Neuman and Celano reported thatstudentsfrommiddle-income communities significantly had greateraccessto print in their schools than did studentsfrom lower income communities.Fundinginequitiesand differential teacher and contribute differto qualifications experience clearly encesin the educational of experience lowerincomeascompared with higher-income students(e.g., Kozol,2005; Ladson-Billings, 2006). These existingtrendsappearto have been significantly reinforced by the combined impact of the high-stakesassessment mandates NCLB legislation the ReadingFirstimposition of and of directinstruction on low-incomestuprograms schoolsserving dents. Whereasthe NCLB testing mandateswere largelybased on an empiricallyunsupportedbelief that extensive testing achievement, claimimproves ReadingFirstfocusedonpedagogy, mandatesit imposedfor low-income ing that the instructional studentswerescientifically proven. studiesexamining differences Althoughlarge-scale pedagogical betweenschoolsserving lower-andhigher-income studentshave not beenundertaken, observations fromnumerous educators and researchers have highlighted the impact of the pedagogical changes implementedin recent years in low-income schools. (2005), for example,documented McCartyand Romero-Little the changesin pedagogyand test performance followedthe that introduction of an intensive scripted phonics program at BeautifulMountainSchool (a pseudonym)on the Navajoreservation.Beforethe passage NCLB, the schoolhadimplemented of a Navajo bilingual, biculturalprogram that used a processoriented,literature-based to approach Englishand Navajoreadandwriting.Subject matterinstruction organized was around ing relevant themes.McCarty Romero-Little and culturally point out that program evaluations from 1988 throughthe 1990s showed that Beautiful Mountain elementary students consistently improvedtheiroralEnglishand Englishreadingscores,as measured by standardized tests, student portfolios, and a locally Beautiful Mountainstudentsalso developedreadingassessment. a significantly outperformed comparison groupon locallydeveltests of Englishreadingcomprehension oped and standardized

howwewelcome thesedirtbags. of (Office theInspector General, 2006,p. 24) The lackof scientific of fromthepercredibility theseprograms, of derived fromthejudgment First, that spective Reading primarily in they did not incorporate systematic phonicsinstruction a way thatreflected findingsof the NRP (2000). By contrast, the most of basedreadprograms judgedto meet the criterion scientifically an focuson sequential ing research incorporated intensive phonics instruction whereall the majorphonicsrulesweretaughtsystemand the atically explicitly (K-3) andfrethroughout primary grades school.Decodable textswereused quentlythroughout elementary to reinforce students' of acquisition phonicsrules. It is clearthat the cautionsarticulated the NRP in relation by to the interpretationof systematic phonics instruction were ignored by Reading First. The report by the Office of the InspectorGeneral (2006) makes clear that, in Reading First,

and vocabulary. In addition to developing English academic skills superior to those of the comparison group, the students in the Navajo bilingual program were also strengthening their oral and literacy skills in Navajo. McCarty and Romero-Little describe the pedagogical changes and test score decline that Beautiful Mountain students experienced between 2002 and 2005: By 2002-03, funding for the bilingual programended and the impactof the No Child Left BehindAct was beginningto be felt. on BeautifulMountain School was labeled "underperforming" the basisof students'performance Englishstandardized on tests that subscribed the (the Stanford9), a classification automatically school to the prescriptivephonics programsmandated under NCLB'sReading Firstprovisions .... The troubling fact..,. is that there is no evidencethat student achievementis improvingas a resultof the directreadinginstruction by prescribed NCLB;to the 9 Stanford reading comtest contrary, scoreshaveactually declined. scoresfor LEP [limitedEnglishproficient] prehension students... werehigherin 1999 than theywerein 2003; non-LEPelementary students'scoresdroppedby as much as 50 percentover this fouryear period .... Sixth and eighth graders'NCE scores on total readingdroppedfrom 53 to 29 duringthis period.(pp. 6-7) Observations from teachers and other educators also highlight the impact of the pedagogical approaches implemented in lowincome schools in recent years. For example, Gensburger (2005), a California teacher, notes: "Justthis week I was told that all nonadoption/non-core reading books were to be removed from my classroom-perfectly sound readers for reading-starved children that were paid for by parents, PTA, school and teachers over the years." Jaeger (2006), another California teacher, describes the impact that the introduction of Open Court, "a scripted reading program that tells teachers what to say and do at every moment" (p. 39) has had on patterns of classroom interaction: the teachers taught leastmeaningnow In kindergarten 1stgrade, and ful aspects literacy-lettersandsounds--andpostponed of emphasis Thesechildren faceda steady of diet for two on meaning nearly years. texts cat so-called decodable ("The saton themat.Thecatisfat.Where the to at Teachers is the cat?"). presented lessons allstudents thesame to instruction.... The time, limitingthe opportunity differentiate with lower achievedistrict shackled teachers poorchildren generally of ment to a curriculum did not let them modifytheirteaching. that to in Teachers more affluentschoolscould enrichthe curriculum and (p. thinking aesthetics. 40) emphasize higher-level Kozol (2007) discussesthe frustrationof teachersof low-income students who are "pressuredto conform to teaching methods that draineverybit ofjoy out of the hours that their children spend with them in school" (para.5). In the words of one first-gradeteacher, I didn'tstudyall theseyears... to turnblackbabiesinto mindless of littlerobots,deniedthe normalbreadth learning,all the artsand classics,all the spontaneity sciences,all the joy in readingliterary and powerto askinteresting questions,that kids aregettingin the middle-class white systems.(para.6) Pease-Alvarez(2006) describesthe experience of her California teachereducation studentswho observedvery differentinstructional practicesin affluent and low-income schools:

