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It may be fun to learn phonics using a card game designed to improve spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension skills, but it may not improve reading skills as much as its maker claims, according to a firm that analyzes the quality of education programs.

The Phonics Game, which is advertised as a complete reading system on radio and television stations nationwide, is the first winner of the Educational Mirage Award. The award was given last month by Educational Achievement Systems, a Seattle-based education consulting firm, to "publicize popular programs that lack research evidence."

The game's developer, A Better Way of Learning Corp., based in Costa Mesa, Calif., promises the program will boost a child's reading scores by a letter grade or the company will refund the program's $199.95 cost.

But Gary Adams, the president of Educational Achievement Systems, claims the ads for the game include false testimonials and suggest that media coverage of phonics instruction proves the game's effectiveness. Mr. Adams and researcher Jan Hartleben point to early advertising, which has since been modified, that promised drastic improvement in reading scores in just 18 hours.

Barbara Meserve, the director of education for A Better Way, calls the charges "ridiculous." "We have test results [that prove the game's effectiveness] ... and we're backed by experts," she said.

Brown Bag

The most important meal of the day is in the bag for students in Hardin County, Ky.--literally.

Several hundred students in the county start the day greeted by a warm, brown-bag breakfast, which includes such items as waffles-on-a stick, muffins, and juice or milk.

"We found a lot of kids weren't eating breakfast because they didn't have time," said Jannie Thornton, the food-service director for the county. But now, five of the county's 21 schools participate in the program.

Students arrive at school and buy a breakfast to tote off to their classrooms and eat before teachers begin the day's lessons. Meals are provided for free to students who can not afford them.

Gary Cottrell, the principal of Parkway Elementary School in Radcliff, can attest to the change.

His 650-student school has been a part of the program from the start. Now, meal participation is up, with the majority of students eating breakfast. And there's a bonus: The school's hallways are quieter and more peaceful, Mr. Cottrell said.

--Kathleen Kennedy Manzo & Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 18, Issue 15, Page 3

Published in Print: November 25, 1998, as Take Note

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