So - how are teachers, with their "lack of content knowledge" to judge the veracity of the claims Misty makes in this recent blogpost? I hope my responses below are of some assistance to them in this endeavour. I will select Misty's key points (shown in red) and respond to them (in black).
(The) testing and practicing nonsense words that has accompanied the implementation of the test appears to be narrowing classroom practice and damaging literacy standards.
Is Spike Milligan’s Ning Nang Nong poem to be banned in schools because it contains nonsense words?
Should we wish to test the phonological awareness of our six year olds this test would be inadequate.
This is a particularly puzzling statement, as the PSC does not set out to assess phonological awareness (PA). PA and its derivative, phonemic awareness is an important predictor of reading success, but it is not what is being targetted in the PSC, in the same way that vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension are not targetted. The Phonics Screening Check has a focus on well…phonics.
Why, you may ask, would we need a screening check on this aspect of early reading instruction? The answer to that question lies in the contested, "ugly duckling" status of phonics in the instruction toolkit in recent years, as discussed here.
The process that led to this test being recommended for all Australian six year olds was deeply flawed and is an unfortunate example of the growing influence of ultra-conservative think tanks on educational policy.
Politics is the smoke-screen people hide behind when science is not on their side.
It’s all about baby steps.
And similarly, no, a 10-minute check and the teaching behind it will not counter the biopsychosocial influences that come packaged as gender. Again, it’s all about baby steps.
None of us arrived at our current rather parlous position overnight, and we won’t trade out of it overnight either. A shift from 66% to 71% represents tens of thousands of students being on stronger educational trajectories, something we all strive for every day.
I agree with Misty that a PSC should not be construed as a fail-safe early detection system for children who may go on to display reading difficulties (sometimes referred to as dyslexia), however the fact that the results are immediately available to teachers means that red-flags will be raised in some cases, and appropriate referrals will be made. Let’s not ask any more of this measure than what it can reasonably deliver.
Yes, we do have major literacy challenges but there is no data on which to base the claim that all is well with the decoding skills of struggling older students. Again, the Simple View of Reading invites a nuanced appreciation of student strengths and difficulties across the range of linguistic domains that support reading success.
It is not a question of phonics Vs non-phonics – that is an artificial distinction that is not empirically supported. It is also insulting and derogatory to refer to “Nonsense Stories” of (by implication) decodable readers. Often these stories are far more plausible and narrative-based than the repetitive predictable scripts found in levelled readers widely used in Australian classrooms.
I know that Misty has an extensive knowledge of language and how it works and I know she spends considerable amounts of time delivering professional development to teachers to try to back-fill some of the gaps left by pre-service education that neglects to provide teachers with this foundation (see references at this link).
Given this knowledge, and the fact that Misty claims to be "pro-phonics" instruction, it is perplexing and disappointing that she uses her position of influence to obfuscate rather than inform.