Section One--Inadequacy of the NRP Report as a Scientific Base for Reading Instruction
The NRP did not examine an adequate range of the scientific research on reading.
Congress called upon the NRP to: (1) consider what is known about the basic processes of learning to read and (2) examine the effects of differing approaches to teaching reading. But it did neither. The panel ignored many important topics by limiting its research to only phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. (NRP Minority View, p. 1; NRP Subgroups, pp. 1-1, 1-2). In addition, by deciding at the outset to confine its investigation of research to experimental and quasi-experimental studies, the NRP completely eliminated correlational and observational research, two other branches of scientific study long accepted by the educational research community as valid and productive (Committee on Scientific Principles for Education Research, 2002).
The NRP did not address the integrated nature of the reading process or the complexities of teaching children to read.
Each of the examined components of reading instruction was investigated in isolation, because the panel simply assumed that a discrete skills approach is the one right way to teach reading, without comparing it to an integrated, more comprehensive approach (Subgroups, p. 1-1). The panel did not examine the balances or tensions among the five components or how they might be related to each other in time. Moreover, the panel did not examine the intricacies of planning, instructing, and assessing in actual classrooms with real students (Minority View, pp. 12). No practitioners were invited to review the subgroup reports before publication (Minority View, p. 2).
The meaning of reading varies within the report.
The meaning of reading varied from one NRP subgroup to another and even within subgroups. Because there was no consistent definition of reading, some instructional practices were said to improve reading when they only improved test scores on isolated skills, such as reading real words in isolation or even reading made-up words (Summary Booklet, p. 5).
Overall, the research base was much smaller than the public has been led to believe.
The NRP Summary booklet and the detailed Report of the Subgroups suggest that over 100,000 studies were reviewed by the NRP (Summary Booklet, p. 1; Subgroups, p. 1-1). In fact, that number is only an estimate of the number of studies published since 1966, and thousands were never even considered by the NRP because they dealt with topics the panel chose not to investigate or that did not meet its criteria for inclusion. The total number of studies actually examined by all the NRP subgroups combined was 438. The conclusions of the phonics subgroup were based on only 38 studies (Subgroups, pp. 2-91, 2-131).