What Works to Improve Student Literacy Achievement? An Examination of Instructional Practices in a Balanced Literacy Approach

Bitter, C., O'Day, J., Gubbins, P., & Socias, M. (2009). What works to improve student literacy achievement? an examination of instructional practices in a balanced literacy approach. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 14(1), 17-44.

A core assumption of the San Diego City Schools (SDCS) reform effort was that improved instructional practices, aligned with a balanced literacy approach, would be effective in improving student outcomes. This article explores this hypothesis by presenting findings from an analysis of classroom instruction data collected in 101 classrooms in nine high-poverty elementary schools. The study found a prevalent focus on reading comprehension instruction and on students' active engagement in making meaning from text. Teachers' use of higher-level questions and discussion about text were substantially higher than that found by a prior study using the same instrument in similar classrooms elsewhere. Analyses of instruction and student outcome data indicate that teacher practices related to the higher-level meaning of text, writing instruction, and strategies for accountable talk were associated with growth in students' reading comprehension.

"Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!" — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943