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ERIC Number: ED402547
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1996-Mar
Pages: 6
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-8755-3716
Whole Language or Phonics? Teachers and Researchers Find the Middle Ground Most Fertile. The Great Reading Debate.
Matson, Barbara
Harvard Education Letter, v12 n2 p1-5 Mar-Apr 1996
The argument between advocates of the whole language approach and the phonics approach threatens to become so polarized and politicized that agreeing on a middle ground seems at times impossible, and the voices of reason and experience are drowned out. The debate erupted anew in California after alarming news stories about reading scores ranked the state's fourth graders next to last in reading proficiency among the 39 states participating--even though most informed observers agree that state-by-state comparisons of average scores mean little without taking into account the racial and economic status of the students. Critics of whole language claim that it allows some children to fall through the cracks, while the argument against phonics is that it is boring. As researchers debate the significance of the studies and test results, teachers are left hanging. Increasingly, researchers are finding better results from teachers who take a balanced approach, especially with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Three different schools (inner-city and suburban public schools and two affiliated single-sex independent schools) in the Boston, Massachusetts area offer evidence that experienced teachers using a middle-of-the-road approach succeed in teaching beginners to read. Scholars have begun to call for consensus on the balanced approach. It is time for the debate to cool down and for advocates on both sides to recognize the wisdom of teaching "what works." (RS)
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive; Journal Articles
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California