kitchen table math, the sequel: Ed School Disappointment #2*: Endorsement of "Scotopic Sensitivity"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ed School Disappointment #2*: Endorsement of "Scotopic Sensitivity"

The instructor in one of my ed school classes announced tonight that Irlen-Meares (scotopic sensitivity) syndrome is real and should be remediated for....

Dang.

I'm pretty firmly in the Irlean/Meares/Scotopic Sensitivity skeptic camp, especially as regards the "Incidence studies suggest that 46% of those with identified with reading problems, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or learning difficulties suffer from Irlen Syndrome and can be helped by the Irlen
Method
" claim.

Since I don't have a bomb-proof handle on the alleged 62 studies published in peer-reviewed journals that show improvement, I'm going to keep my mouth shut for now. However, since the link references a web site, and the said website doesn't provide a link to the "review", I'm still skeptical.

And disappointed. I had thought this instructor pretty tough-minded.

*Ed School Disappointment #1 -- the lack of content in the "Intro to the Role" class.

19 comments:

ElizabethB said...

They wouldn't want to admit that it might be the reading method at fault, so they seize on any other possibility, however remote...

ElizabethB said...

Here's some timely comments from Dolch's "A Manual for Remedial Reading," 1945. The bracked comments are mine, I sent them in an e-mail to donpotter, but they apply well here:

"For a long time primary teachers have felt that too many children in
their classes were either failing in reading or becoming hesitant, laborious readers. In response to the demands of such teachers, many
publishers have issued much easier reading books, and this tendency
continues....In fact, the use of easier books has probably done more thanany other change in method to lessen failures in reading. [It's still a failure even if you have lowered the bar to make it appear like it isn't.]

The only trouble is that while primary books have been made much easier, the change in books for grade four and upward has been much less. Therefore, a gap between grades three and four has developed which is causing continued trouble in reading." [Or maybe, the method?]

He talks about having good readers help out poor readers, "after all, the children need chiefly to have someone tell them when to start and stop and someone to tell them the words they do not know....A device which has proved useful is seating good readers and slow readers in alternate rows so that one can help the other when doing reading at their seats. The children very quickly learn the method of conducting the work. When the
poor reader comes to a word he does not know, he puts his finger under it and leans across the aisle with the book. The good reader glances up from his book, sees the word pointed at, and says it in an undertone." [Um, maybe there's a big problem going on here--perhaps, maybe the method?]

"In grades II and III we need not call a child a non-reader but only a delayed reader. As pointed out above, he can be started all over again in a new series of books and taught by the usual methods." [yes, there's that word methods again...perhaps...no, don't consider the method. And
yes, don't call them a non-reader, they can read 10 sight words, isn't
that good reading for some 2nd graders?]

ElizabethB said...

That should be bracketed. And sorry about the formatting...the e-mail text did not paste in well.

The second quoted paragraph relates to that 4th grade slump again, Dolch admits they haven't dumbed down the vocabulary in 4th grade enough for people taught with whole word methods.

Catherine Johnson said...

What do you think about Hirsch's claim that most (or many?) kids are decoding well now & that the problem in 4th grade is a vocabulary deficit, not a core problem in decoding?

(I may be overstating his view, but this is the jist.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Also, do you have thoughts on....reading instruction in middle & high school?

Elaine McEwan's book on the subject is disappointing; she was obviously disappointed, too.

Our new assistant super for curriculum wants to extend reading instruction through middle school & high school.

That sounds like a good idea to me, but I don't know how that should be done. (Don't know how she sees it, either. I'm going to guess she won't pursue a pure "reading strategies" approach, but I don't know.)

Our mean SAT-V last year was 540. I find that unbelievably low, especially when you consider the fact that a 540 today is equivalent to a 460 or 470 prior to 1995.

This is a community where there's been no shortage of parents reading to their kids.

Catherine Johnson said...

You know - "vision therapy" is the one alternative-medicine type approach I think is probably true.

I was persuaded by Mel Kaplan, here in Tarrytown. When I put on a pair of his prism lenses all of a sudden I could catch a ball on a string.

It was amazing.

I have NO idea how it all works, or how "vision therapy" might relate to "dyslexia," etc.

Just saying: this is the one wonky alternative-medicine that strikes me as right.

BUT NOBODY GO OUT AND HIRE A VISION THERAPIST BASED ON THIS!

PLEASE!

(Also, I was talking to Dr. Kaplan about autism, not dyslexia. Autistic kids clearly have something funky going on with their visual systems, not to mention every other system.)

His book RICKI is amazing. John Ratey told me to read it.

Instructivist said...

[What do you think about Hirsch's claim that most (or many?) kids are decoding well now & that the problem in 4th grade is a vocabulary deficit, not a core problem in decoding?]

Hirsch says that what is needed for comprehension is vocabulary plus domain knowledge. His case is very persuasive to me.

