Dr. Robert C. Aukerman, in his book, Approaches To Beginning Reading, describes Spalding as a total language arts program because it "is an approach to learning the phonetic base of the language through listening, seeing, speaking, writing, spelling, and reading" (p.536). He devotes 10 pages to The Spalding Method, citing national scores from many schools that obtained exemplary test results.
The Spalding Method was observed in several Honolulu schools in 1967 and again - in 1982. In January, for example, in a first grade class the children were reading at an almost unbelievable level of comprehension, voice inflection, knowledge of word attack. (p. 545)
Scores that are consistently far beyond the national norms and testimonials of gains made by illiterate adults, new arrivals from the rim of the Pacific, learning disabled children, and others who had not previously learned to read in regular classrooms using standard means should be proof enough of the effectiveness of The Writing Road to Reading (pp. 545-546). "(Average grade level score of the 14 first grades in his sample was 2.8; of the 16 second grades, 3.76; of the 12 third grades, 5.24)"
These exemplary results are consistent with the results of statewide testing in Arizona. Arizona test scores from 1986 through 1991 (when Arizona ceased testing all children in the spring of every year) show Spalding schools consistently scored higher than district, state and national norms. In 1997, Arizona resumed statewide testing and again, schools which adopted The Spalding Method as their language arts program topped district, state and national norms.
Dr. S. Farnham-Diggory, cognitive psychologist and former Director of the Reading Center, University of Delaware, implemented The Spalding Method in the University of Delaware Reading Center for kindergarten through college students because it was the only program, out of 100 she examined, that included all the necessary subskills of reading, important principles of instruction and skill learning, and an instructional sequence for developing skilled readers.
Farnham-Diggory, S. (1992), Cognitive Processes in Education. 2nd Ed. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.
"We have reviewed some of the research that bears on decisions about the design of a beginning reading curriculum. I wish I could say that there are many published curriculums which embody the principles that have just been described. Sadly, there are not (Anderson, Osborn, & Tierney, 1984; Osborn, Wilson, & Anderson, 1985). I have found only one, which we have adapted for use in the Reading Center at the University of Delaware. It has been very successful." (p. 295)
Spalding's program is a full language arts program, emphasizing reading comprehension, children's literature and poetry, handwriting, creative writing and spelling, as well as decoding. (p. 298)
"it is quite clear that The Spalding Methodworks extremely well with children who may not be native speakers of English and who often test well below Anglo levels, as documented in the NAEP reports,listed earlier.
We have also conducted evaluation studies of several types. When our program was first introduced, local schools routinely administered a standardized test called the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills(CTBS) at the end of each year. Since only a few classrooms had begun to adopt our program, it was a simple matter to find a matching classroom that had not.... Except for the reading program, children from experimental and control classrooms received the same curriculum.
At the end of the school year, we compared a first, second, and third grade to their respective control classrooms on the CTBS total reading scale. The percentile ranks for our Intensive Literacy first, second, and third grade classrooms were 66th, 67th and 67th, respectively, while the percentile ranks for the control classrooms were 43rd, 54th and 47th, respectively. These differences were significant statistically and were also meaningful intuitively. The control classes were testing at or below average.... whereas the Intensive Literacy classes had moved well above average.
In Schooling, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990, Dr. Farnham-Diggory explains how Spalding-taught children learn to read almost without knowing it.
"Spalding's most remarkable contribution is her invention of a marking system that enables children to connect spelling rules to reading. The system consists of five simple conventions... Using those conventions, students learn to mark the words they have spelled, in an atmosphere of problem solving. First the words are separated into syllables, and then the syllables are marked...in notebooks, which eventually become personal glossaries filled with hundreds of marked words ... After spelling a word, the student reflects upon it and abstracts both its components and the rules they embody. (pp. 127-128)
The marking system is the bridge that connects spelling to reading. After a few hours of practice children find themselves spontaneously marking, mentally, words they see on street signs, buildings, and so on. They "see" these words in their marked form. They are developing, in effect, a coded sight vocabulary. They are not merely recognizing words by sight but are at the same time, recognizing what parts of them embody generalizable rules. This ability is a great improvement over the simple acquisition of a list of sight words, because it provides the student with guidelines for reading by analogy. All of the analytical work and rule acquisition is done within the context of spelling (pp. 128-129)
In the Spalding system, reading is never taught as such. Children read the words they spell, of course. Daily, they read and reread lists and lists of words. Then on a very special day in the lives of the younger children, reading in real books begins. The children have in fact learned how to read , and they can now pick up (simple) books and read. Emphasis is always upon the classics, great books written for children by authors who loved words and who were not reluctant to present children with words they might not immediately know. (pp. 129-130)
One of the most important aspects of this program is its emphasis upon problem solving. I have seen a number of cases, interestingly, in which children's arithmetic skills improved following a few months of training in this literacy program. I believe this is because the children transferred the analytical, problem solving strategies they were learning in their reading classes to their arithmetic assignments. They were learning to pay close attention to details, and they were learning that rules and strategies can be invoked to deal with new problems. When they applied those same principles to arithmetic, improvement was sometimes dramatic. (pp. 130-131)
P.G. Aaron, R. Malatesha Joshi, Reading Problems, Consultation and Remediation, The Guilford Press, 1992
"The Writing Road to Reading Program was developed by Romalda Spalding and has been extensively tested, with good results... It is a structured method of teaching phonics and is available in the form of a single book which makes the implementation of the procedures relatively easy... It is also called the Unified Phonics Method because it incorporates hearing, speaking and writing as well as reading comprehension." (p. 130)
E. McEwan (1998) The Principal's Guide to Raising Reading Achievement, Corwin Press, Inc.
The Spalding Method ... has withstood the test of time as to effectiveness and has a broad body of research supporting its effectiveness ... The Gallego School in Tucson, Arizona has been a "Spalding School" for 15 years, a remarkable achievement in a day when innovations appear and vanish overnight. Organized as an alternative back-to-basics school with heavy parental input, the school's students do not come from affluent homes. Rather, 60% of the students receive free lunch and over 80% are Hispanic. The school has, however, consistently ranked at or above the national and state averages on a standardized test ... With all of its teachers trained at the Spalding Education Foundation in Phoenix ... the school enjoys a remarkable consistency of instruction and purpose ..." (p. 63)
Maureen Street, a Senior Teacher at Youngtown Primary School, Launceston, Tasmania, implemented The Spalding Method at her school with grade 3 and 4 at-risk children (including Attention Deficit Disorder and dyslexic students.) Their success led to a formal evaluation of The Method.
Spalding spelling classes were begun with Grades 1 and 2 for thirty minutes, four mornings a week. After eight months, progress was measured.
|Assessments||Grade 1 progress |
8 teaching months
|Grade 2 progress |
8 teaching months
|12 months||14 months|
|14 months||10 months|
|16 months||19 months|
Among the outcomes: Spelling improved; all children made significant progress; the number of children in the "at-risk" category was reduced; boys made more significant progress than girls (of significance because of concerns about boys' literacy problem.)