Schools should be able to verify the literacy programs they choose is grounded in the science of reading and has proven itself in classrooms.

How to evaluate literacy programs that pledge to accelerate learning

Schools and districts should be able to verify that the literacy program they choose is firmly grounded in the science of reading and has proven itself in real classrooms

Science of reading research shows the five critical skills required to learn how to read:

  1. Phonology: the sound system
  2. Orthography: the writing system
  3. Morphology: the meaningful part of words
  4. Semantics: relationships among words
  5. Syntax: the structure of sentences

The science of reading is the evidence and Structured Literacy is the application of that evidence in the classroom.

Structured Literacy was named by the Dyslexia Association as a way for educators to identify research-based reading instruction programs. As the science of reading research identifies that decoding and language comprehension skills are critical skills to teach students, Structured Literacy recognizes that those skills must be taught explicitly, systematically, cumulatively, and diagnostically. The science of reading is the only proven way to ensure that students become proficient readers and confident learners across the curriculum.

 A Checklist for Schools and Districts Choosing a Literacy Program

Here is a checklist to guide decision-making for school and district administrators as they evaluate literacy solutions to support their own literacy learning goals.

Does the program contain the five critical skills of the science of reading: phonology, morphology, orthography, semantics, and syntax?
Does it use the principles of Structured Literacy to teach reading skills: explicitly, systematically, cumulatively, and diagnostically?
What kind of evidence does the vendor provide? Independent third-party evaluations, peer-review research, and ESSA evaluations are what to look for.
Is there evidence that it works with designated grade levels?
Is there evidence that it works with the same student populations (e.g., Emergent Bilinguals, etc.) you plan to use it for?
Is the support for professional learning and implementation sufficient for your teachers to feel confident in their ability to accelerate learning?
Does it include an easy-to-deploy assessment? And can it be done in a remote environment?
What type of data reports are included? It should contain reports at the student, classroom, school, and district level.
Is the data actionable for teachers? Does the program help them interpret the data to personalize instruction for each student?
Is the program easy to implement for educators, students, and families? Or does it feel like another add-on to an already full plate?
If you are using ESSER funds for this purchase, have you identified funding sources to carry on the program after ESSER funds are spent?

What’s Next for Schools and Districts

Schools and districts recognize the urgency of accelerating student learning. Using research-proven literacy programs that assess where students are and provide instructional support to move them to grade-level proficiency as quickly as possible is the remedy. To be successful, literacy programs need to be grounded in the science of reading, feature Structured Literacy principles, provide scaffolding and support for both students and teachers, and generate actionable data to personalize instruction. Choosing a blended learning literacy program with the features discussed above is a good investment and if implemented with fidelity, will successfully accelerate students’ literacy learning.

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