As theydiscussed assignment, also becamequiteevidentthat the it therewasa pedagogical divide.That is, teacher educationstudents and whereEuropean American stuworkingin classrooms districts dentscomprised majority the observed the students that population in theirplacementclassrooms accessto literacycurricula had that tendedto be lessscripted. The teachers thoseclassrooms in utilized of instructional that practices drewon the needsandinterests learners. In contrast,teachereducation students assignedto student with predominantly low-incomebilingual stuteachingplacements dents were workingin schools and districtswhere teacherswere to In sturequired use stateadoptedcurriculum. addition,because dents in these classroomsdid not do well on the [California Standards told Tests],teachers workingin theseclassrooms student teachers that they werebeingpressured teachin waysthat conto trasted markedlywith the progressiveand critical pedagogical that approaches teachereducationstudentswere readingabout in their courseworkat [the Universityof California,Santa Cruz]. My ("Finding Focus"section,para.3) The observationsofJaeger (2006) and Pease-Alvarez (2006) suggest that in statessuch as California,where only scriptedreadingprogramswith an intensivefocus on sequentialphonics areapprovedfor use (in California'scase, The Nation's Choice [Houghton-Mifflin] and Open Court [Science ResearchAssociates]),these programsare implemented in a more flexibleway in higher-income schools. These accounts of differentiated instruction across social class are simply observations. Empirical research has not been carried out to document in a definitive way the extent of such differentiated instruction. Yet these accounts gain credibility from the fact that they are entirely consistent with the approaches advocated by Reading First for low-income students and incorporated into the programs that Reading First designated as scientifically based. In New York City, for example, only 49 low-achieving (and presumably low-income) schools were required to use the "scientifically based" phonics program approved by Reading First. If low-income students were benefiting from the instructional approachesimposed by Reading First (and in some states prior to Reading First),we would expect to see gains in reading scores, particularlyat the elementary school level, where Reading First funds were targeted. Unfortunately, despite the significantly increased time that many low-income students spend in readinginstruction, often at the expense of subjects such as social studies, science, art, and music, and even recess (Center on Education Policy, 2007), there is little evidence that these students have benefited from the reforms instituted by Reading First and NCLB. Lee (2006), for example, analyzed NAEP trends before NCLB (1990-2001) and afterNCLB (2002-2005). He found no evidence that NCLB had improved readingachievement or exerted an impact on closing the racial and socioeconomic achievement gap. Fuller, Wright, Gesicki, and Kang (2007) similarlynoted that fourth-gradeNAEP "test score growth has largelyfaded since enactment of NCLB. ... Progress seen in the 1990s in narrowing achievement gaps has largelydisappearedin the post-NCLB era"(p. 268). It would be easy to attribute the gaps between Reading First policies and NRP findings and recommendations to the excessive zeal and pedagogical bias of individual Reading First administrators. However, there is a deeper issue here that should be of concern to the educational research community. Why was it so easy

