Curriculum and Instruction

Do jigsaw classrooms improve learning outcomes? Five experiments and an internal meta-analysis.

Stanczak, A., Darnon, C., Robert, A., Demolliens, M., Sanrey, C., Bressoux, P., Huguet, P., Buchs, C., Butera, F., & PROFAN Consortium. (2022). Do jigsaw classrooms improve learning outcomes? Five experiments and an internal meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.

“Jigsaw” is a peer learning procedure derived from social interdependence theory, which suggests that individuals positively linked by a common goal can benefit from positive and promotive social interactions (Aronson & Patnoe, 2011). Although jigsaw has often been presented as an efficient way to promote learning, empirical research testing its effect on learning remains relatively scarce. The goal of the present research is to test the hypothesis that a jigsaw intervention would yield a meaningful effect size (d = .40) on learning outcomes, in 5 randomized experiments conducted among sixth-graders. The jigsaw intervention was compared to an “individualistic” or a “teaching as usual” approach on the same pedagogical content. Across the 5 experiments, we did not find empirical support for this hypothesis. Internal meta-analytic estimates showed that, overall, the jigsaw intervention did not produce the expected positive effects on learning. The reasons why jigsaw classrooms may not always prove beneficial for learning are discussed.

Embracing Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Instructional Materials

Jenny Muñiz (August 2021). Embracing Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Instructional Materials: Promising Strategies for State and District Leaders. Washington, DC: New America.

Choosing instructional materials wisely is one of the most important jobs education leaders and teachers have. Through culturally responsive and sustaining education, all students experience learning that is collaborative, joyful, and empowering. Through this approach, students see their cultural experiences, funds of knowledge, interests, and daily life elevated in all aspects of schooling—from educators’ beliefs and behaviors to the content in the curriculum. Many educators want to embrace culturally responsive and sustaining teaching, but they lack the instructional materials necessary to do so well. This report argues that embracing high-quality instructional materials that are both rigorous and relevant is crucial to addressing equity in education. The report offers promising practices for state and district leaders.

The Science of Reading Progresses: Communicating Advances Beyond the Simple View of Reading

Duke, N.K., and Cartwright, K.B. (2021). The Science of Reading Progresses: Communicating Advances Beyond the Simple View of Reading. Reading Research Quarterly 56(S1), S25– S44.

The simple view of reading is commonly presented to educators in professional development about the science of reading. The simple view is a useful tool for conveying the undeniable importance of both decoding and linguistic comprehension for reading. Research in the 35 years since the theory was proposed has revealed additional understandings about reading. The authors synthesize research documenting three of these advances: (1) Reading difficulties have a number of causes, not all of which fall under decoding and/or listening comprehension as posited in the simple view; (2) rather than influencing reading solely independently, as conceived in the simple view, decoding and listening comprehension (or in terms more commonly used in reference to the simple view today, word recognition and language comprehension) overlap in important ways; and (3) there are many contributors to reading not named in the simple view, such as active, self-regulatory processes, that play a substantial role in reading. Research showing that instruction aligned with these advances can improve students’ reading. The authors present their theory of the "active view of reading" as an expansion of the simple view.

Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science, 2020: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able to Do

Moats, Louisa C. (2020). Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science (2020): What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able to Do. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.

This 2020 update to the 1999 foundational report reviews the reading research and describes the knowledge base that is essential for teacher candidates and practicing teachers to master if they are to be successful in teaching all children to read well. Developed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

SOLAR: The Science of Language and Reading

Pamela C. Snow, SOLAR: The Science of Language and Reading, Child Language and Teaching Therapy, August 2020.

Research indicates that we should be successfully teaching 95% of children to read, yet, in reality, high rates of reading failure are common in western, industrialized nations. In large part, this reflects a failure to translate into practice knowledge derived from the scientific study of reading and reading instruction and, indeed, to the rejection in some circles of the notion that there is a science of reading, in the same way that there is a science of memory, learning, and cognition. The Science of Language and Reading (SOLAR) framework is a way of positioning oral language as a central driver of reading acquisition. The SOLAR framework is illustrated via the Language House schema, which considers the social-emotional contexts for language acquisition and reading instruction, alongside the ongoing development of prosocial interpersonal skills and mastery of sufficient language and reading skills by early adulthood to be able to function as part of the social and economic mainstream. Speech-language therapy has much to offer to the promotion of evidence-based early reading and writing instruction and support, given the linguistic nature of reading and the high comorbidity between language and reading difficulties and social-emotional disturbances in childhood and adolescence.

How the Science of Reading Informs 21st‐Century Education

Petscher, Y.Cabell, S.Q.Catts, H.W.Compton, D.L.Foorman, B.R.Hart, S.A.Lonigan, C.J.Phillips, B.M.Schatschneider, C.Steacy, L.M.Terry, N.P., & Wagner, R.K. (2020). How the Science of Reading Informs 21st‐Century EducationReading Research Quarterly55(S1), S267– S282

The science of reading should be informed by an evolving evidence base built on the scientific method. Decades of basic research and randomized controlled trials of interventions and instructional routines have formed a substantial evidence base to guide best practices in reading instruction, reading intervention, and the early identification of at‐risk readers. The recent resurfacing of questions about what constitutes the science of reading is leading to misinformation in the public space that may be viewed by educational stakeholders as merely differences of opinion among scientists. In this article, the authors revisit the science of reading through an epistemological lens to clarify what constitutes evidence in the science of reading, and to offer a critical evaluation of the evidence provided by the science of reading. To this end, the authors summarize those things that they believe have compelling evidence, promising evidence, or a lack of compelling evidence. The authors conclude with a discussion of areas of focus that they believe will advance the science of reading to meet the needs of all students in the 21st century.

