Sonday is an Orton Gillingham style program which offers an early reader class kit, an early reader intervention kit, an intermediate intervention kit, and a k-5 class program/assessment kit. The program implements the following types of instruction: direct, scaffolded, individualized, phonics, fluency, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and comprehension.
I searched for studies on the topic, on Google, the company website, Education Source, and Scholar's Porta. To the best of my knowledge, Sonday does not have any research studies done on it. However, the authors label the program as an Orton Gillingham program, which there exists multiple meta-analyses for. The NRP meta-analysis examined effect sizes for Orton Gillingham programs and found a mean effect size of .22. More recently, Steven’s Et, al, in 2021 conducted a meta-analysis of Orton Gillingham (OG) programs and found the same result of .22. These are the lowest results I have seen for any phonics program. Orton Gillingham programs are extremely popular within the Science of Reading community. However, to be fair most OG studies are on diagnosed dyslexic students and studies on dyslexic students tend to produce lower results. That being said, the NRP meta-analysis found a mean effect size of .32 for dyslexic students receiving phonics instruction, meaning that not only did OG programs perform worse overall than other phonics, programs, it also performed worse than other phonics programs for dysexic outcomes.
I wanted to better understand why OG programs fared poorly, within the literature, while also being so popular within the evidence-based community, so I conducted my own meta-analysis of the topic, with the goal of excluding as many confounding variables as possible. One problem I noticed with the OG meta-analyses was that many of the OG studies were for older students; however, the NRP meta-analysis already showed that phonological instruction is ineffective for older students. For these reasons I excluded all studies above grade 3. This provided a mean ES of .35, which was higher than the NRP overall effect size for dyslexic students receiving phonics instruction.
One interesting thing I will note about these results, is that the fluency outcomes are particularly low. Indeed if we correct for fluency, we get a mean effect size of .40. This might mean there could be a benefit to supplementing OG programs with either additional fluency instruction or another program with higher fluency results.
There are many other programs, with higher research outcomes, even for dyslexic and at risk readers, than OG ones. Which to me suggests we have to accept one of two possibilities. Either the 8 primary studies conducted on OG programs (please see chart below) have failed to capture the efficacy of the program and there needs to be more high quality research on the subject or OG programs are not the best style of phonics instruction. One possible limitation of the OG research is that the lowest performing studies all had very limited durations. That being said, Orton Gillingham programs are Structured Literacy Programs and their efficacy is likely higher than Balanced Literacy programs. While the experimental evidence for Sonday and Ortanham Gillingham programs is very weak the principles behind Sonday are very strong and well evidence-within the literature. For these reasons, I would call the program research-based, not evidence-based.
Final Grade: B-
Most of the program principles are well evidenced, but there were no studies found with control groups.
Qualitative Grade: 8/10
The program includes the following essential, instructional types: direct, scaffolded, individualized, phonics, fluency, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Written by Nathaniel Hansford
Last Edited 2022-04-10
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