Professor Rhona Johnston, co-author of the Clacmannanshire research in reading, has replied to Torgerson and Brooks' survey of the research evidence on phonics, here. It is a telling critique, showing that Torgerson and Brooks were so obsessed with the idea of randomisation in educational research as to distort their whole view of the evidence. Torgerson and Brooks found only two studies directly comparing analytic and synthetic phonics, hardly enough for a "meta-analysis". One was a smaller study that formed part of the Clackmannanshire research, and the other this conference paper from 1971.
If it were not for Torgerson and Brooks' own botched study of spelling in a comprehensive school, it would be difficult to believe that they would give this paper any credence at all. Here is what it did, cut and pasted from the original:
Teaching materials were seven-by-nine inch tagboard cards on which 28 words and sylables were printed, two to a card. The selection of the pairs of words for the cards difered acording to the treatments. The words and sylables used in instruction and as measures of transfer are listed in
Tables A and B.
During a typical 15-minute training period, from two to four of the 28 words and sylables were presented. Sometimes words or sylables were reviewed. All 28 words and sylables had ben presented to al of the subjects by the end of the ten wek training period.
Who on earth would set out to teach children twenty-eight words in ten weeks? Who would confine reading teaching to fifteen minutes a day, or to two to four words a session? Who would confine teaching materials to one set of words on cards, with no books, stories or anything else? Only someone with no educational experience, such as Professor Torgerson, could entertain such pathetic nonsense, let alone dissect it as a potential instrument of policy.
Professor Johnston is too polite to her opponents. As far as I'm concerned, the Empress of Randomisation has no clothes.