The Science of Learning to Read Words: A Case for Systematic Phonics Instruction

Ehri, L.C. (2020). The Science of Learning to Read Words: A Case for Systematic Phonics Instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S45– S60.

A review of theory and research by Ehri and her colleagues to document how a scientific approach has been applied over the years to conduct controlled studies whose findings reveal how beginners learn to read words in and out of text. Words may be read by decoding letters into blended sounds or by predicting words from context, but the way that contributes most to reading and comprehending text is reading words automatically from memory by sight. The evidence shows that words are read from memory when graphemes are connected to phonemes. This bonds spellings of individual words to their pronunciations along with their meanings in memory. Readers must know grapheme–phoneme relations and have decoding skill to form connections, and must read words in text to associate spellings with meanings. Readers move through four developmental phases as they acquire knowledge about the alphabetic writing system and apply it to read and write words and build their sight vocabularies. Grapheme–phoneme knowledge and phonemic segmentation are key foundational skills that launch development followed subsequently by knowledge of syllabic and morphemic spelling–sound units. Findings show that when spellings attach to pronunciations and meanings in memory, they enhance memory for vocabulary words. This research underscores the importance of systematic phonics instruction that teaches students the knowledge and skills that are essential in acquiring word-reading skill.

The Sciences of Reading and Writing Must Become More Fully Integrated

Graham, S. (2020). The Sciences of Reading and Writing Must Become More Fully Integrated. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S35– S44.

Science has greatly enhanced what we know about reading and writing. Drawing on this knowledge, researchers have proffered recommendations for how to teach these two literacy skills. Although such recommendations are aimed at closing the gap between research and practice, they often fail to take into account the reciprocal relation that exists between reading and writing. Writing and writing instruction improve students’ reading and vice versa. Theory and evidence that support this reciprocal relation are presented, and implications for the scientific study of reading and writing, policy, and practice are offered, including the proposal that the sciences of reading and writing need to be better integrated.

What Constitutes a Science of Reading Instruction?

Shanahan, T. (2020). What Constitutes a Science of Reading Instruction? Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S235– S247.

Recently, the term science of reading has been used in public debate to promote policies and instructional practices based on research on the basic cognitive mechanisms of reading, the neural processes involved in reading, computational models of learning to read, and the like. According to those views, such data provide convincing evidence that explicit decoding instruction (e.g., phonological awareness, phonics) should be beneficial to reading success. Nevertheless, there has been pushback against such policies, the use of the term science of reading by “phonics-centric people”, and their lack of instructional knowledge and experience. In this article, although the author supports pedagogical decision making on the basis of a confluence of evidence from a variety of sources, he cautions against instructional over-generalizations based on various kinds of basic research without an adequate consideration of instructional experiments. The author provides several examples of the premature translation of basic research findings into wide-scale pedagogical application.

Improving reading comprehension, science domain knowledge, and reading engagement through a first-grade content literacy intervention

Kim, J., Burkhauser, M., Mesite, L., Asher, C., Relyea, J., Fitzgerald, J. & Elmore, J. (2020). Improving reading comprehension, science domain knowledge, and reading engagement through a first-grade content literacy intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology. 113. 10.1037/edu0000465. 

In this study, classroom teachers taught first-grade children about science knowledge while they conducted literacy instruction. Grounding literacy instruction in science content is called content literacy instruction. The aim of content literacy instruction is to help young children acquire conceptually related vocabulary while learning science (and history) content. Results indicate that content literacy instruction can improve first-graders’ science domain knowledge (as measured by vocabulary knowledge depth, listening comprehension, and argumentative writing) and reading comprehension outcomes. Furthermore, there were no negative or adverse effects on first graders’ reading engagement or basic literacy skills. The study suggests that content literacy instruction can improve the rigor, quality, and effectiveness of whole class literacy instruction in the early elementary grades.

Comparing Reading Research to Program Design: An Examination of Teachers College Units of Study

Marilyn Jager Adams, Lily Wong Fillmore, Claude Goldenber , Jane Oakhil , David D. Paig , Timothy Rasinski, Timothy Shanahan. Comparing Reading Research to Program Design: An Examination of Teachers College Units of Study (January 2020). New York, New York: Student Achievement Partners

This report examines a program widely used in schools: Units of Study from the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project. Seven literacy experts conducted independent reviews of the program focused on their individual areas of expertise: phonics and fluency, text complexity, building knowledge and vocabulary, and English learner supports. Each of the reviews is a detailed, research-based discussion of how the components, features, and structures of Units of Study compare to what is called for by existing research on literacy instruction.

The cognitive foundations of learning to read: a framework for preventing and remediating reading difficulties

William E. Tunmer & Wesley A. Hoover (2019) The cognitive foundations of learning to read: a framework for preventing and remediating reading difficulties. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 24:1, 75-93, DOI: 10.1080/19404158.2019.1614081

This article presents an overview of a conceptual framework designed to help reading professionals better understand what their students are facing as they learn to read in alphabetic writing systems. The US National Reading Panel (NRP) recommended five instructional components for improving reading outcomes but presented these instructional components as a list without explicitly addressing their interrelations, either in terms of instruction or cognitive development. In contrast, the Cognitive Foundations Framework offers a description of the major cognitive capacities underlying learning to read and specifies the relationships between them. The central claim of this article is that what is needed to help intervention specialists achieve better outcomes is a clearly specified conceptual framework of the cognitive capacities underlying learning to read that provides the basis for an assessment framework that is linked to evidence-based instructional strategies for addressing the individual literacy learning needs of students.

Teachers’ use of questions during shared book reading: Relations to child responses

Laura M. Justice, Richa Deshmukh, Tricia Zucker , Sherine Tambyraja, Jill Pentimonti, and Ryan Bowles. Teachers’ use of questions during shared book reading: Relations to child responses. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 49 (4), June 2019, pages 59-68.

