IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

How Enhanced Core Reading Instruction Has Improved Reading Outcomes for Students with Reading Difficulties Through Tiered Supports

A teacher and students work with flashcards

Enhanced Core Reading Instruction (ECRI) is a systemic intervention that researchers at the University of Oregon developed with practitioners to assist educators in providing instruction within multi-tiered systems of supports. ECRI provides teachers with guidance and support for implementing Tier 1 core reading instruction and Tier 2 interventions that align with core reading instruction. Teachers have access to specific instruction methods that enhance their district-adopted core reading program, guided lesson plans, intervention templates, and explicit protocols for data collection and review to inform instructional decisions. Since 2009, IES has funded research projects that examine ECRI’s impact on academic and behavioral outcomes for students with or at risk for reading difficulties.

At the University of Oregon, Hank Fien conducted a study that provided 2 years of professional development (PD) and coaching to first grade teachers to implement the core reading program and use ECRI materials. The results of this randomized controlled trial demonstrated that students who received ECRI Tier 2 intervention made more progress towards reading achievement and reading proficiency than students who received the typical, “business-as-usual” Tier 2 instruction. Findings from the study indicated that schools should consider three factors when choosing an instruction model for struggling readers: 1) increasing specificity of instruction procedures through lesson plans and teaching routines, 2) increasing the intensity of instruction that students receive, and 3) closely aligning instruction between Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions.

At the University of Alabama, Gregory Benner developed a program, Integrated Literacy Study Group, that provides web-based PD to special education teachers to assist in delivering high-quality reading instruction based on ECRI to students with an emotional/behavioral disorder (EBD). Results from the pilot study showed the program demonstrated promise for teacher and student outcomes. Teachers who participated in online learning modules to learn ECRI strategies demonstrated increases in teaching self-efficacy in the areas of classroom management, instructional strategies, student engagement, and self-efficacy in teaching reading and using behavior management strategies with students with or at risk for EBD. They also demonstrated increased knowledge of the evidence-based behavioral and reading strategies for students with EBD learned through the PD program. Students with or at risk for EBD served by these participating teachers made significant improvements in academic engagement and notable gains on reading scores.

In a collaborative effort led by Nancy Nelson, the University of Oregon and the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Special Education worked in partnership to conduct an evaluation of a state’s multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) framework that implements ECRI for Tier 1 and Tier 2 reading instruction. The MTSS framework included specific protocols for integrating teaching academic and behavioral content across tiers of support. The reading intervention incorporated ECRI instructional strategies while the behavior intervention used positive behavior supports, including a “check-in/check-out” behavior monitoring and reinforcement system. We hope to share the results and their implications in an additional blog in the near future.

More recently, Dr. Nelson, now at Boston University, is developing a Tier 3 extension of the ECRI reading intervention that is intensified for students identified as needing more intensive support in kindergarten through second grade. This study will develop protocols and training for teachers, collect data on the feasibility of teacher implementation, and study the promise of the Tier 3 intervention for improving student outcomes. Researchers will study how student outcomes are related to reading content, executive function supports, instructional design elements, and instructional delivery features.

In another recently funded study, Elaine Wang at RAND Corporation is conducting an ECRI replication study to measure its effectiveness on foundational reading skills with first-grade students. In addition to examining whether ECRI will improve reading outcomes for students, researchers are also investigating whether features of the intervention can be feasibly implemented within a typical classroom context by classroom teachers under routine conditions, with less support for implementation than was included in prior studies.

The NCSER-funded studies of ECRI to date have demonstrated improved reading outcomes for students at risk of reading difficulties by targeting critical reading content areas (phonemic awareness, blending sounds, fluency, vocabulary) and increasing the explicitness of instruction. An important aspect of these studies is they were implemented in an authentic school environment by school staff, demonstrating that ECRI procedures can fit within the daily routines of a typical school day. NCSER looks forward to learning the results of the current, ongoing ECRI studies that will add to the evidence focused on the impact and implementation of this intervention. We thank all the researchers for their hard work and dedication to supporting students, educators, and our schools.

