What is the Matthew Effect?
Sociologist Richard C. Merton and his wife, Harriet Zuckerman are credited with creating the term "Matthew Effect" in the scientific community in 1968. Later, Keith Stanovich, a psychologist who has done extensive research on reading and language disabilities, applied it to education and more specifically, reading. In the educational community, "Matthew Effect" refers to the idea that, in reading (as in other areas of life), the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
When children fail at early reading and writing, they begin to dislike reading. They read less than their classmates who are stronger readers. When children with disabilities do not receive adequate remediation, they read
less – and learn less from reading - than non-disabled children.
The Matthew Effect was a key issue in James Brody's case.
James was found eligible for special education in 3rd grade. After three years of special education, he was re-tested. According to the new testing, his IQ dropped from 127 to 109. Two years later, James was re-tested again his IQ had dropped even further.
experts testified that James’ declining IQ test scores was an example
of the Matthew Effect - and evidence that James was not
receiving appropriate remediation.
Resources: The Matthew Effect
Note: this webpage was created in 2003 with links to the resources listed below. Fifteen years later, almost all of those links have changed and and result in "Page Not Found." Since 2003, there have been many more articles, publications, and cases that refer to the work by Keith Stanovich and Matthew Effect. Google both. We have deleted the invalid links, but kept the quotations and provided the source.
Writing, and Math Difficulties - Reading and writing failure begins
in kindergarten and is difficult to remediate beyond the primary grades.
When children fail at early reading and writing, they begin to dislike
reading, read less than their classmates who are stronger readers, and
as a consequence, lose a means for gaining vocabulary, background knowledge,
and information about how reading material is structured. In short, the
word-rich get richer, while the word-poor get poorer. Some have dubbed
this "The Matthew Effect". For children with disabilities in
the primary grades, reading and writing failure is pervasive, with reading
and writing difficulties affecting nearly all children who are identified
as having a disability. (From Vanderbilt University)
"There is ample evidence that students who do not make good initial progress in learning to read find it increasingly difficult to ever master the process. Stanovich (1986, 1988, 1993) outlines a model in which problems with early phonological skills can lead to a downward spiral where even higher cognitive skills are affected by slow reading development." (From Education News website.)
What is it, really? In this essay, attorney Emerson Dickman describes dyslexia, the Matthew Effects, the EIF approach to teaching reading (embarrassment is fundamental), discrepancy formulae, compares remediation, compensation, modification, and more.
"Slow reading acquisition has cognitive, behavioral, and motivational consequences that slow the development of other cognitive skills and inhibit performance on many academic tasks ... to put it more simply -- and sadly -- in the words of a tearful nine-year-old, already falling frustratingly behind his peers in reading progress, "Reading affects everything you do." (Adams, 1990, pp. 59-60). (From NJ Attorney Emerson Dickman's website.)