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The Science of Reading: A State-by-State Guide for School Leaders

The Science of Reading: A State-by-State Guide for School Leaders

Author: David Specht | Blog |

What is the Science of Reading?

The Science of Reading (SOR) is a body of research outlining the five most effective ways children learn to read, focusing on phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. It’s crucial for educators to apply these evidence-based strategies to boost their students’ literacy outcomes.

Below are five fundamental aspects of the SOR that every educator should be aware of:

  • Phonemic Awareness and Phonics are Fundamental: Research shows that these foundational skills are crucial for reading, with explicit instruction leading to significant improvements in reading outcomes.
  • Vocabulary Development is Crucial: A rich vocabulary is key to comprehension, and research shows that students with larger vocabularies tend to be better readers. Educators should, therefore, provide opportunities for students to learn new words in context and through explicit teaching.
  • Reading Comprehension Requires Active Engagement: Effective comprehension requires active engagement with the text, connecting new information to prior knowledge, and employing strategies like questioning and predicting.
  • Fluency Enhances Reading Proficiency: Fluency is integral to reading proficiency, enabling a focus on understanding the text.
  • Instruction Should Be Systematic and Explicit: SOR calls for breaking down reading skills into smaller, manageable parts for explicit and sequential teaching.

How Does The Science of Reading Work in Your State?

As educators and policymakers across the country increasingly recognize the importance of evidence-based reading strategies, states are creating new rules to ensure their schools’ approaches are grounded in solid research. These changes focus on improving how teachers are trained, what students learn, and how their reading skills are checked. It’s all about a shared goal: using proven methods to help kids become better readers. This effort shows how states are taking steps to improve education, ensuring every student has the chance to succeed.

California: In 2021, California set new rules for teacher training programs to emphasize essential reading skills, including for English learners. Starting in 2025, new tests for teachers will ensure they’re equipped to teach these skills. The state is also investing in literacy coaching and creating a “literacy roadmap” to guide reading instruction improvements.

Florida: Florida’s 2023 law stops the use of outdated teaching methods and builds on 2021 efforts to monitor student reading progress more closely. It also ensures schools have access to expert reading coaches, identifies top-notch teaching materials, and requires specialized training for teachers helping struggling readers.

Illinois: The state is stepping up to offer clear guidelines on choosing reading programs, training teachers, and developing a statewide plan for better reading instruction. A new test for teachers will check their knowledge of effective reading strategies, including teaching bilingual students.

New Hampshire: Lawmakers are considering a shift towards evidence-based reading instruction, moving away from guesswork to a focus on phonics. The proposed legislation would require regular assessments to monitor student progress and ensure schools use proven teaching methods, responding to recent drops in reading proficiency.

Ohio: The state is focusing on aligning teaching materials and methods with the science of reading, including funding for teacher training and literacy coaching. It’s moving away from ineffective strategies and ensuring that reading interventions are scientifically backed, with new requirements for teacher education.

Georgia: The 2023 Georgia Early Literacy Act mandates the use of state-approved reading curricula and tools for identifying students needing extra help. Schools must create individual plans for these students, ensuring all materials meet high-quality standards. The act also includes provisions for teacher training in effective literacy instruction.

Kentucky: The state’s focus is on providing professional development in the science of reading, ensuring teacher preparation programs include evidence-based methods, and requiring schools to adopt a comprehensive reading approach. Schools are required to implement targeted improvement strategies for struggling readers, based on the latest research in reading education.

How Does Otus Align With State Legislation on the Science of Reading?

Equipping educators with the right tools is essential for enhancing students’ literacy development in line with state legislation on the Science of Reading. Below are specific features in Otus that can help educators to align their practices with state-specific legislation.

    Early Identification

    Educators can analyze data from any third-party reading assessment in Otus to identify patterns and trends in students’ reading abilities, including if they are below grade-level reading expectations. 

    Common examples of third-party reading assessments that schools may be using for early identification include DIBELS, AIMSweb, Fountas and Pinnell, STAR reading, Scholastic Reading Inventory, iReady, and more. All of these can be visualized in Otus.

    Once students are identified as below grade-level reading expectations, educators can create personalized plans in Otus to support their needs.

    Universal Screening and Assessment

    Otus can integrate data from reading universal screening tools commonly used in school districts. This integration allows for seamless importing of data from these assessments into the Otus platform. This data can then be used for early identification as noted in #1.

    Some states are requiring the purchase of evidence-based reading programs in addition to universal screening measures. One example of a program grounded in the SOR is Amplify CLKA. Otus offers prebuilt Amplify CKLA assessments so that data can be collected and visualized in Otus side-by-side with other reading measures the district is using.

    Data Insights
    Otus makes it easy to interpret and analyze reading universal screening data, side-by-side with any other data sources a school district uses to understand student performance. 

    While SOR legislation focuses on reading assessments, it’s crucial to understand that most school districts have a number of other data sources and seeing all of this data in one place will help them to make informed decisions that drive student growth.

    Individual Reading Plans
    Intervention Plans, Reading Improvement Plans, Individual Reading Plans, System for Monitoring Student Progress, and Personalized Reading Plans — These are all different terms in state legislation but they refer to the same thing in Otus – a personalized plan that identifies each student’s needs and allows for multiple stakeholders to track their ongoing progress.

    Otus enables teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders (including students and their families) to monitor students’ progress in real-time as they work through their personalized reading plans. Teachers can track reading fluency, comprehension, vocabulary development, and other key indicators to gauge student growth and adjust plans accordingly.

    The Big Picture

    Otus aligns with state legislation on the science of reading by providing a comprehensive platform for early identification, personalized intervention planning, and data analysis. It integrates data from various reading assessments, including third-party assessments like DIBELS and Amplify CKLA, allowing educators to create personalized plans and track student progress in real-time. 

    By visualizing all relevant data in one place, Otus enables informed decision-making to drive student growth and ensure alignment with state-mandated requirements for evidence-based reading programs and universal screening measures. To learn more about how Otus can support your school or district’s Science of Reading initiative, request a demo.

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