This blog was written by Shanna Bodenhamer, virtual student federal service intern at IES and graduate student at Texas A&M University. Sarah Brasiel (Sarah.Brasiel@ed.gov) is the program officer for the Reading, Writing, and Language program and oversees most of the research projects that focus on studying ECRI across NCSER programs.

Access an NCES Presentation on ECLS Reading Data From the IES Reading Summit

NCES staff presented information on reading data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS) Program at the June 2021 Institute of Education Sciences (IES)/Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) Reading Summit. The ECLS data cover a wide range of reading-related topics, such as children’s reading knowledge and skills, home literacy activities, and teachers’ instructional practices. The presentation included a brief overview of three ECLS program studies and the reading-related data collected by each. In addition, the presentation included a discussion of the resources available to either see what research has been conducted with the data or explore the data independently. As the focus of the presentation was on data available to the public for secondary analysis, its target audience was researchers and others with a data science focus.

Access the Reading Summit presentation—Reading Data Available from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS)—and handout below to learn more about ECLS reading data.

Be sure to also check out this blog post to learn more about the work highlighted at the IES Reading Summit.

 

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll, NCES

Improving the Reading Skills of Middle School Students with and at Risk for Disabilities

Two girls work together to write in notebooks.

NCSER celebrates Middle Level Education Month this year by highlighting some of our current research projects aimed at supporting the literacy skills of middle school students with and at risk for disabilities. Data from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) indicate that in 2019, 68% of eight graders with disabilities scored “Below NAEP Basic” in reading compared to 22% of students without disabilities, a gap that had grown larger over the previous decade. The urgent need to improve the reading skills of middle school students with disabilities has led to some important NCSER-funded research projects.  

Sharon Vaughn and Leticia Martinez at the University of Texas, Austin and Jeanne Wanzek at Vanderbilt University, along with their colleagues, are testing the efficacy of Promoting Adolescents' Comprehension of Text (PACT), a fully developed reading comprehension intervention for middle school students with evidence of efficacy for students without disabilities. The current study will be the first efficacy trial of PACT that focuses specifically on students with disabilities. PACT is a text- and inquiry-based reading comprehension intervention with instructional supports for teachers and material for students in general education classrooms. In this large-scale, multi-site study, the team is using a randomized controlled trial in approximately 80 eighth-grade social studies classrooms, each with at least two students with disabilities. The team will examine the intervention’s impact on student reading and social studies outcomes, whether the impact differs depending on level of teacher fidelity or by student characteristic, and the intervention’s cost-effectiveness over the typical expenditures.

PACT is also being used as the evidence-based literacy intervention in a project designed to support middle school teachers’ knowledge and practices and improve reading and content area knowledge among students with disabilities. Jade Wexler at University of Maryland, College Park and Elizabeth Swanson at the University of Texas, Austin, along with their colleagues, are developing and testing a model for instructional leaders to provide ongoing support to content-area middle school teachers as they implement PACT. More specifically, the team will be developing an intervention package that includes a multi-stage, adaptive intervention coaching model to systematically tailor support to teachers as they implement Tier 1 literacy practices (in this case, the PACT intervention) in their content areas (English language arts, social studies, and science) to improve reading outcomes for students with disabilities. The package will also include a professional development program to train instructional leaders on how to implement the coaching model with teachers effectively.

Deborah Reed at the University of Iowa and her colleagues are also focusing on integrating literacy instruction with content-area instruction, but this team is focused on the Tier 2 level. They are developing and testing an intervention for middle school students with or at risk for reading disabilities who need support in literacy and text-based content in science and social studies. Pairs of students will alternate reading science and social studies texts, with specific academic vocabulary language, on a digital platform. This platform will provide scaffolded support and allow opportunities for individual work in building related reading and writing skills. Passages on each science or social studies topic repeat 85% or more of the unique words but in different contexts to support students’ ability to recognize and read the academic vocabulary. The overall aim of the intervention is to improve student literacy as well as science and social studies performance.

