chemprof responding to "EVERY PARENT SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO SPELLING"That is an amazing story. Amazing, and chilling.
Absolutely. I think I've told the story of my first research student before, a very bright biochem major. She got a low C in biochem (after A's in organic) because of exactly this kind of problem. She was an early reader who basically memorized words, but really only read the first 3-4 letters. So she couldn't keep what she called the "glys" straight - glycine, glycolysis, glycogen, etc. all looked the same to her. She really needed explicit phonics, but no one noticed early enough.
In the early grades, a strong ability to memorize, which C. had and has, is going to mask deficits if the only data anyone cares about is a passing score on the state tests.
C., too, was an early reader with a quick memory; he was one of those kids who 'taught himself to read.' But when he was in fourth grade, I discovered that he could not read a two-syllable nonsense word.
And he couldn't spell at all, which I knew was not right. Everyone in the household thought he'd naturally learn to spell if he just read more, but he had abruptly stopped reading, and his school didn't give many reading assignments.
Interestingly, at some point after C. enrolled in his Jesuit high school, he told me that "The kids are better readers" -- meaning they could read out loud better than kids in his public school. He also heard stories of parents who put their kids in Catholic school "because they couldn't read."
Catholic schools still teach phonics, I believe.
from the annals of All the answers are belong to us: trying and failing to buy a Direct Instruction spelling book