This study examined the extent to which preschool teachers used different types of questions during classroom-based shared book reading. The goals were to describe the question wording teachers use to elicit child responses and to consider sequential relations between types of question wording and student responses. Only 24 percent of what teachers said outside of reading the text were questions – and those that they did ask were usually too simple. Most teacher questions were easy for children to answer accurately or with a single word, indicating that teachers are not adjusting their questioning techniques to a level of challenge that is just above children’s overall level of mastery. Important implications of these findings are discussed for educators as well as curriculum developers.

Effectiveness of Literacy Programs Balancing Reading and Writing Instruction: A Meta-Analysis

Graham, S., Liu, X., Aitken, A., Ng, C., Bartlett, B., Harris, K. R., & Holzapfel, J. (2018). Effectiveness of Literacy Programs Balancing Reading and Writing Instruction: A Meta-Analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 53(3), 279–304. 

Reading and writing are critical to students’ success in and outside of school. Because they draw on common sources of knowledge and cognitive processes, involve meaning making, and can be used conjointly to accomplish important learning goals, it is often recommended that reading and writing should be taught together. This meta-analysis tested this proposition by examining experimental intervention studies with preschool through high school students to determine whether literacy programs balancing reading and writing instruction strengthen students’ reading and writing performance. To be included in this review, no more than 60% of instruction could be devoted to either reading or writing. As predicted, these programs improved students’ reading, resulting in statistically significant effects when reading measures were averaged in each study or assessed through measures of reading comprehension, decoding, or reading vocabulary. The programs also statistically enhanced writing when measures were averaged in each study or assessed via writing quality, writing mechanics, or writing output. These findings demonstrated that literacy programs balancing reading and writing instruction can strengthen reading and writing and that the two skills can be learned together profitably.

The Investing in Innovation Fund: Summary of 67 Evaluations

Boulay, B., Goodson, B., Olsen, R., McCormick, R., Darrow, C., Frye, M., Gan, K., Harvill, H., & Sarna, M. (2018). The Investing in Innovation Fund: Summary of 67 Evaluations: Final Report (NCEE 2018-4013). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

The Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund is a tiered-evidence program that aligns the amount of funding awarded to grantees with the strength of the prior evidence supporting the proposed intervention. One of the goals of i3 is to build strong evidence for effective interventions at increasing scale. The i3 program requires grantees to conduct an independent impact evaluation. This report, from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), assesses the quality of the 67 i3 grant evaluations completed by May 2017 and summarizes the findings of the evaluations. The report found that 49 of the first 67 completed i3 grant evaluations were implemented consistent with What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards and 12 of the evaluations found a positive impact on at least one student academic outcome.

Reading and Writing Instruction in America’s Schools

David Griffith and Ann Duffett. Reading and Writing Instruction in America’s Schools (July 2018). Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

This nationally representative survey of some 1,200 teachers looks at whether the Common Core State Standards have improved reading and writing instruction, eight years after implementation. Results indicate that the Common Core State Standards have encouraged a number of big changes, including a shift to more complex texts, particularly nonfiction, and content-rich curriculum. The standards are more rigorous, but can present challenges for teachers, particularly the tenet of having students of all reading abilities grapple with grade-level texts.

Current Evidence on the Effects of Intensive Early Reading Interventions

Wanzek, J., Stevens, E. A., Williams, K. J., Scammacca, N., Vaughn, S., & Sargent, K. (2018). Current Evidence on the Effects of Intensive Early Reading Interventions. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 51(6), 612–624.

In this meta-analysis, researchers updated an earlier synthesis by Wanzek and Vaughn (2007) on intensive early reading interventions by analyzing the effects from 25 reading intervention studies. Researchers examined the overall effect of intensive early reading interventions as well as relationships between intervention and student characteristics related to outcomes. Researchers found that intensive early reading interventions resulted in positive outcomes for early struggling readers in kindergarten through third grades.

Structured Literacy and Typical Literacy Practices: Understanding Differences to Create Instructional Opportunities

Swerling, Louise Spear. Structured Literacy and Typical Literacy Practices: Understanding Differences to Create Instructional Opportunities (January 23, 2018). Teaching Exceptional Children: Volume: 51 issue: 3, page(s): 201-211.

A key feature of structured literacy (SL) includes, “explicit, systematic, and sequential teaching of literacy at multiple levels — phonemes, letter–sound relationships, syllable patterns, morphemes, vocabulary, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and text structure. SL is especially well suited to students with dyslexia because it directly addresses their core weaknesses in phonological skills, decoding, and spelling. If implemented in Tier 1 instruction and tiered interventions, SL practices may also prevent or ameliorate a wide range of other reading difficulties.

Ending the Reading Wars: Reading Acquisition From Novice to Expert

Castles, A., Rastle, K., & Nation, K. (2018). Ending the Reading Wars: Reading Acquisition From Novice to Expert. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 19(1), 5–51.

A comprehensive tutorial review of the science of learning to read, spanning from children’s earliest alphabetic skills through to the fluent word recognition and skilled text comprehension characteristic of expert readers. The authors explain why phonics instruction is so central to learning in a writing system such as English. They also review the research on what else children need to learn to become expert readers and considering how this might be translated into effective classroom practice. The authors call for an end to the reading wars and recommend an agenda for instruction and research in reading acquisition that is balanced, developmentally informed, and based on a deep understanding of how language and writing systems work.

What Research Tells Us About Reading Instruction

Rebecca Treiman, What Research Tells Us About Reading Instruction, Psychological Science in the Public Interest 2018, Vol. 19(1) 1.