Catherine Johnson said...

Right!

Sorry.

I should have said that. Vocabulary plus domain knowledge.

My question isn't whether Hirsch is right or wrong about comprehension; I'm sure he's right.

What I was trying to ask, more specifically, is what is going on in the specific case of the "fourth grade slump."

Hirsch seems to think that a lot of kids are being taught to decode text; then they hit a second wall in 4th grade that is caused by a lack of vocabulary and content knowledge.

As I say, this may be overstating his case....but I've always wondered how well kids actually are decoding text.

ElizabethB said...

I don't think most kids are actually decoding text that well.

Reading aloud is not enough. While helpful, it's much slower than reading silently, and you can't improve your vocabulary much that way.

I'll put up a post later to explain why.

For middle school reading, I'd recommend Marcia Henry's Words. High school could build on that with further latin/greek root and prefix study.

Liz Ditz said...

They wouldn't want to admit that it might be the reading method at fault

To be fair to my instructor, she reports that she herself is dyslexic and that Irlen lenses helps her reading fluency.

The class is on assessment, not treatment.

Liz Ditz said...

What do you think about Hirsch's claim that most (or many?) kids are decoding well now & that the problem in 4th grade is a vocabulary deficit, not a core problem in decoding?

I don't think anyone can assert that "most kids" are doing anything. Education in the U.S. is such a mixed bag.

There are five k-5 elementary districts within 10 miles of my house. One is high-SES and "balanced literacy" -- the kids who are going to read well are doing well, but the kids with phonemic awareness issues are floundering and NOT learning to decode. Another is very mixed in terms of SES -- lots of ELL (English Language Learners) -- the problems are different there.

The point? The wild variability.

Liz Ditz said...

You know - "vision therapy" is the one alternative-medicine type approach I think is probably true.

Erm. No. And Yes. The developmental optometrists make such wild, unsubstantiated claims that I'm deeply skeptical of the whole field.

However, there's a small subset of neurotypical kids who do seem to have visual issues, whether of eye coordination or visual processing.

Professionally, I can't recommend vision therapy as an approach to learning issues until other, more direct approaches have been tried.

ElizabethB said...

Liz-

I'm with you, direct approaches first. I don't doubt that there are actual cases of dyslexia, and even actual cases of vision problems, but I've remediated a lot of "dyslexic" students with just plain phonics (although it goes faster with nonsense words and syllabic phonics, just plain phonics works too.)

Anonymous said...

--To be fair to my instructor, she reports that she herself is dyslexic and that Irlen lenses helps her reading fluency.

and I think that taking placebos makes my cold go away faster, if only because I keep thinking that I'm getting better.

using herself as a data point seems to me to be an example of what's wrong in the first place. lots of anecdotes sound compelling. so what?

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Instructivist said...

[What I was trying to ask, more specifically, is what is going on in the specific case of the "fourth grade slump."

Hirsch seems to think that a lot of kids are being taught to decode text; then they hit a second wall in 4th grade that is caused by a lack of vocabulary and content knowledge.]

Hirsch says that the slump becomes apparent because of a shift in emphasis on comprehension at that grade level. The deficiencies (poor vocab and background knowledge) were always there but become apparent because of that shift.

My experience with the disadvantaged is that decoding by and large is not the problem (but note Elizabeth's observation on the prevalence of common words in reading material). Vocab and background knowledge definitely is.

The sad part is that pupils may be fluent readers but get bad reading grades because they don't master all these different reading strategies (cause and effect, main idea, fact and opinion...)

ElizabethB said...

Look at the vocabulary difference between good and poor readers (more details my Why Johnny Doesn't Like to Read post) basically, 100,000 words per year vs. 10,000,000 words per year.

Also, those dumbed down school readers with the same several thousand words over and over aren't teaching them much new vocabulary.

I still think that they only have the illusion of reading. There was a guy at one of our last churches with 2 technical master's degrees that could only read the 5,000 or so words he had memorized, you would think he could read if you didn't know. He used a text to speech editor to read things to him and an audio Bible. He actually came across as very intelligent (which he was) and well read, he could get the jist of things he read (think church meeting minutes), then he would ask questions in a way that actually clarified things for everyone without revealing his lack of reading ability. I knew and his wife knew, but I don't think anyone else did.

So, I still think they really aren't reading that well. And, even if they are reading well, chances are the common reading material at school is not helping expand their vocabulary.

ElizabethB said...

Also, reading comprehension tests are to some degree IQ tests combined with a reading test.

Geraldine E. Rodgers' book "The Case for the Prosecution: in the trial of silent reading "comprehension" tests, charged with the destruction of American's schools" goes into the subject quite deeply.

I'll have to find some of the best quotes from the book and post them.

She's an amazing lady, she wrote the updates to this book when she was 80.

I used to think her title was a bit over the top, but the more I learn about these tests, the more I think she might be right.