I wanted to review the Reading Simplified program. While there are no studies directly studying the program, the author Dr. Marnie Ginsberg informed me that the program was based on a previous program she created called Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI) which includes “the same instructional framework, word work activities, and diagnostic thinking”. She was also kind enough to provide me with a bibliography of studies conducted on TRI, which I then used to conduct my own meta-analysis. To the best of my knowledge, there have been 8 studies conducted on TRI, half of which were co-authored by Dr. Ginsberg. Overall, I would say that it is fair to call the quality of the research high, as all of these studies have sample sizes above 100, a few have sample sizes in the thousands and over half of these studies were randomnized control trials. Moreover, all of these studies were on grades kindergarten to one, which is when phonics interventions have been shown to have the highest impact.
All of the outcomes from this meta-analysis were statistically significant, as were the mean effect sizes for each study. However, the mean effect size was in the moderate range. This suggests that the program has a consistent and moderately positive effect. The mean ES, corrected for outlier studies was .44, which is lower than Hattie’s mean effect size for phonics overall, .57. However, the Hattie ES includes a large mix of studies, including ones without control groups and non-RCT studies. Lower quality studies tend to produce higher results, whereas all of the studies in this meta-analysis were of high quality. Moreover, if we look at the non-RCT studies included in this meta-analysis, we get a higher effect size of ,65, which is more significant than John Hattie’s .57. Interestingly, this meta-analysis found TRI to have a very large impact on kindergarten students; however, this result may not be reliable, as this was powered by only 1 effect size.
Principles of Reading Simplified:
From what I can gather from the curriculum documents sent to me by Dr. Ginsberg, the program prioritized the direct instruction of segmented phonics, small groups, handwriting, and irregular words vocabulary. Most of these ideas are evidence-based within the literature, with the exception of irregular vocabulary instruction. However, from an anecdotal perspective, I am sure it is necessary for a phonics program.
One thing that surprised me about this program was the focus on blended phonics, right from the start of Kindergarten, which according to the NRP study, has an ES of .67, compared to an ES of .87 for segmented phonics. I really liked that this program stresses the importance of small groups instruction for phonics, as the NRP meta-analysis showed an ES for small group phonics of 1.38.
Final Grade: B
Most of the program principles are well evidenced, within the meta-analysis literature. A meta-analysis found an ES of .40-.49.
Qualitative Grade: 4/10
The program includes the following evidence-based principles: phonics, direct instruction, sight words instruction, and scaffolding.
Bratsch-Hines, M., Vernon-Feagans, L., Pedonti, S., & Varghese, C. (2020). Differential Effects of the Targeted Reading Intervention for Students With Low Phonological Awareness and/or Vocabulary. Learning Disability Quarterly, 43(4), 214–226. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lakeheadu.ca/10.1177/0731948719858683
Aiken. (2020). Targeted Reading Intervention Teacher Certification: An Approach to Building and Sustaining Teacher Expertise in Rural Schools. Literacy Research and Instruction., 59(4), 346–369.
Amendum, S. J., Bratsch, H. M., & Vernon, F. L. (2018). Investigating the Efficacy of a Web‐Based Early Reading and Professional Development Intervention for Young English Learners. Reading Research Quarterly, 53(2), 155–174. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lakeheadu.ca/10.1002/rrq.188
Vernon-Feagans, L., Gallagher, K., Ginsberg, M. C., Amendum, S., Kainz, K., Rose, J., & Burchinal, M. (2010). A Diagnostic Teaching Intervention for Classroom Teachers: Helping Struggling Readers in Early Elementary School. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (Wiley-Blackwell), 25(4), 183–193. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lakeheadu.ca/10.1111/j.1540-5826.2010.00316.x
Vernon-Feagans, L., Kainz, K., Amendum, S., Ginsberg, M., Wood, T., & Bock, A. (2012). Targeted Reading Intervention: A Coaching Model to Help Classroom Teachers With Struggling Readers. Learning Disability Quarterly, 35(2), 102–114. https://doi.org/10.1177/0731948711434048
Amendum, S. J., Vernon-Feagans, L., & Ginsberg, M. C. (2011). The Effectiveness of a Technologically Facilitated Classroom-Based Early Reading Intervention. Elementary School Journal, 112(1), 107–131.
Vernon-Feagans, L., Kainz, K., Amendum, S., Ginsberg, M., Wood, T., & Bock, A. (2012). Targeted Reading Intervention: A Coaching Model to Help Classroom Teachers With Struggling Readers. Learning Disability Quarterly, 35(2), 102–114. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lakeheadu.ca/10.1177/0731948711434048
Vernon-Feagans, L., Kainz, K., Ginsberg, M., Hedrick, A., & Amendum, S. (2013). Live Webcam Coaching to Help Early Elementary Classroom Teachers Provide Effective Literacy Instruction for Struggling Readers: The Targeted Reading Intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 1175–1187. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lakeheadu.ca/10.1037/a0032143
NRP. (2001). Teaching Children How To Read. Retrieved from <https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/nrp/Documents/report.pdf>.
J, Hattie. (2022). Meta-X. Visible Learning. Retrieved from <https://www.visiblelearningmetax.com/influences>.