to highjackthe label scientifically basedreadingresearch proto mote programs whose research waslimitedat best?Why support did policymakers researchers and largely ignorethe NRP finding that, afterGrade1, systematic instruction not benedid phonics fit readingcomprehensionamong low-achievingstudents, the target group for Reading First funds (Shanahan,2004)? In to reflectingon these questions,it is instructive revisitthe NRP and inferences that meta-analysis to explorethe kindsof scientific were made on the basisof quasi-experimental research also and those that could have been made on the basis of qualitative research. The two studiesreviewedin the next section illustrate both the fragilityof scientificinferencein the NRP report'and also the failureto appreciatehow qualitativestudies can contributeto both theoryand policy. Scientific Inference: A Tale of Two Studies The two studiesreviewedin this sectionareverydifferent.One is a quasi-experimental evaluation a readingintervention of prodevelgram;the otheris a longitudinal studyof children's literacy opment in the primarygradesin a Spanish-English bilingual program.In the first,discussedearlier,Santaand Hoien (1999) documented the impact of the Early Steps program(Morris, 1992) on children'sreadingdevelopment.In the second, Reyes of (2001) documentedthe "spontaneous biliteracy" four lowincome working-class Mexicano/Latinochildrenin a bilingual program,two of whom were taught to read initially only in Spanishand two only in English, accordingto their language dominanceon entryto the program.I will examinewhat inferencescan legitimately drawnfrom thesetwo studiesand how be each might inform the debateabout what constitutesscientifically basedreadinginstructionfor low-incomestudents.These studiesrepresent two examples the manyquantitative of and just studiesthathaveinvestigated instructional influences qualitative on the development readingability.Spaceconstraints of prevent a more complete analysis.However, the illustrative analysisof these studies highlights the kinds of inferencesabout reading instructionthat can be drawnin the contextof a more inclusive than that employedby the NRP (2000). analyticframework The Santa and Hoien Study Santaand Hoien (1999) reported effectsof the highlysignificant EarlyStepsprogramfor high-riskGrade1 childrenon a variety of outcome measures,including readingcomprehension.The as studyis described followsby Ehriet al. (2001): Santa Hoien(1999)modified RR[Reading and the forRecovery] matto include more instruction. their In systematic phonics study, at-risk graders first received that tutoring involved storyreading, and writing, phonological skills.... Thecontrol received instrucgroup small-group guided-reading tion.Students and books practiced reading rereading in 30-minute lessons didnotreceive word but activities. isimportant It any study to notethatthecontrol here RR group wasnot onethatreceived
unenrichedby phonics. Rather it received a different form of instructionthat did not involvetutoring.Resultsshowedthat the

(d= 0.93).Thesefindings demonstrate effectiveness largerthe of unitphonics instruction added anRRformat. 426) to (p. This interpretation the datais at variance of both with Santa and Hoien's interpretation with normalscientificconvenand tions for research design and eliminationof confoundingvariables.The datacertainly was suggestthatthe EarlyStepsprogram moreeffectivethanthe comparison but program, thereis no way that the impactof its variouscomponentscan be disaggregated. Ehriet al. (2001) repeatedly describethe experimental program as a "phonics program" despitethe factthatlessthan20% of the interventionfocusedspecifically the phonics aspectof word on if study. This would not pose a problemfor interpretation the comparisongroup had receivedan identicalinterventionprogramexceptfor the phonics component.The effect of phonics instructioncould then be isolatedfrom the effectsof the other 80% of the intervention book (comprehension-focused reading, of writing,andintroduction a new book).However,thisis clearly not the case.SantaandHoien certainly not attribute effecdo the tivenessof EarlySteps to the phonics componentalone. They note that"every aspectof the EarlyStepslessonundoubtedly promotedword recognition performance" 70). (p. Anotherconfoundingvariable the fact that the experimenis tal EarlyStepsgroupreceivedone-on-onetutoring,whereasthe instruction smallgroupsof two to in comparison groupreceived fourstudents.Santaand Hoien note this confound,pointingout that it is "alsodifficultto teaseout the effectsrelatedto one-toone tutorials" 71). (p. In contrastto Santaand Hoien's cautiousand appropriate discussionof the findings,Ehri et al. (2001; see passagequoted on this page) reference confoundingvariables is importhe ("It tantto note.. .")but promptly ignoretheirown cautionby interpretingthe dataas unequivocal supportfor the positiveeffectof The in phonicsinstruction. threefinalsentences the samequoted a role passage explicitlyattribute causal ("thephonicswordstudy to programproducedmuch better performance") the phonics the potentialimpactof the other instruction, ignoringcompletely componentsthatconstituted80%of the intervention. Similarly, no discussionis providedregarding confoundingof one-onthe one tutoringwith smallgroupinstruction.Instead,the authors attribute effectsto the impactof phonicsalone. the repeatedly In short, Santaand Hoien's findingssuggestthat a balanced intervention,one that includesan explicitfocus on languageas an aspect of word study, combined with text comprehension instruction encouragement readand writeextenand to strategy works better than a more unidimensionalintervention sively, consistingsimplyof guidedreading. The ReyesStudy Reyes's(2001) studywas conductedin the contextof a SpanishEnglish bilingual program close to a large urban center in Colorado. The program served low-incomestudents, 45% largely of whom wereof Mexicanorigin.Spanishand Englishwereused asthe language instruction alternating of on days.In kindergarten throughGrade2, literacyinstructionwas providedfor students or only in theirprimary dominantlanguage.The literacydevelopment of four focal studentswas documentedover a 4-year periodfromkindergarten throughGrade3. Two of the students

