A leading United States literacy expert has launched a scathing attack on Reading Recovery, telling a Department of Education event that aspects of the remedial reading program are "harmful". Dr Louisa Moats told Education Department staff on Tuesday that it was "indefensible" to spend money on the program, which is designed to help struggling Year 1 readers. Her comments coincide with new figures that show only 10 per cent of Victorian government primary schools offered the early-intervention program in 2014, down from 25 per cent the previous year. "The whole approach is based on ideas that have not held up to scientific scrutiny. So it is indefensible to keep on spending money on this," Dr Moats said in a video that was uploaded to YouTube.
Speaking at the Department's Treasury Place building, Dr Moats said if she had a child with a learning disability she would refuse to let them take part in a Reading Recovery lesson. "The instruction is directing their attention away from what they should be paying attention to. It's just not ok, it's harmful. "The early-intervention program gives poor readers in Year 1 daily, one-to-one, 30-minute sessions with a trained teacher. It was developed in New Zealand but now runs in Australia, Britain , United States and Canada. The department's website said "Reading Recovery has a strong tradition of success with the lowest-achieving children". In 2014, 119 government primary schools in Victoria ran the Reading Recovery program. Learning Difficulties Australia council member Alison Clarke, who is also a speech pathologist, said Reading Recovery was not achieving its goals. "It is not teaching kids to de-code it's teaching them to guess," she said. She said Reading Recovery did not give children a phonological awareness – an awareness of sounds in words – or spelling patterns. "Some of the activities in Reading Recovery set children back. The whole look at the picture and guess. I teach children to sound out and then they come back from Reading Recovery and they are looking at the picture and making things up." Dr Moats was brought to Australia by the group and visited the department to speak to staff, stakeholders and academics about learning disabilities. She raised concerns about Reading Recovery following a question from the audience. In 2012 the former state government stopped funding Reading Recovery tutors, with schools having to absorb the cost out of their own literacy budgets.(All about money of course, not about the worth of the program)The program has courted controversy in Australia, where academics are divided on the program's merits. Monash University associate professor Janet Scull said the program was a success and boosted children's literacy skills. "One of the criticism is it doesn't address phonological awareness and that is not found. It addresses the teaching of phonics through both reading and writing. It helps children notice of a range of information sources in text." Dr Scull, who has done extensive research on Reading Recovery and also trained tutors for the program, said reading difficulties were a complex issue and there was no single solution.(Exactly – Reading Recovery doesn’t work for everyone.) She said the program worked with the bottom 20 per cent of children in a school.Her views were echoed by Melbourne University Professor of language and literacy education Joe Lo Bianco. "Reading Recovery is a great asset. It helps all teachers to focus on the explicit things they can do in literacy."
Our new performance plan model
The AEU has released its take on the new Performance and development model proposed by the new government-
The Department has announced the key changes to the Performance and Development process for teachers, assistant principals and principals for the 2015-2016 cycle.
The changes are significant. The process is refocused on principal, assistant principal and teacher development rather than a narrow performance assessment. There is a clear emphasis on professional conversations and judgement, with the mathematical approach to assessment contained in the current model abandoned.
For teachers, the performance and development process will maintain the current areas of professional knowledge, practice and engagement - however, they will be now be referred to as the three domains of teaching.
For assistant principals and principals, the areas of Leadership of Quality Teaching and Life-long Learning, Strategic Resource Management, and Strengthening Community and System Engagement will be maintained - however, they will now be referred to as the three domains of principal practice.
The key changes include the:
- removal of the balanced scorecard;
- removal of the percentage weightings for each domain;
- removal of the numerical ratings for each domain with assessments now to be determined as either met, partially met, or not met;
- removal of a numerical rating for the overall assessment with the final assessment now determined to be either met or not met;
- removal of the online assessment calculator, and final assessment threshold;
- requirement for professional conversations, feedback, and professional judgement to be key elements of the process;
- a renewed emphasis on teacher and principal class employee development;
- choice for an individual staff member and their reviewer to agree to place particular emphasis on a specific domain;
- setting of a maximum of one goal for each of the domain areas;
- embedding of the student/school outcome goal within the domains of teaching and principal practice;
- move to have the process default to a calendar cycle rather than the current May to April arrangements.
The requirement to align goals with the school's strategic plan and annual implementation plan will remain.
The changes outlined in the Department's circular will be included in a revised set of performance and development guidelines, which will be provided to us next term.
Considering the former Government's punitive approach to performance and development - including their attempt to introduce quotas on the number of teachers, assistant principals, and principals who could have a successful performance and development outcome, along with the focus on numerical ratings and arbitrary differentiated performance - these changes are significant and refocus the process on genuine development of the profession.