L3 is used in hundreds of schools across NSW and is a core component of the NSW Department of Education’s Early Action for Success strategy. L3 is supposed to provide early literacy intervention for all students including the most disadvantaged groups in order to reduce the number of students needing intervention in later years of schooling.
A primary concern with L3 — as outlined in our Research Brief — is that it is based on the same constructivist pedagogy as the Reading Recovery program. A recent longitudinal analysis of Reading Recovery found the long term impact to be limited for the vast majority of students — and even negative for some — so from 2018 the NSW DoE no longer provides system support for Reading Recovery.
One would think that the L3 program would have been evaluated carefully to make sure it is achieving better results, unfortunately, this is not the case. An evaluation of L3 was promised for 2017, but to date this has not been carried out. With $340 million invested in EAfS in 2017-2020 alone, we should expect improvement in student outcomes, but an evaluation of the literacy and numeracy strategy, of which L3 is a key component, has not improved NAPLAN results.
This is not surprising given L3 content does not reflect the evidence base for effective reading instruction in the early years of school, as identified by the NSW Government’s own research unit. A critique of the L3 program by Dr Roslyn Neilson and Dr Sally Howell found that it does not teach the five key components of early literacy systematically or explicitly.
If the NSW DoE is committed to “rigorous evaluation to focus investment and effort on what works” as stated in the 2017-2020 Literacy and Numeracy Strategy then they must carry out a comprehensive evaluation of L3. The DoE should halt any expansion of the program until effectiveness has been established, and assist schools to transition into an evidence based literacy instruction program that reflects the scientific evidence for effective teaching of reading.