Western Australian teacher Melissa Katchpole is a Level 3 Literacy Teacher who sees state-wide implementation as an important, albeit long-overdue, initiative:
“Finally, the government recognizes that quality acoustic training and early intervention for those students who need extra support in the early years are vital.”
However, this new funding, announced by Education Minister Sue Ellery and Western Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan last week, will go to an acoustics test that assesses 1st graders for their ability to identify and mix letter sounds.
The test will consist of 40 words, some nonsense and some real, and will be used to identify students in need of extra help, by assessing their specific sound knowledge skills.
Acoustic screen checks have been introduced in New South Wales since 2021 and in South Australia since 2018. Ms. Katchpole says the screening test is quick and easy to conduct, and provides information on the student’s knowledge of graphemes / phonemes and their ability to decode. For a number of years she has been using systematic synthetic acoustics training in the classroom.
Although many schools in Western Australia already use evidence-based acoustic programs, acceptance is neither mandatory nor universal, and many schools still use a fully linguistic approach.
“Teachers [in WA] do not leave the university with an approach to literacy that is consistent with evidence-based reading instruction, an important component of which is acoustics, ”said Ms. Katchpool. Until now, teachers who wanted to use synthetic acoustic programs in their classrooms when unable to receive financial support from schools were often forced to pay for their own tuition and resources.
Along with the screening test, a portion of the $ 2.5 million was allocated to enable public schools to launch evidence-based acoustic programs as part of their early curriculum, though details on which programs and, most importantly, how the money will be stretch to cover hundreds of schools until provided.
“This initiative to fund acoustics in schools worries and worries me,” said Ms. Katchpool. “Will this funding allow teachers who still use outdated practices to gain access to structured training in acoustic engineering, or will it mean additional classroom assistants to support these students; and does it offer the opportunity to acquire decodable texts that are a necessary element of quality reading instruction? ”
This initiative, which is set to begin in 2023, is supported by anti-dyslexia groups such as the Code Read Dyslexia Network.