[AAACE-NLA] CASAS or EFF: Faith- or Evidence-Based?
andresmuro at aol.com
andresmuro at aol.com
Fri Jan 13 13:00:12 EST 2006
Here is the message that I posted about phonics and whole language. I
had posted it in the NIFL pd group. Understanding that people may not
have background in brain physiology, I simplified it and put it into
plain language. Later some people responded that they wanted to see
references, so I posted them too. I couldn't find the message with the
references and I hope that people do not request that I find it.
"What I want to do is address the issue of phonics vs whole language on
scientific evidence about language processing. I will make this
explanation very easy, understanding that many don't have background in
anatomy and physiology.
Imagine the brain as the language procession center with three distinct
areas. These three areas are the points of a triangle. So, to be
didactic, draw a triangle. it is necessary for the explanation to work.
Name one point visual area, another point sound area, and another
point, motor area.
visual area is responsible for sight word recognition.
sound area is responsible for recognition of sounds, phonics
motor area is responsible for movement, writing and speech.
The sides are cables that connect the areas to each other through
electrical signal, just like a car.
In most people all the cables are working in order, so language can be
Now, imagine that you remove one area. Lets start with the visual area.
this causes blindness and this person will not be able to learn words
by sight word recognition. Yet, properly taught, the person will learn
language through sounds, and will be able to spell and read. This
Now, put the visual area back, and remove the sound area. this causes
deafness, and the person will not be able to hear words. Properly
taught, this person will be able to see, spell and read. This supports
sight word recognition.
Last, remove the motor area. this causes paralysis. The person, will be
able to read, hear and recognize, but will not be able to speak, or
Most people have all three areas working, and will be able to learn
with either approach, just like a blind and a deaf person can learn.
Now, try a different thing on the triangle. Leave the points intact,
but remove one of the cables. This causes what is usually called
dyslexia. Remove the connection between the sound area and the motor
area. the person will be able to hear words, but not be able to sound
words and write them. This person will need a sight word program to
learn to read and spell properly. Romove instead the connection between
the visual and the motor area. The person will see words, but will not
be able to spell sighted words properly. This person will need a
phonics program to be able to read and write properly.
A reading diagnostician will be able to assess the learners needs and
determine if there is an impairment that requires one or the other
approach. So, dyslexia is not caused because one approach is better
than the other, but because one approach, or the other may be
neglected. So, both approaches are necessary to allow people with one
or the other disability to learn.
I hope that this is clear so far, and as far as I know, it has not been
scientifically refuted yet. So, it stands. Therefore, anyone who speaks
against sight word learning, or phonics learning is not being
scientific since both approaches are valid and necessary.
Now, lets explore this further. Assessment of adults shows that most
adults in the USA can recognize, read and spell single words. So, it is
obvious that the ability of schools to teach the basics should not be
questioned, since most adults acquired the very basics.
Where is the problem? The problem is with lack of formal logic, or what
Piaget call formal operational period. this refers to statements like:
God is love, love exists, therefore god exists.
All humand can talk, Andres is a human, Andres can talk
All squares have 6 sides, this is a square, therefore this has six
Most adults can recognize every single word in these three statements,
they can spell them, they can read them, but they may have difficulty
understanding the sentences and processing them.
The sentences work at two levels. One, is making logical statements,
and the second is making sure that each section in the entire statement
is correct allowing to draw proper conclusions. So, all three sentences
have perfect logic. However, the sections in the last sentence are
incorrect. So, while the logic is correct, the conclusion is wrong and
so are the premises. With the first statement, the logic is also
correct, but the premises are questionable, and so is the conclusion.
The ability of adults to process written language in this way is what
is at question in the assessments that have been done. So, talking
about sight word recognition and phonics is irrelevant to the
discussion of language acquisition needs. the focus is on getting
learners to work on logic, not on phonics or word recognition. Research
recommends that children are exposed to rich, complex and varied
literature to develop their logical abilites, not phonics, and sight
Lets explore another level, the one of learning, context and
interference. Do not try this at home. If you take a child, you give
her a something to learn, and you shock the child with electricity
while she is trying to learn, she will most likely not be able to do
it. Take the same child, give her a learning task and make noise in the
background. Child will not be able to learn.
Take this to the real world. Imagine a child with a cavity, at home
trying to recognize words either through phonics or by sight.
Now, imagine the same child in a tenement in south bronx with four
brothers and sisters screaming in the same room.
The evidence extrapolated from the experiment is that context affects
learning regardless of how we teach. So, we need to explore the issue
All this is based on scientific evidence. For scientific evidence to
refute any of the above, an experiment needs to be conducted that
demonstrates the oppossite.
For example, if someone can show me that a deaf person, or a person
with damage to the sound area connections learns to read through
phonics then, the above research will be rendered invalid. Also, If
someone can demsonstrate that a blind person can learn through sight
word recognition, the above stuff will be rendered invalid.
If someone can show that children that are only exposed to phonics can
understand complex logical statements, then the research will be
rendered invalid. If someone can show that children can learn while
being shocked by electricity, then the above will be rendered invalid.
anything else that people repeat about whole language vs phonics is
meaningless political propaganda."
Please take a look at my artwork: www.geocities.com/andresmuro/art.html
From: Anita Landoll <amlandoll at yahoo.com>
To: National Literacy Advocacy List sponsored by AAACE
<aaace-nla at lists.literacytent.org>
Sent: Fri, 13 Jan 2006 07:35:10 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: [AAACE-NLA] CASAS or EFF: Faith- or Evidence-Based?
