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But they are correct if you accept the premise

Posted By: Ross Mitchell on November 9, 2006
Though the some of the research supporting their prescription may be equivocal, where Lyon and company see it as unequivocal, their prescribed interventions require a different set of background skills and knowledge than is typical of many elementary school teachers.

My wife, who taught early elementary school for 6 years, was required to attend several mandatory workshops on developing phonemic awareness among K-1 students. She would repeatedly report to me that there was hardly a teacher in the room who already understood what was being taught--training she received as a result of pursuing a BA in linguistics prior to entering the teaching profession. To overcome her boredeom while her colleagues struggled, she made herself available as a peer resource (if she hadn't brought along papers to grade).

The point of my anecdote is simple. Pursuing the path laid out by Lyon and company really does require training that is not typically part of the preservice training received by the majority of elementary school teachers. However, as in the district where she teaches, inservice training can effectively meet teachers needs for implementing a phonemic-awareness-based program.

If Lyon's prescription is the plan, parents need not fear because districts can readily provide inservice training to ensure "faithful" implementation.

However, I would contend that phonemic awareness is way oversold, whether the research is unimpeachable or not. As Lee Swanson and co-authors highlighted in a meta-analysis of the reading research findings in RER, phonemic awareness is not as powerful as Lyon and company would have us believe. And in the case of someone I know very well, it did not help at all. This individual had to amass an enormous sight word vocabulary before phonemic awareness and phonetic decomposition contributed to continued reading development.

In other words, phonemic awareness does not result in success for all. (My apologies to Bob Slavin and company in case they perceive this as meant to impugn the integrity of their reading program. I just to be sure that we have a little more modesty in our claims and slogans than seems to be the case these days.)

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 But they are correct if you accept the premise by Ross Mitchell on November 9, 2006
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