The Mathew Effect or Effect of Accumulated Advantage
In the early 1950s, Rudolf Flesche offered to tutor a boy who'd been held back in sixth grade because he could not read. Flesch was horrified to discover that, at age twelve, Johnny could not even decipher a simple word like kid. The problem, Flesch realized, was that no one had taught him how to sound words out, or "decode." Once Flesch introduced Johnny to the rules of phonics, he was off and running. Flesch wrote a bestseller called Why Johnny Can’t Read, in which he blasted the American education system for failing to teach phonics. Students were expected to learn to read by memorizing words, using simple books like Dick-and-Jane readers. Confronted with words they had not memorized—like kid--they would hit a wall (Natalie Wexler, Forbes 2018). Incredibly, in 2019, many of our teachers are still not receiving training to teach explicit, systematic and multisensory reading skills. No wonder students with dyslexia are not being taught how to read - many regular students are not being taught how to read either! Legislation that protects teachers (and our students) from ineffective pedagogy is woefully needed. The foundational skills that are critical for developing and strengthening decoding and encoding skills are completely ignored (in the majority of cases). New York needs legislation that protects teachers (and our students) from ineffective pedagogy. The foundational skills critical for developing and strengthening decoding and encoding are ignored or lost in the majority of cases. Furthermore, knowledge is power: strong background knowledge evens the playing field for students and aids reading comprehension. When students study an exciting area of science, history or social studies profoundly and throughly - students that are disabled or from a range of socio-economic backgrounds all benefit. It is often the students that are usually marginalized (in skill-centered classrooms) that make the most interesting inferences. When curriculums focus on word recognition from Pre K to grade 3 combined with a strong knowledge-based curriculum the "Mathew Effect" becomes much less pronounced and literacy levels increase. If exams were centered on knowledge - instead of skills, imagine how interesting school would be.
The scores are based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the reading assessment measures students' reading comprehension by asking them to read selected grade-appropriate materials and to answer questions based on what they have read. The assessment measures comprehension of literary and informational texts.
It has been well-documented reading proficiency in 3rd grade is a critical indicator of a student's educational success. In 3rd grade, the focus changes from learning-to-read to reading to learn; if a student is not proficient, they cannot keep absorb background information from grade-level books or keep up academically.
Our organization contacted schools that scored 90% and above (see chart below based on NAEP reading levels) to identify the reading program or approach implemented at the schools. Without exception (economically disadvantaged or not) ALL OF THEM use an explicit structured literacy approach or program from kindergarten through to third grade. They teach phonics, phonemic awareness, and orthographic processing, etc. (see the science of reading). The red dots are Charter Schools, and the majority of those in New York are Success Academy Charter Schools. The phonics program is excellent, it includes students modeling phonemes to a partner and scoring for accuracy; what a great way to improve phonemic awareness! However, there is no information on programs or approaches for students with dyslexia. They said they use the same program, but it is hard to beleive - as it is not intensive or explicit enough.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment is given every two years to students at grades 4 and 8, and approximately every four years at grade 12. The assessment measures reading comprehension by asking students to read selected grade-appropriate materials and answer questions based on what they have read. The results present a broad view of students’ reading knowledge, skills, and performance over time. The most recent assessment was given in 2019 to approximately 150,600 students in grade 4 and 143,100 students in grade 8.