There have been many debates about how children should learn to read; those between proponents of phonics instruction and proponents of whole-language instruction have sometimes been so heated that they have been called the “reading wars.” What can psychological science tell us about the issues? Castles, Rastle, and Nation (2018) provide a wide-ranging review of how reading develops, from beginners to experts, and consider the implications of the research for how reading should be taught.

An Investigation of the Role of Sequencing in Children’s Reading Comprehension

Gouldthorp, Bethanie & Katsipis, Lia & Mueller, Cara. (2017). An Investigation of the Role of Sequencing in Children's Reading Comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly 53 (1), p91-106.

The study aimed to investigate whether children with high, compared with low, reading comprehension differ in their sequencing skill, which was defined as the ability to identify and recall the temporal order of events in narratives. A novel age-appropriate reading and recall measure was developed to assess sequencing in typically developing primary school students. Sixty-four students between the ages of 8 and 11 years read short narratives containing either a forward or backward temporal shift and then placed a set of cards depicting the scenario in either picture or text format in the correct chronological order that the events occurred. Participants also completed measures of verbal and visuospatial working memory to investigate potential relations between working memory and sequencing ability. High comprehenders were found to produce more accurate sequences than low comprehenders in all conditions of the sequencing task, suggesting that sequencing ability may be important for facilitating comprehension. Additionally, participants produced more accurate sequences in the forward condition than the backward condition, indicating that sequencing is facilitated by chronological presentation of events in text. Measures of working memory were unrelated to sequencing ability or comprehension. The results of this study provide preliminary evidence that sequencing is an important skill for children's comprehension of narrative texts and have implications for reading education and intervention programs.

The effectiveness of universal design for learning: a meta-analysis of literature between 2013 and 2016

Capp, M.J., The effectiveness of universal design for learning: a meta-analysis of literature between 2013 and 2016 (2017). International Journal of Inclusive Education, Volume 21 (8), pp 791-807.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is often promoted as an inclusive teaching methodology for supporting all students within diverse contemporary classrooms. This is achieved by proactively planning to the edges of a classroom by thinking of all the potential needs of students. To examine its effectiveness, a meta-analysis was conducted on empirical research, containing pre- and post-testing, published in peer-reviewed journals between 2013 and 2016 (N = 18). Results from this analysis suggest that UDL is an effective teaching methodology for improving the learning process for all students. The impact on educational outcomes has not been demonstrated. The implications of this study are discussed.

Reading for Writing: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Reading Interventions on Writing

Graham, S., Liu, X., Bartlett, B., Ng, C., Harris, K. R., Aitken, A., Barkel, A., Kavanaugh, C., & Talukdar, J. (2018). Reading for Writing: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Reading Interventions on Writing. Review of Educational Research, 88(2), 243–284.

This meta-analysis examined if students’ writing performance is improved by reading interventions in studies where students were taught how to read and studies where students’ interaction with words or text was increased through reading or observing others read. As predicted, teaching reading strengthened writing, resulting in statistically significant effects for an overall measure of writing and specific measures of writing quality, words written, or spelling. The impact of teaching reading on writing was maintained over time. Having students read text or observe others interact with text also enhanced writing performance, producing a statistically significant impact on an overall measure of writing and specific measures of writing quality or spelling. These findings provide support that reading interventions can enhance students’ writing performance.

The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom

Melody Arabo, Jonathan Budd, Shannon Garrison, and Tabitha Pacheco (March 2017). The Right Tool for the Job Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom. Washington, DC: The Thomas Fordham Institute.

This report presents in-depth reviews of nine promising online reading and writing tools for ELA classrooms. Overall, reviewers found these new resources mostly reflect the instructional shifts called for by Common Core (such as including a balance of text types and text-dependent questions for reading and writing). They also lauded the innovative nature and usefulness of text sets as instructional tools, as well as online resources’ student assessment and data reporting capabilities. However, our reviewers cite a lack of information regarding accessibility and accommodations for students with learning disabilities.

Literacy Achievement Trends at Entry to First Grade

Jerome V. D’Agostino, Emily Rodgers (March 1, 2017) Literacy Achievement Trends at Entry to First Grade. Educational Researcher Vol 46, Issue 2, pp. 78 - 89. 

This nationwide study showed that children entering first grade in 2013 had significantly better reading skills than similar students had just 12 years earlier. Researchers say this means that in general, children are better readers at a younger age, but the study also revealed where gaps remain — especially in more advanced reading skills. In the four basic skills, low-achieving students narrowed the achievement gap with other readers. But in the two advanced skills — including actually reading text — the gap widened. The results also show that strategies to help preschoolers who are having trouble with language skills need to be adjusted.

Web-Based Text Structure Strategy Instruction Improves Seventh Graders' Content Area Reading Comprehension

Wijekumar, K. (K.), Meyer, B. J. F., & Lei, P. (2017). Web-based text structure strategy instruction improves seventh graders’ content area reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109 (6), 741-760.

Reading comprehension in the content areas is a challenge for many middle grade students. Text structure-based instruction has yielded positive outcomes in reading comprehension at all grade levels in small and large studies. The text structure strategy delivered via the web, called Intelligent Tutoring System for the Text Structure Strategy (ITSS), has proven successful in large-scale studies at 4th and 5th grades and a smaller study at 7th grade. Text structure-based instruction focuses on selection and encoding of strategic memory. This strategic memory proves to be an effective springboard for many comprehension-based activities such as summarizing, inferring, elaborating, and applying. Results from this study showed that ITSS classrooms outperformed the control classrooms on all measures with the highest effects reported for number of ideas included in the main idea. Results have practical implications for classroom practices.

Improving Content Area Reading Comprehension of Spanish Speaking English Learners in Grades 4 and 5 Using Web-based Text Structure Instruction

Kausalai Wijekumar, Bonnie J. F. Meyer, Puiwa Lei, Anita C. Hernandez, and Diane L. August. Improving content area reading comprehension of Spanish speaking English learners in Grades 4 and 5 using web-based text structure instruction. Reading and Writing (December 2017).