wordstudyprogram muchbetter phonics produced performance in reading did the guidedreading than d= program, 0.76. The the phonicsgroup significantly outperformed controlgroup in reading (d comprehension = 0.73) as well as wordreading

were taught literacy only in Spanish and two only in English through Grade 2. The students received structured phonics instruction (in English or Spanish) in kindergarten but only minimal phonics instruction in first and second grades. Reyes documented how all four students spontaneously transferred their literacy skills from the initial language to their second language without formal instruction. Their "natural, spontaneous, and uncomplicated approach to bilingualism and biliteracy" (p. 117) was supported by their interest in writing in both languages and also by their social play, where they challenged each other to read in the language in which they had received no formal reading instruction. We get some insight into the students' learning process from Reyes's description of the kinds of classroom interactions that contributed to their acquisition of biliteracy: Each morningthe readingblock beganwith journalwriting,followed by a free readingtime. It ended with Writers'Workshop wherestudentswereaskedto respondin writingto what they had read, sharingit with the whole class under the direction of the teacher .... One day (in secondgrade)I heardBrittany Ileana and turns readinga bilingualbook. Brittanywould read the taking Englishpage, and then Ileanawould readthe Spanishpage.And, just for fun,"as they told me, they would switchagain;this time Brittany readingSpanishand IleanareadingEnglish.As they took turns,eachone would readoverthe other'sshoulderand help her if she got stuck.(p. 116) Reyes points out that students' ability to read in two languages led them to attempt writing in two languages, and she documents this writing across languages with many concrete examples. In interpreting the spontaneous biliteracy development of the four students, Reyes emphasizes the centrality of affective dimensions related to students' identity. She notes that the learning environment legitimated children's bicultural identity: Thereis no doubt that thesestudentsfelt theirlanguages their and cultureaffirmed .... Althougheachof the girlsreceived[reading] instructionin only one language,all their learningfrom kinderwherethe teachers gartento secondgradetook placein classrooms and theircultural linguistic and resources. Each supported nurtured day they heardtheir teachersand peersuse Spanishand English. Their teachers madegreateffortsto treatEnglishand Spanish also as equallyas possible,valuingboth languages personal,social, for and academic purposes.(p. 116) Reyes's study contributes to scientific knowledge primarily by documenting phenomena that require explanation. The reality of the phenomena described is established by the detailed and longterm observations of the study, together with the fact that they are consistent with patterns observed in bilingual programs in countries around the world.2 The fact that students acquired literacy in a language in the absence of formal systematic phonics instruction in that language challenges two of the theoretical propositions underlying the implementation of Reading First. Specifically, the findings refute the proposition that intensive, sequential phonics instruction conducted over several years is requiredfor low-income students to attain strong literacy skills in a language. Reading First policies explicitly reflected this belief, and such a belief is incorporated

