2013 July 04 Thursday
Individual Instruction Helps Small Percentage Of Kids To Read

A press release on research into reading instruction for first to third graders demonstrates a recurring pattern of not paying attention to the largest factor determining educational outcome: IQ.

Students who consistently receive individualized reading instruction from first through third grade become better readers than those who don’t, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

These findings come after a three-year study that followed several hundred Floridian students, who received varying amounts of individualized instruction, from first to third grade.

Carol McDonald Connor states a partial truth and, in the process, misleads.

“Our results show that children need sustained, effective instruction from first through third grade if they are going to become proficient readers,” said psychological scientist Carol McDonald Connor of Arizona State University, who led the research team.

Speaking for a sample of one, me: I was taught phonetics in first grade. Then I became an instant reading addict and developed my reading vocabulary almost entirely on my own. I did not need special individualized instruction. I would guess above some IQ threshold this is true.

Pay close attention: 78 percent of the kids achieved reading proficiency even without 3 years of individualized student instruction (ISI). What is different about those kids in the 78%? I bet their IQs are higher on average than the 16% who became proficient with personal instruction. I also bet the 16% who moved up to proficiency with ISI are smarter on average than the 6% who still did not gain reading proficiency even with more intense instruction.

“Another way to think about this is that 94 percent of the students in ISI classrooms from first through third grade were reading proficiently, compared to only 78 percent of the children who didn’t participate all three years,” said Connor.

What useful research would look like: have control and experiment sets of kids all given IQ tests a few times starting at first grade. Try different teaching methods on the experimental set of kids and find out at what IQ threshold individualized instruction is a waste.

I bet the boost in reading proficiency from individualized instruction has little impact on long term rates of reading. A small fraction of the population does most of the reading. I'd like to see IQ test results compared to reading rates by age.

To make schools better for the kids who will end up doing most of the reading I would give smart kids books and a dictionary. That will speed their development more than individualized instruction.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 July 04 07:56 PM 

Bob said at July 5, 2013 2:40 AM:

I learned to read and basic arithmetic at ages 3 and 4 via educational video games. Specifically, several portable "speak and spell" type children's computers plus a Commodore 64. My parents helped too, but it was mostly me playing these by myself for hours.

It really is very easy to teach smart children. This was mid-80's technology that all-in cost less than what a teacher is paid over a couple weeks.

destructure said at July 5, 2013 11:26 PM:

I teach all my children how to read just before their 4th birthday with a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It's phonics based and works great. It's usually pretty smooth but if they start having trouble I'll go back a dozen lessons or so and restart from there. They've all been reading at 2nd grade level by their 4th birthday. Though I don't think it's really necessary to start that early. I could have waited another year or even two and most kids probably should. But they all wanted to learn and seemed ready.


KevinM said at July 6, 2013 9:08 AM:

I'm with destructure. A kid who can't read by the end of kindergarden won't be admitted to any of the the better schools here in Houston.

EE DUDE said at July 7, 2013 8:41 PM:

I concur with destructure, the Seigfried Engelmen book worked very well for my kids. My younger was inherently slower to take to reading and it helped him get ahead in Kindergarten. I think this book is awesome.

GlGl said at July 10, 2013 10:59 PM:

The racial IQ disadvantage remains an absolute taboo of Western society.

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