TeacherLists Blog

New Reading Programs: How To Support Your Teachers


Test scores have been dominating the conversation in districts across the country since 2020. It’s no secret that scores have declined overall, but the 2022-2023 school year saw the steepest decline of scores to date 


But it’s not just results on state-mandated tests; GPA gaps are growing, meaning that the lowest-performing students are dropping at a rapid pace, widening the gap between them and their highest-performing peers. However, make no mistake: the highest-performing students are dropping in averages across each subject, too.  


This concern has led to widespread interest in science of reading programs, which are curriculums to improve literacy through phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and more, using a variety of lesson methods that are scientifically proven to yield real results. 


What makes a science of reading program effective? 

Back in 2019, Education Week concluded that the most popular reading programs weren’t backed by science, and experts were concerned that students were focused on memorizing vocabulary words and guessing what a word is going to say instead of fully reading it– two pitfalls that would hinder proper reading comprehension. 


Meanwhile, science of reading programs are founded on the five pillars of reading: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. While each specific program is different, districts can expect these pillars to be the main focal point regardless of the program they choose.  


Additionally, science of reading programs put a heavy emphasis on phonics: one of the five pillars. This is because, as previously mentioned, many mainstream reading programs encourage students to rely on guess work when it comes to facing unfamiliar words. This guess work may include looking at pictures or searching for context clues around it to determine its meaning. Deductive reasoning is a powerful tool, yes, but studies have shown this to be ineffective in developing strong literacy skills. For example, students may use a picture to guess what the word is, and they may say “guitar” when the word is actually “instrument”.  


How can I support my teachers with a new reading program? 

Changing the curriculum is never easy on teachers, especially when they already do so much to help their students succeed. Here are some tips on supporting them through the transition: 


Go slow. New curriculum will require training, and much of the information will be overwhelming. Integrating elements of your program before fully switching over will help teachers get used to the change.  


Implement at every grade level. Yes, even at your high school! The idea is that reading is a lifelong skill that needs to be exercised consistently. This also takes pressure off each individual teacher and assures them that their lessons will be accumulative from one grade to the next.  


Get feedback from your teachers. During the trial period, ask your teachers for their thoughts on the program. Similarly, offer them choice when it comes to lesson planning so they can implement the pillars in ways that feel right for them and their students.  


Offer ongoing training. The best way to develop a thorough reading program is to ensure your teachers are constantly learning. Your teachers will also feel more comfortable with the approach as they get more familiar with it. Empower your teachers with the knowledge they need to succeed!  


Where can I learn more? 

If you’re interested in learning more about bringing a science of reading program to your district, here are some sources to get started: 


Carnegie Learning: Connecting the Sciences of Reading & Learning Webinar 

At A Loss for Words 

Explore the Science of Reading 

Science of Reading: A Guide for Administrators  

Originally posted 2024

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