NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 28, 1995

A California educational task force has blasted a decade-long experiment in reading instruction after students tested dead last in a comparison of reading abilities among 39 states.

The experiment, known as Whole Language or WL, is based on an assumption that mere exposure to reading will teach a child to read, that instruction is not important, nor are spelling and grammar. Youngsters are allowed to use "invented spelling" if they can't spell a word, and teachers are having their spelling books taken from them.

A two-year study of first and second graders in one California school district compared results of traditional phonic instruction to WL instruction.

  • It found that second grade phonics students scored more than a year above grade level in word recognition, passage recognition and vocabulary.
  • These students scored almost four years above grade level in the ability to sound out and pronounce new words.

WL instruction is not limited to California. Georgia, North Carolina and Florida are heavy WL users. But what happens in education in California has an impact on the rest of the United States since California is the single largest state buyer of textbooks, and publishers take California educational trends seriously.

Source: Matthew Robinson, "Last Rites for an Education Fad?" Investor's Business Daily, September 28, 1995.


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