APS Paper
Ricki Korey Birnbaum & Vincent J. Samar

Phonological awareness is a necessary but not sufficient condition for learning to read (Tunmer & Nesdale, 1985). Other factors that influence literacy acquisition include the specific method of instruction used and the availability of letter knowledge (letter sounds and names).

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Research Base of NewPhonics

The NewPhonics early literacy program is based on our most recent understanding of the skills, knowledge, and insights that must be in place for the preliterate child to make the transition into literacy. Research over the past twenty years has identified two distinct but related precursors of literacy acquisition, phonemic awareness and knowledge of spelling-to-sound correspondences. These types of knowledge are necessary conditions for literacy development (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Birnbaum & Samar, 1999; Bradley & Bryant, 1983, 1985; Stanovich, 1986, 1993). Phonemic awareness refers to an awareness of, or sensitivity to, the sound structure of language (Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1994). A beginning reader must have the understanding that words are comprised of constituent sounds, and must have a minimum ability to manipulate the phonological code (Stanovich, 1986). Reading and spelling development have also been found to be dependent on deep and ready knowledge of spellings and spelling-to-sound correspondences (Adams, 1997).

Unlike learning to speak, the insights, knowledge and skills that a child requires to successfully move into literacy do not develop spontaneously. Almost all children, urban, suburban, and rural alike, require explicit instruction to develop both an awareness of the sound structure of language and knowledge of spelling-to-sound correspondences. The NewPhonics kindergarten program was created to develop these two foundational skills for successful literacy learning, and hence to facilitate the move into literacy.

NewPhonics is not a traditional phonics program that teaches simple sound-symbol rules and sounding-out words. Rather, NewPhonics fosters a much deeper understanding of the relationship between the English oral and written language, and explicitly teaches the critical underlying processes that support reading and spelling (e.g., segmenting, blending, and manipulating phonemes) while building essential letter-sound relationships.

Validation Studies

NewPhonics has been described by many educators as "The best researched program out there." Indeed, Dr. Ricki Birnbaum's mission has been to develop and extensively test the NewPhonics program with diverse kindergarten and prefirst grade children, against other formal, well-known programs, as well as strong treatments derived from the recommendations in the research literature, and teacher-specific instructional programs. Seven controlled field tests have been completed to date, and two more are currently being conducted, a three year study with rural kindergartners and a study with special education children.

The results of these field tests with diverse groups of kindergarten children have been dramatic. In each classroom field test NewPhonics has been found to significantly increase literacy outcomes in reading, spelling, and letter knowledge, with particularly strong short vowel sound knowledge. The NewPhonics children have achieved reading and spelling post test scores that are double, triple and as much as five times that of children receiving the comparison phonics reading programs. And most importantly, the superior performance in reading and spelling of children receiving the NewPhonics program in kindergarten has been found to persist beyond kindergarten to at least the end of grade 2.(see Field Test 1).

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Field Test 1:
Two-Year Longitudinal Treatment Comparison Study with Middle-Class Suburban Kindergarten Children

NewPhonics was initially tested in a two-year treatment comparison study in which its effectiveness was compared to two early literacy control treatments, one consisting of tasks and activities suggested in the research literature (SFL) and the other a Teacher Specific Control (TSC). What follows is an abbreviated version of this study. A more comprehensive research paper which addresses theoretical issues is available (Birnbaum & Samar, 1999).

Field Test 2:
Follow-up One Year Kindergarten study on a Larger sample of Middle Class Suburban Kindergarten Children

A one-year follow-up study was conducted at the same school that participated in Field Test 1, located in a middle class suburb of Rochester, NY. Field Test 2 was planned to replicate the kindergarten results of Field Test 1 on a larger population of kindergarten children. It was also planned to document the efficacy of NewPhonics with two teachers.

Field Test 3:
English Second Language (ESL) versus Native English Speaking (NES) Kindergarten Children.

The question of whether the NewPhonics method is effective in kindergarten with English as a Second Language (ESL) learners was examined. Post test reading and spelling scores were compared for four groups of kindergarten children: ESL children who were exposed to the NewPhonics method; ESL control children; Native English speaking children (NES) who were exposed to the NewPhonics Program; and NES control children.

Field Tests 4 & 5:
Pre-First Grade Children

The NewPhonics program was piloted on a special population of pre-first grade children in Field Tests 4 and 5. In these studies, the same teacher served first as a control teacher during the school year, and then as the NewPhonics teacher during the two subsequent school years.

Field Test 6:
Urban Kindergarten Children

Piloting of the NewPhonics program with an urban kindergarten population took place during the school year. It should be noted, however, that the implementation of the program was not begun until early December, and the teacher was able to teach only 30 of the 40 lessons and no pretest data was obtained. Nevertheless, reading and spelling posttest samples were obtained and subsequently compared to posttest outcomes of the suburban sample reported in Field Test 2.

Field Test 7:
NewPhonics versus Houghton-Mifflin

The Principal in a suburban school requested that a controlled field test be carried out comparing the literacy outcomes of the NewPhonics program against the program that the School District had been using for many years, the widely known Getting Ready To Read kindergarten program (Houghton-Mifflin, 1986). This study also allowed the outcomes of two teachers implementing NewPhonics for the first time to be compared. This Field Test was conducted during the school year.

Field Test 8:
Three-Year Study with Rural Kindergarten

Field Test 9:
Pilot Study with Special Education Children

Field Test 10:
Summary: Two-Year Logitudinal Study with Rural Kindergarten

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