Additionally, in 1961, the Carnegie Corporation of New York commissioned Jeanne Chall of the Harvard Graduate School of Education to research the issue and finally resolve the dispute. In her 1967 book Learning to Read: The Great Debate, she concluded, “For a beginning reader … knowledge of letter and sounds had more influence on reading achievement than the child’s tested ‘mental ability’ or IQ.”
Ravitch writes, “Flesch’s polemic set off a national debate about literacy… . Because of its popularity, Flesch’s book had a swift and large effect on the teaching of reading.” As a result, “Several publishers issued new reading textbooks that featured phonics.”
Nonetheless, the educational establishment clung to the whole word method; and, by the 1980s, in a new form, it made a sweeping comeback. Its new iteration was known as “whole language.” Whole language retained the whole word approach and thus the obdurate refusal to teach phonics.
Some advocates of this approach, to their credit, recognize that children introduced to great literary works are impelled by their natural curiosity to read interesting stories. However, whole language advocates continue crippling children’s minds with stultifying guessing games—rather than enlightening them with the proven method of phonics.
One critic of this horror observed the frustration of students during the 1980s and early 1990s and reflected that “in whole language, millions of youngsters nationwide were surrounded by ‘beautiful pieces of literature that (they) can’t read.’”
Unfortunately for California children, the state became a testing ground for whole language during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1992, after the whole language method had been the modus operandi in schools for several years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducted statewide reading tests.