Systematic Phonics Instruction Helps Students Learn to Read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s Meta-Analysis
AbstractA quantitative meta-analysis evaluating the effects of systematic phonics instruction compared to unsystematic or no-phonics instruction on learning to read was conducted using 66 treatment-control comparisons derived from 38 experiments. The overall effect of phonics instruction on reading was moderate, d = 0.41. Effects persisted after instruction ended. Effects were larger when phonics instruction began early ( d = 0.55) than after first grade ( d = 0.27). Phonics benefited decoding, word reading, text comprehension, and spelling in many readers. Phonics helped low and middle SES readers, younger students at risk for reading disability (RD), and older students with RD, but it did not help low achieving readers that included students with cognitive limitations. Synthetic phonics and larger-unit systematic phonics programs produced a similar advantage in reading. Delivering instruction to small groups and classes was not less effective than tutoring. Systematic phonics instruction helped children learn to read better than all forms of control group instruction, including whole language. In sum, systematic phonics instruction proved effective and should be implemented as part of literacy programs to teach beginning reading as well as to prevent and remediate reading difficulties.