Marcia Barnes and her team at Vanderbilt University are testing the efficacy of a reading comprehension intervention, Connecting Text by Inference and Technology (Connect-IT), with middle school students with or at risk for reading disabilities. Connect-IT, developed with a prior IES grant, was designed to improve inference-making and reading comprehension in this population. In the current study, the research team will examine the impact of the intervention on students in grades 6-8 who did not pass their state English Language Arts test and who have demonstrated difficulties in reading comprehension. They will compare the efficacy of the intervention as implemented in small groups by a teacher, individual implementation of the intervention through computer software with project interventionist supervision, and the school’s business-as-usual classes. The study aims to determine the effect of each version of the intervention on student inference-making abilities and reading comprehension, as well as whether various student skills (such as vocabulary, word reading, attention, and anxiety) may moderate the impact of the interventions. The interventions’ cost-effectiveness will also be evaluated.

Focused on more intensive intervention for middle school students with or at risk for reading  disabilities, Mary Beth Calhoon at the University of Miami is testing the efficacy of a 2-year implementation of the Adolescent Multi-Component Intensive Training Program (AMP-IT-UP), which was previously tested after 1 year of implementation through an IES-funded grant. The intervention uses direct, systematic, explicit instruction (in phonological decoding with comprehension, spelling, and fluency) and cognitive strategy instruction (including use of cues and anchors), combined with reciprocal peer-mediated instruction. Dr. Calhoon’s research team is conducting a randomized controlled trial with middle school students with or at risk for reading disabilities who are still reading at the third-grade level or below. They will examine the impact after 2 years of intervention as well as 1 year after intervention has ended to determine its effect on student word recognition, spelling, fluency, and comprehension skills.

We look forward to reporting on the results of these studies as these teams complete their work in the years to come.

The blog was authored by Amy Sussman (Amy.Sussman@ed.gov), Sarah Brasiel (Sarah.Brasiel@ed.gov), and Katie Taylor (Katherine.Taylor@ed.gov), program officers for NCSER.

The Growing Reading Gap: IES Event to Link Knowledge to Action Through Literacy Data

On June 8 and 9, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) will host a Reading Summit to address one of the most important issues confronting American education today: the declining reading performance of America’s lowest-performing students and the growing gap between low- and high-performing students.

At this 2-day virtual event, participants will explore the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), as well as other IES data, and learn strategies to help educators and low-performing readers make progress.

Learn more about the summit’s agenda and speakers—including IES Director Mark Schneider, NCES Commissioner James L. Woodworth, and NCES Associate Commissioner Peggy Carr—and register to participate (registration is free).

In the meantime, explore some of the data NCES collects on K–12 literacy and reading achievement, which show that the scores of students in the lowest-performing groups are decreasing over time.

  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) administers reading assessments to 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students. The most recent results from 2019 show that average reading scores for students in the 10th percentile (i.e., the lowest-performing students) decreased between 2017 and 2019 at grade 4 (from 171 to 168) and grade 8 (from 219 to 213) and decreased between 2019 and 2015 at grade 12 (from 233 to 228).
  • The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) is an international comparative assessment that measures 4th-grade students’ reading knowledge and skills. The most recent findings from 2016 show that the overall U.S. average score (549) was higher than the PIRLS scale centerpoint (500), but at the 25th percentile, U.S. 4th-graders scored lower in 2016 (501) than in 2011 (510).
  • The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a study of 15-year-old students’ performance in several subjects, including reading literacy. The 2018 results show that, although the overall U.S. average reading score (505) was higher than the OECD average score (487), at the 10th percentile, the U.S. average score in 2018 (361) was not measurably different from the score in 2015 and was lower than the score in 2012 (378).