You are correct. I am seeing and hearing the same
thing within the schools. Teachers are frustrated.
Some students continue to learn to read, and others
continue to not experience success appropriate to
age-level. Yet we continue to have faith that they
will eventually succeed, using present methods.
I think that we make a mistake when we fail to make
every word decodable for every student. (I believe
that the natural reader uses the decoding center of
the brain to do just that). Many words do not make
natural sense to the visual-spatial learner. However,
when they are able to make "sound sense" of all words,
they learn to read.
Yet NCLB and Reading First continue to teach the idea
of "sight words", presently renamed as "high-frequency
words." "Of course," they say, "we know that these
words just have to be memorized." And we are being
taught all kinds of cute methods to help students
memorize the words.
Yet many students still are unable to process the
words into the automatic recognition area of the
brain, and reading problems persist. Logical sense
would say that we need to teach those students more
--- tsticht at znet.com wrote:
> January 12, 2006
> Competency- or Standards-Based Education for Adult
> Literacy Education:
> Faith-Based or Evidence-Based?
> Tom Sticht
> International Consultant in Adult Education
> K-12 standards-based education has been around now
> for the last decade, and
> has been reinforced by President Bush?s No Child
> Left Behind program.
> Unfortunately, data from the National Center for
> Education Statistics
> released this year indicate that from 1971 up to
> 2004, a graph of average
> scores on the NAEP for 9, 13, or 17 year olds for
> the thirty year period
> from 1971 to 2004, on a scale ranging from 200 to
> around 320 scale scores,
> shows that 9 year olds increased from 208 in 1971 to
> 215 in 1980, then fell
> to 209 in 1990 and then rose again to 219 in 2004.
> This is only 4 scale
> score points higher than in 1980. This is evidence
> of ups and downs over a
> thirty year period but no real improvement. There is
> a more pronounced lack
> of evidence of any average improvement in reading
> for 13 and 17 year olds
> over this period.
> The lack of evidence for gains by 9 year olds is
> made even more apparent,
> and disappointing, when the data for 9 year olds at
> differing percentiles
> of achievement are examined. In 1971 students at the
> 90th percentile scored
> 260, then rose gradually to 266 in 1990 and then
> fell to 264 in 2004. Nine
> year olds at the 50th percentile scored as indicated
> above. Really poorly
> reading students, those at the 10th percentile
> scored 152 in 1971, then
> rose to 165 in 1980 and then rose again to 169 in
> 2004, though the latter
> was not statistically greater than 25 years ago in
> Thirteen year olds at the 10th percentile scored
> 208 in 1971, rose to 213
> in 1988, and then fell to 210 in 2004. The least
> able 17 year old readers,
> those at the 10th percentile, scored 225 in 1971,
> rose to 241 in 1988, and
> then fell to 227 in 2004.
> Though there were some improvements in the scores
> for 9 year old
> African-Americans and Hispanics from 1988, scores
> for 13 year olds were
> flat and they actually dropped for 17 year olds.
> Hence there is little
> evidence for the practical impact of standards-based
> education on the
> reading skills of various ethnic groups in over the
> last decade and a half.
> The data for the three decades from 1971 to 2004 do
> not show substantial
> increases in reading achievement for 9, 13, or 17
> year olds at various
> percentile ranks, even for the decade after the
> start of standards-based
> education. The NCES data do show that as children go
> up through primary,
> elementary, and secondary school, they do get better
> at reading across the
> percentile spectrum. But in 2004 the bottom ten
> percent of 17 year olds
> scored below the median for 13 year olds, and were
> just 6 scale score
> points above the median for 9 year olds. These
> poorly scoring students will
> no doubt be those who will later discover the real
> life importance of
> literacy and will enter into adult basic education
> to try to gain skills
> needed to support themselves and their families.
> Regarding mathematics, there were gains for 9 and 13
> year olds across the 30
> year period starting in 1971, but no evidence that
> the implementation of
> standards-based education in the decade of the 1990s
> up to the present made
> any acceleration in the rate of improvement which
> started before the
> standards-based education movement. And for 17 year
> old African-Americans
> there were declines in mathematics from 1990 to 2004
> and declines for
> Hispanics from 1992 to 2004.
> Overall, the NCES long term trend data for reading
> and mathematics do not
> support the claim that standards-based education
> over the last decade has
> had a positive effect on student achievement in
> these curricula areas.
> Efforts to implement either competency-based or
> standards-based education
> in adult literacy education over the last quarter
> system have also produced
> no evidence to support these reforms. There has been
> no evaluation of the
> Equipped for the Future (EFF) effort and the
> Comprehensive Adult Student
> Assessment System ( CASAS) with its competency-based
> education (CBE)
> approach has produced no evidence that programs
> implementing CBE are more
> effective than programs that do not implement CBE.
> At the present time, then, the movement to implement
> either CBE or EFF
> content standards education in adult literacy
> education is progressing as a
> faith-based rather than an evidence-based movement.
> Thomas G. Sticht
> International Consultant in Adult Education
> 2062 Valley View Blvd.
> El Cajon, CA 92019-2059
> Tel/fax: (619) 444-9133
> Email: tsticht at aznet.net
> AAACE-NLA mailing list:
> AAACE-NLA at lists.literacytent.org
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