In summary, we have many indicators that the full swing to "Whole Language" teaching methods was a failed experiment.
Evidence can be gleaned from California test scores between 1980 and 2000. Also in numbers of drop-outs, court cases, and dollars spent to fund the retraining and text-book swap out that produced not only neutral, but negative results in the form of illiterate children, graduated but who could not read.
Legislation was reintroduced in california and passed - that phonics should be included as a primary teaching tool, and that spelling as a subject must be used throughout California. That indicates the purchase of spelling books once again - which was a proven method for the past 200 years.
Spelling books are a rarity in Spain, Germany, France, and Russia because those languages use the letters of their alphabets in a normalized way - the letters are quite normally matched each to one sound, making it easy to see and soon pronounce their words.
But for English students, we still need spelling books because about one half of our words bear extra letters - like static on the radio - like "dumb" or "comb" or "bough" that requires us to memorize the association between what we see and what we say - in English.
Hence spelling will continue as a school subject - unless email and word processors enable more and more words - one by one - to be written acceptably in normalized form. An example would be "through" which is now written acceptably in news print and in emails as "thru." About 100 such words have been simplified during the last ten years - without government mandate. Instead, spell checkers and e-mail checkers have incorporated simplified alternate spellings increasingly. Other examples are described elsewhere in this http://AmericanLiteracy.com web site and in the ALC monthly newsletter..
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