at leastimplicitlyin the readingprograms designated scienit as based.The focal studentsin Reyes'sstudy, buildingon tifically the phonicsinstruction in they received kindergarten, developed skillsnot only in theirdominantlanguage also but strongliteracy in theirsecondlanguage. The classroom conditionsunderwhich this happenedincludeda richliteracy environment strongly that encouragedextensive reading and writing for real audiences, contextthat affirmed students'identitogetherwith an affective ties as bilingualand bicultural. Reyes'sfindingsalsorefutethe moregeneralpropositionthat children can learn only what has been explicitlytaught. This propositionunderliesthe insistence,reflectedin ReadingFirst and manyof the programs promoted,thatall the majorphonit ics rulesmustbe taughtin an invariant The studentsin sequence. Reyes'sstudy were not explicitlytaughtdecodingskillsin their secondlanguage, theyacquired thoseskillsas a resultof their yet motivatedengagement with literacyin both languages. In short,Reyes's documentation the biliteracy of development of these studentsis just as much in the mainstream scientific of as the quasi-experimental studiesconsidered the NRP. inquiry by In mostscientific is by disciplines, knowledge generated constantly observed (contesting theory-based predictions phenomena against such sider,for example,climatology). observations, as Systematic those reportedby Reyes, contributedirectlyto the testing of In hypotheses. this case,theyrefutecentral hypotheses underlying the "scientifically based" instruction reading promoted Reading by First.It is worthnotingthatboththe Santa Hoien (1999) and and evidencefor a balanced Reyes(2001) studiesprovidesupportive approachto literacyinstructionthat combinesexplicitphonics withthepromotion sustained of with teaching engagement reading andwriting. Rebalancing Literacy Instruction for Low-Income Students Although the NRP endorseda balancedapproachto reading its said instruction, meta-analysis verylittleaboutthe importance of literacy Firstdeemphasized construct this engagement. Reading even furtherand activelydiscouraged statesand school districts from adoptingbalanced that promotedactiveengageprograms ment with readingand writing(Officeof the Inspector General, to evidencethat,in contrast system2006). Thereis considerable to aticphonicsinstruction, is related literacy engagement strongly the development reading of (Guthrie, 2004). comprehension for Thus I concludethis analysis with two modest proposals who consideration policy makers,educators, and researchers by areengagedin reshaping ReadingFirstand NCLB. First,funding criteriashould ensure that classroominstructionfor lowincome studentsis basedon empirically supportedpedagogical in principlesthat are appliedequivalently schools servingboth and thestudents.An empirical low-incomeand higher-income oretical basis for these principlescan be found in Bransford, Learnand in Brown,and Cocking's(2000) volumeHow People relevant (1994) conceptof culturally teaching. Ladson-Billings's et on Bransford al.'ssynthesisof the research learninghighlights the the centrality students' of preexisting knowledge, importance of deep ratherthan superficialcognitive processing,and the as necessityfor studentsto develop metacognitiveawareness a meansof takingactivecontrolovertheirown learning.LadsonZECEMBR

Billings emphasizes that cultural validation promotes engagement with instruction and is particularlyimportant for students whose culture is devalued in the wider society. Second, funding criteria should require schools to implement a balanced approach to reading instruction that would combine an explicit focus on developing awarenessof how language works with strong promotion of literacy engagement. In the early stages of reading instruction the focus on language would ensure that students are developing phonological awareness and knowledge of letter-sound correspondences. At later stages, the focus would shift toward linguistic dimensions of comprehension strategies (e.g., understanding the function of cohesive devices), vocabulary knowledge, and grammatical and discourse features of language.3 The significance of active engagement with reading and writing is supported by research showing strong relationships between the development of reading comprehension and the extent to which students read (e.g., Elley, 1991; Guthrie, 2004; Krashen, 2004b; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2004). This relationship reflects the fact that low-frequency and academic vocabulary is found almost exclusively in written text rather than in conversational interactions (Corson, 1997); therefore, students need to read to gain access to this vocabulary. Nation and Coady (1988) make the point as follows: "In general the research leaves us in little doubt about the importance of vocabulary knowledge for reading, and the value of reading as a means of increasing vocabulary" (p. 108). Extensive reading can usefully be incorporated into the construct of literacy engagement (Guthrie, 2004; Guthrie & Alvermann, 1999). This construct, as described by Guthrie, incorporates several components, including the amount and range of reading and writing, the application of cognitive strategies for deep processing of textual meanings, and the positive affect associated with reading and writing. Drawing on both NAEP and the OECD's (2004) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data, Guthrie notes that students whosefamilybackground characterized low incomeandlow was by education, but who were highly engaged readers,substantially outscoredstudentswho camefrom backgrounds with highereducation and higherincome, but who themselves were less engaged readers. Basedon a massivesample,this findingsuggeststhe stuncan traditional barningconclusionthatengagedreading overcome riersto reading achievement, education, includinggender,parental and income. (p. 5) The PISA study (OECD, 2004), which included data on the reading achievement of 15-year-olds in 27 countries, led to the conclusion that "the level of a student's reading engagement is a better predictor of literacy performance than his or her socioeconomic background, indicating that cultivating a student's interest in reading can help overcome home disadvantages"(p. 8). The authors point out that "engagement in reading can be a consequence, as well as a cause, of higher reading skill, but the evidence suggeststhat these two factors are mutually reinforcing"(p. 8). Although modest in scope, these evidence-based proposals have the potential to bring about significant changes in the classroom experiences and literacy development of low-income

