Reading program for elementary schools get update at COE

Teacher with young students

Researchers in the College of Education are working to improve a reading comprehension support system for students with or at risk for disabilities with the aim of helping them perform better in the classroom.

Their project, “Impact Evaluation of Training in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Reading in Early Elementary School,” provides reading instruction and intervention at increasingly intensive tiers matched to student need in grades one and two. The team is re-evaluating the current model of the support system, which was developed by UO researchers 20 years ago.

“The goal of this project is to implement a multitiered system of support in reading in grades one and two to improve early reading achievement and prevent or reduce the severity of difficulty experienced by students with or at risk for disabilities,” co-principal investigator Nancy Nelson said.

Investigators Nancy Nelson, Carol Dissen, Lana Santoro, Scott Baker and Hank Fien, as well as project manager Jessica Turtura, recently received a $17 million grant from the Institute of Educational Sciences for the project. The funds will go toward implementing Enhanced Core Reading Instruction, an addition to the reading support system that they believe will enhance student reading achievement even further.

Researchers from the college’s Center on Teaching and Learning developed Enhanced Core Reading Instruction. It involves systematic reading instruction followed by aligned reading intervention, screening and progress monitoring, and personalized, data-driven instruction supported by professional development and coaching.

The project is part of a three-pronged trial organized by the American Institutes for Research. The first trial implements traditional reading support to students, the second uses a Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education protocol and the third, led by Oregon researchers, uses Enhanced Core Reading Instruction.

The College of Education team has been assisting the American Institutes for Research in locating study sites, preparing training materials and working with coaches that will provide on-site support to participating districts. It expects to begin implementing enhanced reading instruction this summer and continue over the next several years.

The Institute of Educational Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education is interested in the research because of the importance of reading proficiency at a young age. According to Nelson, there are “alarming statistics demonstrating stagnant reading growth and poor proficiency overall but especially for subgroups of students, such as English learners, students with disabilities, students from minority backgrounds.”

Currently, many practitioners claim to use the reading support system in their classrooms, but they do not execute implementation in best practice. This disconnect between what the support system should be and what it currently is has caused policymakers to doubt its effectiveness in the classroom, according to Nelson[MM1] .

Deploying expert coaches to schools would further educate teachers on proper implementation, yielding better outcomes for students and possibly changes in education policy. [GB2] Nelson is confident that the results of the study will prove the effectiveness of the supports, encouraging policymakers to advocate for its use.

“If our particular approach to implementing (the support system) proves to be effective, it has the potential to be taken to scale in districts and states across the U.S. and substantively improve reading achievement and related outcomes for a range of diverse learners,” Nelson said.

By Meghan Mortensen, College of Education