The text structure strategy has shown positive results on comprehension outcomes in many research studies with students at Grades 2, 4, 5, and 7. This study is the first implementation of instruction about the text structure strategy expressly designed to accommodate the linguistic and comprehension needs of Spanish speaking ELs in Grades 4 and 5. Strategy instruction on the web for English learners (SWELL) was designed to deliver instruction about the text structure strategy to Spanish speaker English learners. Results show moderate to large-effects favoring the students in the SWELL classrooms over the control classrooms on important measures such as a standardized reading comprehension test and main idea and cloze tasks. This research has practical implications for the use of web-based tools to provide high-quality and supportive instruction to improve Spanish speaking ELs reading comprehension skills.

Learning About Learning: What Every New Teacher Needs to Know

Pomerance, L., Greenberg, J., and Walsh, K. (January 2016). Learning About Learning: What Every New Teacher Needs to Know. Washingtobn, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality.

This report asserts that textbook publishers and authors are failing the teaching profession, students and the public by neglecting to provide our next generation of teachers with the fundamental knowledge they need to make learning “stick.” The report finds that out of 48 texts used in teacher-training programs, none accurately described fundamental evidence-based teaching strategies comprehensively. Only 15 percent had more than a single page devoted to evidence-based practices; the remainder contained either zero or only a few sentences on methods that have been backed up by the decades of scientific findings that exist in the field of educational psychology.

Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform

International Literacy Association (2016) Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform [White paper]. Newark, DE

The central tenet of the white paper is that classroom literacy instruction should be grounded in rigorous, peer-reviewed research — not politics, ideology, or speculation. Rather than settling on a specific reform strategy, the white paper offers frameworks for use in drafting or evaluating reform proposals. The frameworks address four key education sectors: literacy learning and teachers; schools and schooling; student support; and families and communities. For each sector, the white paper offers a list of research-validated approaches to literacy advancement, which is designed to function as a rubric to inform, refine, and assess reform proposals. In addition, each framework includes a detailed list of supporting sources to facilitate exploration into the underlying research base.

2014-15 Study of Mississippi Teacher Preparation for Early Literacy Instruction

Barksdale Reading Institute (March 2015). 2014-15 Study of Mississippi Teacher Preparation for Early Literacy Instruction. Oxford, MS: Barksdale Reading Institute and The Institutions of Higher Learning.

The study led to nine key findings, including an improved level of emphasis on the five essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The study also highlights a serious gap in the understanding and application of evidence-based practices for early reading instruction both in teacher preparation and in K-3 field experiences. The report culminated in several major recommendations: (1) Adopt research-based practices at every level of reading education (specifically those practices endorsed by the National Reading Panel); (2) Improve P-20 educator knowledge and communications to better inform policy; (3) Repurpose the state’s Reading Panel to include educators and literacy experts from all levels of the system to oversee the credentialing of undergraduate instructors assigned to teach early literacy courses.

Reading, Writing, and the Common Core Standards

Lazarin, M. (August 2016).  Reading, Writing, and the Common Core Standards. Washington, D.C.: The Center for American Progress

This report examines these key shifts in the ELA standards more closely, as well as the research basis for their inclusion and the potential benefits for students. In order to fully realize the promise of more rigorous standards to help all students achieve at high levels and graduate from high school truly prepared for college and a career, the Center for American Progress offers the following recommendations to state and district leaders: (1) Push ahead with the Common Core standards and aligned assessments; (2) Strengthen training supports for prospective and current teachers, including teachers of other subjects; and (3) Ensure that teachers have access to and are using high-quality curricular materials and tools aligned to the Common Core.

An Analysis of Two Reading Intervention Programs: How Do the Words, Texts, and Programs Compare?

Murray, Maria S.; Munger, Kristen A.; Hiebert, Elfrieda H. An Analysis of Two Reading Intervention Programs: How Do the Words, Texts, and Programs Compare? Elementary School Journal, v114 n4 p479-500, Jun 2014.

In this study, the student texts and teacher guides of two reading intervention programs for at-risk, first-grade students were analyzed and compared: Fountas and Pinnell's "Leveled Literacy Intervention" (LLI) and Scott Foresman's "My Sidewalks" (MS). The analyses drew on the framework of available theory and research on beginning texts developed by Mesmer, Cunningham, and Hiebert in 2012. This framework includes attention to word-level, text-level, and program-level features. The student texts of the two programs had similar average percentages of single-appearing words and words that can elicit a mental picture (concrete words); however, LLI texts featured more repetition of words, a slightly higher percentage of highly frequent words, and a considerably higher percentage of multisyllable words. MS texts contained a higher percentage of phonetically regular words and a higher lesson-to-text match between phonics elements in teacher guides and the words in student texts. Instructional implications and future research directions are discussed.

Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability

Bassok, D. and Rorem, A. (2014). Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability. EdPolicy Works, University of Virginia.

Recent accounts suggest that accountability pressures have trickled down into the early elementary grades, and that kindergarten today is characterized by a heightened focus on academic skills. This paper documents substantial changes in kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2006, using two large nationally-representative data sets. Nearly all measures examined changed substantially over this period, and always in the direction consistent with a heightened academic focus. While in 1998, 31 percent of kindergarten teachers indicated that most children should learn to read in kindergarten, in 2006 65 percent of teachers agreed with this statement. Time on literacy rose by 25 percent from roughly 5.5 to 7 hours per week and exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education all dropped.

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.

Children’s Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy

Dunst, C, Simkus, A, Hamby, D. (2012). Children’s Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy. CELLreviews 5(4). Asheville, NC: Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute, Center for Early Literacy Learning.