students.Within the scope of these proposals,policy priorities wouldaddress factors exacerbate pedagogical that the divide,such as (a) inequitiesin fundingthat reducethe incentivesfor highly teachers workin schoolsserving to low-incomestudents qualified accessin theseschoolsto booksand (Kozol,2005); (b) restricted other print materials, limiting the extent to which studentscan become activelyengagedin readingand writing (Neuman & Celano,2001); and (c) assessment that requirements narrowthe curriculum (Centeron EducationPolicy,2007) and discourage teachers fromimplementing instructional that approaches reflect how studentslearn(Bransford al., 2000). A policyfocuson litet as and eracyengagement keyto sustained growthin reading writschoolsservinglow-incomestudents ing skillswould encourage to showcasethe literacyaccomplishments their studentsin of that extendfarbeyondthe scope of what standardized ways tests canmeasure. example,schoolandclasswebsitesmightshowFor case the creativewriting and investigative work of studentsin ways that invite feedbackand evaluationfrom policy makers, and communitymembers(see Cummins,Brown,& educators, 2007, for examples). Sayers, A commendable feature NCLB is its insistence of thatall childrenhavethe potentialto succeedacademically of regardless linguistic and ethnic backgroundor economic circumstances. Educators policymakerscan reclaimthe spiritof this initiaand tiveby implementing instruction engages students that all literacy in rigorous academic and inquiry imaginative literary production.
NOTES I thank the anonymousreviewers this articleas well as the folof and Patricia lowing peopleforusefulfeedback suggestions: Anders, David Kristin Bautista, Sarah Brown,DuaneCampbell, Cohen,Pete Farruggio, David Freeman, YvonneFreeman, Norm Gold, Ken Goodman,Yetta Goodman,TeresaMcCarty, McQuillan,KaraMitchell,Pat Muller, Jeff SoniaNieto, Virginia DennisSayers, Snodgrass Rangel, SandySilverstein, andJoanWink. 'A reanalysis National ReadingPanel (NRP) data, using more of sophisticated meta-analysis techniques,conductedby Camilli,Vargas, and Yurecko (2003), showed an effect size for systematicphonics instruction only one halfas largeas that reported the NRP. by in 2Confidence the realityof the findingsis increased the factthat by similar phenomena have been extensivelydocumented in Canadian Frenchimmersionprograms(e.g., Geva & Clifton, 1993; Lambert & Tucker, 1972) and in U.S. dual languageprograms(Lindholm-Leary, studentswhose firstlanguageis Englishtypi2001). In theseprograms, callyareintroducedto readingthroughtheirsecond language(French in Canadaand usuallySpanishin the United States)but quicklytransfertheirreading skillsto Englishandacquire fluentEnglishreading skills with no systematic instruction Englishphonics. in lessonsto supportinstruction be accommodated can 3Useof scripted within the scope of these two proposalsundercertainconditions.The ratherthan mandatoryto enable scriptswould need to be illustrative teachersto activatestudents'priorexperience connect the content and to theircultural and The scriptswould knowledge intellectual curiosity. also need to have significantgaps to accommodatediscussionof texts thatstudentshavereadandwouldneedto allowteachers provideindito vidualguidancefor studentson theirwritingprojects.Such illustrative scriptsmay provideusefulguidanceto new or inexperienced teachers, but clearlythey would servea pedagogical functionverydifferentfrom thatof the mandatory in scriptsincorporated the programs promotedby ReadingFirst.


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M., Knobel, M., & Stone, M. (2004). Technology and Warschauer, equity in schooling:Deconstructingthe digital divide. Educational Policy,18, 562-588. AUTHOR JIMCUMMINSis CanadaResearchChair in Languageand Literacy Development in Multilingual Contexts at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education,Universityof Toronto, 252 Bloor StreetWest,

His Toronto, CanadaM5S 1V6;jcummins@oise.utoronto.ca. research focuses on instructionalstrategiesto promote academicachievement and diversestudents. amongculturally linguistically

received September 24, 2006 Manuscript Revisionsreceived September 20, 2007 Accepted October 17, 2007