NCES also collects data on young children’s literacy knowledge and activities as well as the literacy competencies of adults. Here are a few data collections and tools for you to explore:

This year, the Condition of Education includes a newly updated indicator on literacy activities that parents reported doing with young children at home. Here are some key findings from this indicator, which features data from the 2019 NHES Early Childhood Program Participation Survey:

In the week before the parents were surveyed,

  • 85 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds were read to by a family member three or more times.
  • 87 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds were told a story by a family member at least once.
  • 96 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds were taught letters, words, or numbers by a family member at least once.

In the month before the parents were surveyed,

  • 37 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds visited a library with a family member at least once.

Be sure to read the full indicator in the 2021 Condition of Education, which was released in May, for more data on young children’s literacy activities, including analyses by race/ethnicity, mother’s educational attainment, and family income.

Don’t forget to follow NCES on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on the latest findings and trends in literacy and reading data and register for the IES Reading Summit to learn more about this topic from experts in the field. 

 

By Megan Barnett, AIR

New International Data Identify “Resilient” Students in Financial Literacy

NCES recently released the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 assessment of financial literacy. This assessment measured 15-year-old students’ knowledge and understanding of financial concepts, products, and risks and their ability to apply that knowledge to real-life situations. It found that, on average, U.S. students performed similarly to their peers across the 12 other participating Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. 

The assessment also found that 12 percent of U.S. students performed at the highest level of proficiency (level 5). Performance at this level indicates that students can apply their understanding of financial terms and concepts to analyze complex financial products, solve nonroutine financial problems, and describe potential outcomes of financial decisions in the big picture.[1] The U.S. percentage was again similar to the OECD average.

However, this analysis also identified a group of students who might be considered “resilient.” In education research, resilience is defined as the ability to perform well academically despite coming from the disadvantaged backgrounds that have more commonly been associated with lower performance.

High-performing students came from across the spectrum of school poverty levels, as measured by the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL).[2] In particular, 7 percent of high-performing students in financial literacy came from the highest poverty schools (figure 1).


Figure 1. Percentage distribution of U.S. 15-year-olds in public schools scoring below level 2 and at level 5 of proficiency on the PISA financial literacy scale, by percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) at their school: 2018

NOTE: Data for percentage of students eligible for FRPL were available for public schools only. An individual student’s level of poverty may vary within schools. Detail may not sum to totals due to rounding.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2018.


It is these 7 percent of students who could be considered “resilient” and may be of interest for further study. For example, research could identify if there are factors that are associated with their high performance when compared to their lower performing peers in similar schools. Research on academically resilient students that used eighth-grade data from TIMSS found, for example, that having high educational aspirations increased the likelihood that students with few home education resources performed at or above the TIMSS Intermediate international benchmark in mathematics.[3] Experiencing less bullying also increased this likelihood.

Examining the “resilient” PISA financial literacy students more closely could also determine the extent to which their individual backgrounds are related to performance. This would be of interest because, even within high-poverty schools, students’ individual circumstances may vary. 

Patterns in Other PISA Subjects

There are similar subsets of “resilient” students in the other PISA 2018 subjects (table 1). Eight percent of high performers in reading were from the highest poverty schools, as were 5 percent of high performers in mathematics and 7 percent of high performers in science.


Table 1. Percentage of U.S. 15-year-olds in public schools scoring at or above level 5 of proficiency, by PISA subject and their schools’ free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) status: 2018

[Standard errors appear in parentheses]

NOTE: Results are scaled separately; thus, percentages cannot be compared across subjects. Level 5 is the highest level of proficiency in financial literacy; levels 5 and 6 are the highest levels of proficiency in the other PISA subjects. Data for students eligible for FRPL were available for public schools only.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2018.


For more information on the PISA 2018 results in financial literacy and other subjects, visit the NCES International Activities website. To create customized data and charts using PISA and other international assessment data, use the International Data Explorer.

 

By Maria Stephens, AIR


[2] Data for students eligible for FRPL are available for public schools only.

[3] Students at the Intermediate international benchmark can apply basic mathematical knowledge in a variety of situations, and those above this benchmark can do so in increasingly complex situations and, at the highest end, reason with information, draw conclusions, make generalizations, and solve linear equations.