The effects of children's story retelling on early literacy and language development was examined in a meta-analysis of 11 studies including 687 toddlers and preschoolers. Results indicated that children's story retelling influenced both story-related comprehension and expressive vocabulary as well as nonstory-related receptive language and early literacy development. Findings also showed that the use of the characteristics that experts consider the important features of retelling practices was associated with positive child outcomes. Implications for practice are described.

Advancing Our Students’ Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts

Adams, M.J. (2011). Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.

The language of today’s twelfth-grade English texts is simpler than that of seventh-grade texts published prior to 1963. No wonder students’ reading comprehension has declined sharply. The author claims that literacy level of secondary students is languishing because the kids are not reading what they need to be reading. In this article, the author lays out the evidence and argument of her claim. She examines the options for developing students’ vocabulary and presents insights from a computer model of vocabulary acquisition. She also discusses a strategy for developing advanced reading and the role of a common core curriculum. She contends that a great benefit of a common core curriculum is that it would drive a thorough overhaul of the texts educators give students to read, and the kinds of learning and thought they expect their reading to support.

Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade, But We Need To

Hirsch, E.D., Jr. (2011). Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade — But We Need To. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.

Most of today’s reading programs rest on faulty ideas about reading comprehension. The author argues that comprehension is not a general skill; it relies on having relevant vocabulary and knowledge. He explains the need for a fact-filled, knowledge-building curriculum. He suggests that states should adopt a common core curriculum that builds knowledge grade by grade in order to serve all children to the best of one's ability and to increase reading achievement.

PreK-3rd: Getting Literacy Instruction Right

Lesaux, Nonie K. PreK-3rd: Getting Literacy Instruction Right. New York: Foundation for Child Development, 2013.
This brief outlines the elements of strong PreK-3rd literacy instruction including: what high-quality instruction looks like,what supports enable teachers to carry out strong literacy instruction, and what policies enable schools to carry out strong PreK-3rd reading instruction. High-quality, coordinated PreK-3rd literacy instruction expands children’s cognitive capacities, develops language and vocabulary, and prepares them to read advanced texts. These skills provide a sturdy foundation for school success and expanded life opportunities.

Using Instructional Routines to Differentiate Instruction: A Guide for Teachers

Kosanovich, M. (2012). Using Instructional Routines to differentiate instruction. A guide for teachers. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

The Center on Instruction released a publication to help educators plan differentiated instruction using 72 formatted activities called Instructional Routines, which provide a structure for teaching specific foundational reading skills. Included is a table which displays the alignment between the Instructional Routines and the Common Core State Standards organized by the five reading components (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). This resource provides support in the alignment of instruction in schools that are implementing School Improvement Grants (SIG) and/or College and Career Ready Standards (including Common Core State Standards).

The influence of decodability in early reading text on reading achievement: a review of the evidence

Cheatham, J.P., Allor, J.H. The influence of decodability in early reading text on reading achievement: a review of the evidence. Reading and Writing 25, 2223–2246 (2012).

This review synthesizes the existing research on decodability as a text characteristic examining how reading decodable text impacts students’ reading performance and growth. Collectively the results indicate that decodability is a critical characteristic of early reading text as it increases the likelihood that students will use a decoding strategy and results in immediate benefits, particularly with regard to accuracy. The studies point to the need for multiple-criteria text with decodability being one key characteristic in ensuring that students develop the alphabetic principle that is necessary for successful reading, rather than text developed based on the single criterion of decodability.

Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade

Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

This practice guide focuses on three areas that current research on reading indicates are critical to building a young student's capacity to comprehend what he or she reads: knowledge and abilities required specifically to comprehend text, thinking and reasoning skills, and motivation to understand and work toward academic goals. Five recommendations: (1) Teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies; (2) Teach students to identify and use the text's organizational structure to comprehend, learn, and remember content; (3) Guide students through focused, high-quality discussion on the meaning of text; (4) Select texts purposefully to support comprehension development; and (5) Establish an engaging and motivating context in which to teach reading comprehension.

Educator's Guide: Identifying What Works for Struggling Readers

Slavin, R.E., Lake, C., Davis, S., & Madden, N. (2010) Educator's Guide: Identifying What Works for Struggling Readers. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education.

This report published on the Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE) website provides an extensive review of the research on the outcomes of 27 early childhood programs. Six of the programs produced strong evidence of effectiveness in language, literacy, and/or phonological awareness. All of the effective programs had explicit academic content, a balance of teacher-led and child-initiated activity, and significant training and follow-up support.

PreK-Grade 3 Reading and Literacy Practices That Matter

Ryan, M. PreK-Grade 3: Reading and Literacy Practices That Matter. (2010). Education Commission of the States. New York, NY.

This snapshot of five recent research studies addresses reading and literacy in the early grades. Policy recommendations on practices that matter are included for each of the five studies.

Using Student Achievement Data to Support Instructional Decision Making

Hamilton, L., Halverson, R., Jackson, S., Mandinach, E., Supovitz, J., & Wayman, J. (2009). Using student achievement data to support instructional decision making (NCEE 2009-4067). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

This guide offers five recommendations to help educators effectively use data to monitor students' academic progress and evaluate instructional practices. The guide recommends that schools set a clear vision for schoolwide data use, develop a data-driven culture, and make data part of an ongoing cycle of instructional improvement. The guide also recommends teaching students how to use their own data to set learning goals.

How to get recreational reading to increase reading achievement

Kamil, M. (2008). How to get recreational reading to increase reading achievement. In Y. Kim, V. J. Risko, D. L. Compton, D. K. Dickinson, M. K. Hundley, R. T. Jiménez, & D. Well Rowe (Eds.), 57th Yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 31–40). Oak Creek, WI: National Reading Conference.

