In your quest to understand and implement the Science of Reading, have you ever encountered levels of evidence on the “implementation trail” only to discover a roadblock? Good news! The Region 7 Comprehensive Center (R7CC) is here as your roadside assistance team. This blog will provide you with a roadmap, a rubric, resources, and select research as reinforcements on your journey.
From “old school” paper maps to modern solutions like MapQuest and GPS, navigation options impact user experience. Likewise, the REL Southeast Implementing Evidence-Based Literacy Practices roadmap infographic helps educators navigate the implementation of evidence-based literacy practices presented in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The roadmap presents states, districts, and schools with eight steps—from understanding what evidence-based practices are to evaluating the implementation of those practices on an ongoing basis. The infographic also conveniently links to relevant videos, websites, documents, and other resources within each step.
Packing the Essentials
Databases such as What Works Clearinghouse, Evidence for ESSA, and Best Evidence Encyclopedia can propel the process of identifying specific evidence-based literacy practices and programs. Let’s not forget the national and state literacy centers that work to clarify differences between scientifically or research-based and evidence-based. When discussing this distinction, Dr. Sally Shaywitz notes that “research-based means there are theories behind it, but that they aren’t always proven true… evidence-based means there is efficacy to back it up” (Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, 2014). The following are some essentials every educator should have in their bag:
These tools should be available and accessible to all educators. User-friendly websites like Reading Rockets make finding reading research simple by organizing resources by topic and content area.
Trekking Toward Success
With your travel case packed, the trek toward evidence-based legislation, standards, and implementation is now underway. Nationwide, at least 29 states have adopted ESSA-aligned Science of Reading legislation, including all three states in Region 7 (Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi). Mississippi’s journey began in 2013 with the Literacy-Based Promotion Act to improve teachers’ reading instruction and teacher preparation programs. By 2019, Mississippi achieved the greatest reading score gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, paving the road for installation or repairs in other states (Mississippi Department of Education, 2019). Alabama passed the Alabama Literacy Act in 2019 with systematic efforts to improve students’ reading proficiency. In 2021, Florida expanded upon reading legislation established in 2001, implementing a reading progress monitoring system and revising the requirements of teachers working with struggling readers (Florida Department of Education, 2021). Similar to Mississippi and Alabama, Florida also supported reading coach availability in school districts. These changes and updates set states on firm footing for the Science of Reading journey.
Ravines and Roadblocks
So, how can tenacious travelers avoid potential pitfalls? Look out for unreviewed practices and programs. Take a look at Step 5—Selecting evidence-based instructional materials and strategies—on REL Southeast’s roadmap. Many programs have undergone a formal evaluation, but many more, both supplementary and intervention, have not. A program’s level of evidence is based on the quality of the research study’s design, implementation, and results. What are the characteristics of well-designed, well-implemented research? Time for roadside assistance!
R7CC has compressed the research study review process into a one-page rubric. For programs not yet reviewed, the rubric walks educators through the process of determining the program’s research study quality. This tool can support systemic efforts in identifying the evidence level for such practices and programs under potential consideration for state, district, or local school board adoption.
R7CC recommends a guiding principle and basic procedure for using the research study review rubric. Follow the steps and cautionary signs shown in the infographic below to overcome the barrier of unreviewed literacy practices and programs. Keep the destination in full view—where the Science of Reading is found ever-growing, awaiting the arrival of additional participants from the field.
Authors: Ruth Gumm, Patricia Cox, Angie Caldwell, Region 7 Comprehensive Center
Florida Department of Education. (2021). Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Groundbreaking Early Learning and Literacy Legislation. https://www.flgov.com/2021/05/04/governor-ron-desantis-signs-groundbreaking-early-learning-and-literacy-legislation/
Mississippi Department of Education. (2019). Mississippi Ranks No. 1 in Nation for Score Gains on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). https://www.mdek12.org/news/2019/10/30/Mississippi-Ranks-No-1-in-Nation-for-Score-Gains-on-National-Assessment-of-Educational-Progress-NAEP_20191030
Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. (2014). Evidence-Based vs Research-Based Programs for Dyslexics [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbQ9wAtTxlU