Fletcher, Savage, and Sharon (Educational Psychology Review, 2020) have raised a number of conceptual and empirical challenges to my claim that there is little or no evidence for systematic phonics (Bowers, Educational Psychology Review, 32, 681-705, 2020). But there are many mistakes, mischaracterizations, and omissions in the Fletcher et al. response that not only obscure the important similarities and differences in our views, but also perpetuate common mischaracterizations of the evidence. In this response I attempt to clarify a number of conceptual confusions, perhaps most importantly, the conflation of phonics with teaching GPCs. I do agree that children need to learn their GPCs, but that does not entail a commitment to systematic or any other form of phonics. With regards to the evidence, I respond to Fletcher et al.’s analysis of 12 meta-analyses and briefly review the reading outcomes in England following over a decade of legally mandated phonics. I detail why their response does not identify any flaws in my critique nor alter my conclusion that there is little or no support for the claim that phonics by itself or in a richer literacy curriculum is effective. We both agree that future research needs to explore how to combine various forms of instruction most effectively, including an earlier emphasis of morphological instruction, but we disagree that phonics must be part of the mix. I illustrate this by describing an alternative approach that rejects phonics, namely, structured word inquiry.
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