The conclusion from these studies is that recreational reading by itself has no effect on reading achievement — teachers and instruction are the critical variables in the relationship of recreational reading to reading ability. The current research provides a strong test of the notion that having students read a lot will produce reading achievement gains. This holds true for the entire range of measures used from alphabetics to comprehension. However, instruction can leverage recreational reading to produce some gains in reading achievement, most notably in fluency and comprehension. When recreational reading is encouraged in the context of improved instruction, there are improvements in fluency and comprehension, although not in vocabulary.

Instruction in Reading Comprehension for Primary-Grade Students: A Focus on Text Structure

Williams, J. P. (2005). Instruction in Reading Comprehension for Primary-Grade Students: A Focus on Text Structure. The Journal of Special Education, 39(1), 6–18.

The studies described here are designed to teach reading comprehension to at-risk students in the second and third grades. The focus is on text structure. First, there is an evaluation of a program — the Theme Scheme — that teaches students to identify themes of stories and apply those themes to real life; this instruction goes beyond the plot-level focus of typical primary-grade instruction. Second, an instructional program that teaches a common expository text structure, compare/contrast, is evaluated in a series of studies; content similar to science content typically taught at the primary level is used. The results of these studies suggest that at-risk children in the primary grades can achieve gains in comprehension, including the ability to transfer what they have learned to novel texts, when they are given highly structured and explicit instruction that focuses on text structure.

Using Research and Reason in Education: How Teachers Can Use Scientifically Based Research to Make Curricular & Instructional Decisions

Stanovich, P. J. & Stanovich, K. E. (2003). Using research and reason in education: How teachers can use scientifically based research to make curricular & instructional decisions. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Department of Education; and Department of Health and Human Services.

As professionals, teachers can become more effective and powerful by developing the skills to recognize scientifically based practice and, when the evidence is not available, use some basic research concepts to draw conclusions on their own. This paper offers a primer for those skills that will allow teachers to become independent evaluators of educational research.

Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension

Duke, N. K., & Pearson, P. (2002). Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension. In Alan E. Farstrup & S. Jay Samuels (Eds.), What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction (3rd ed., pp. 205-242). Newark, DE: International Reading Association, Inc.

This research article summarizes much of the research about reading comprehension and what good readers do when they read. While the article does not specify that it is intended for adults and draws from research in the K-12 field, it has the potential to be useful to adult educators. The article makes a strong case for balanced comprehension instruction (explicit instruction and time to practice) and the need for a classroom that supports reading, provides real texts, provides a range of different genres, and provides an environment rich in language experiences including discussion about words and their meanings and text (meaning and interpretation).

Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read

Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read (April 2000). National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and U.S. Department of Education.

In 1997, Congress asked NICHD, through its Child Development and Behavior Branch, to work with the U.S. Department of Education in establishing a National Reading Panel that would evaluate existing research and evidence to find the best ways of teaching children to read. The 14-member panel included members from different backgrounds, including school administrators, working teachers, and scientists involved in reading research. The report summarized research in eight areas relating to literacy instruction: phonemic awareness instruction, phonics instruction, fluency instruction, vocabulary instruction, text comprehension instruction, independent reading, computer assisted instruction, and teacher professional development. The National Reading Panel's analysis made it clear that the best approach to reading instruction is one that incorporates: explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, systematic phonics instruction, methods to improve fluency, and ways to enhance comprehension.

Effective Schools and Accomplished Teachers: Lessons About Primary-Grade Reading Instruction in Low-Income Schools

Taylor, B.M., Pearson, P.D., Clark, K.M., & Walpole, S. (2000). Effective schools and accomplished teachers: Lessons about primary-grade reading instruction in low-income schools. The Elementary School Journal, 101, 121-165.

This study investigated school and classroom factors related to primary-grade reading achievement in schools with moderate to high numbers of students on subsidized lunch. Fourteen schools across the U.S. and two teachers in each of grades K-3 participated. A combination of school and teacher factors, many of which were intertwined, was found to be important in the most effective schools. Statistically significant school factors included strong links to parents, systematic assessment of pupil progress, and strong building communication and collaboration. A collaborative model for the delivery of reading instruction, including early reading interventions, was a hallmark of the most effective schools. Statistically significant teacher factors included time spent in small-group instruction, time spent in independent reading, high levels of student on-task behavior, and strong home communication. More of the most accomplished teachers and teachers in the most effective schools supplemented explicit phonics instruction with coaching in which they taught students strategies for applying phonics to their everyday reading. Additionally, more of the most accomplished teachers and teachers in the most effective schools employed higher-level questions in discussions of text, and the most accomplished teachers were more likely to ask students to write in response to reading. In all of the most effective schools, reading was clearly a priority at both the school and classroom levels.

Beating the Odds in Teaching All Children to Read

Taylor, B., Pearson, P., Clark, K., & Walpole, S. (1999). Beating the odds in teaching all children to read. CIERA Report 2-006. University of Michigan: Ann Arbor.

A study investigated school and classroom factors related to primary-grade reading achievement, using quantitative and descriptive methods. Fourteen schools across the United States with moderate to high numbers of students on subsidized lunch were identified as most, moderately, or least effective based on several measures of reading achievement. A combination of school and teacher factors was found to be important in the most effective schools. Significant factors included: (1) strong links to parents; (2) systematic assessment of pupil progress; (3) strong building communication; (4) a collaborative model for reading instruction, including early reading interventions; (5) time spent in small group instruction; (6) time spent in independent reading; (7) high pupil engagement; and (8) strong home communication. The most accomplished teachers were frequently observed teaching word recognition by coaching as children were reading, providing explicit phonics instruction, and asking higher level questions after reading. In all of the most effective schools, reading was clearly a priority at both the building and classroom levels.

Text Matters in Learning to Read

Heibert, E.H. (1999). Text matters in learning to read (Distinguished Educators Series). Reading Teacher, 52, 552-566. Retrieved June 28, 2005, from CIERA Rep. No. 1-001.

This report examines texts based on high-frequency and phonetically regular words as well as the trade books of current literature-based reading programs. It considers each type of text by examining the task it poses for beginning readers. What does a beginning reader need to know about written English to be successful with a particular type of text? What will a beginning reader learn about text if consistently presented with a particular type of text? From a task perspective, consistent reading of particular types of texts can be likened to a diet where children eat particular food groups but not others. Through experiences with particular texts, children may be acquiring some nutrients (or skills) and not others. This article addresses the diets provided to beginning readers by different instructional texts. To paraphrase Allington (1994), the three sections of the paper deal with (a) the texts used, (b) the texts had, and (c) the texts needed.

Literacy Instruction in Nine First-Grade Classrooms: Teacher Characteristics and Student Achievement

Wharton-McDonald, R., Pressley, M., & Hampston, J.M. (1998). Literacy instruction in nine first-grade classrooms: Teacher characteristics and student achievement. The Elementary School Journal, 99, 101-128.

Classroom observations and in-depth interviews were used to study 9 first-grade teachers from 4 districts who had been nominated by language arts coordinators as outstanding or typical in their ability to help students develop literacy skills. Based on observational measures of student reading and writing achievement and student engagement, 3 groups of teachers emerged from the original 9. The following practices and beliefs distinguished the instruction of the 3 teachers (2 nominated as outstanding, 1 as typical) whose students demonstrated the highest levels on these measures: (a) coherent and thorough integration of skills with high-quality reading and writing experiences, (b) a high density of instruction (integration of multiple goals in a single lesson), (c) extensive use of scaffolding, (d) encouragement of student self-regulation, (e) a thorough integration of reading and writing activities, (f) high expectations for all students, (g) masterful classroom management, and (h) an awareness of their practices and the goals underlying them. Teaching practices observed in 7 of the 9 classrooms are also discussed. The data reported here highlight the complexity of primary literacy instruction and support the conclusion that effective primary-level literacy instruction is a balanced integration of high-quality reading and writing experiences and explicit instruction of basic literacy skills.

Questioning the Author: A Yearlong Classroom Implementation to Engage Students with Text

Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., Sandora, C., Kucan, L., & Worthy, J. (1996). Questioning the author: A yearlong classroom implementation to engage students with text. Elementary School Journal, 96, 385-414.

This article describes the development and implementation of Questioning the Author, an instructional intervention that focuses on having students grapple with and reflect on what an author is trying to say in order to build a representation from it. The implementation involved a social studies teacher, a reading/language arts teacher, and their 23 inner city fourth-grade students in a small parochial school. Analyses of transcripts of videotaped lessons and classroom observations revealed that teacher talk decreased in quantity and increased in quality with more emphasis on questions focused on constructing and extending meaning and more skill in refining and using students' comments in discussion. Changes in the content of student talk were also documented. These included an increase in the number and complexity of student-initiated questions and evidence of the development of student collaboration. Teachers' journal entries and students' responses in interviews provided insights about their views of the implementation.

Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print

Adams, M.J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

This book reconciles the debate that has divided theorists for decades over the "right" way to help children learn to read. Drawing on a rich array of research on the nature and development of reading proficiency, Adams shows educators that they need not remain trapped in the phonics versus teaching-for-meaning dilemma. She proposes that phonics can work together with the whole language approach to teaching reading and provides an integrated treatment of the knowledge and process involved in skillful reading, the issues surrounding their acquisition, and the implications for reading instruction.

K-W-L: A Teaching Model That Develops Active Reading of Expository Text

Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39, 564-570.

This simple procedure helps teachers become more responsive to students' knowledge and interests when reading expository material, and it models for students the active thinking involved in reading for information.

Reciprocal Teaching of Comprehension-Fostering and Comprehension-Monitoring Activities

Palincsar, A.S., & Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 2, 117-175.

Two instructional studies directed at the comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities of seventh grade poor comprehenders are reported. The four study activities were summarizing (self-review), questioning, clarifying, and predicting. The training method was that of reciprocal teaching, where the tutor and students took turns leading a dialogue centered on pertinent features of the text. In Study 1, a comparison between the reciprocal teaching method and a second intervention modeled on typical classroom practice resulted in greater gains and maintenance over time for the reciprocal procedure. Reciprocal teaching, with an adult model guiding the student to interact with the text in more sophisticated ways, led to a significant improvement in the quality of the summaries and questions. It also led to sizable gains on criterion tests of comprehension, reliable maintenance over time, generalization to classroom comprehension tests, transfer to novel tasks that tapped the trained skills of summarizing, questioning, and clarifying, and improvement in standardized comprehension scores. Many of these results were replicated in Study 2. In contrast to Study 1, which was conducted by an experimenter, Study 2 examined group interventions conducted by volunteer teachers with their existing reading groups.

QAR: Enhancing Comprehension and Test Taking Across Grades and Content Areas

Raphael, T.E., & Au, K.H. (2005). QAR: Enhancing comprehension and test taking across grades and content areas. The Reading Teacher, 59, 206-221.

The authors describe how Question Answer Relationships (QAR) can provide a framework for comprehension instruction with the potential of closing the literacy achievement gap. The vocabulary of QAR — In the Book, In My Head, Right There, Think & Search, Author & Me, and On My Own — gives teachers and students a language for talking about the largely invisible processes that constitute listening and reading comprehension across grades and subject areas. Students recognize that they must first consider the question before developing an answer.

"Let us remember: one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world." —

Malala Yousafzei