The Expertise that Reading Teachers Still Need, by Danielle Scorrano, Research Coordinator, Host of READ Podcast

Over 20 years ago, Louisa Moats, EdD, published the article, Teaching Reading is Rocket Science (1999), where she examined the skills and knowledge required to teach reading. Preceding the monumental report released by the National Reading Panel (2001), Dr. Moats outlined necessary research-based practices to mitigate reading failure, especially for students with reading difficulties and diagnosed disabilities as well as English Language Learners.

Two years later, the National Reading Panel Report (2001) sponsored by The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reinforced Moats’ (1999) conclusions in the meta-analysis study conducted by team of reading and educational experts. In her article, Moats (1999) posits that research-based reading instruction requires teachers to demonstrate complex knowledge, skills, and instructional expertise.

Twenty years later, Dr. Moats reaffirms her initial findings. In the 2020 version of her article, Teaching Reading is Rocket Science (2020), Moats maintains steadfast in her call for expert teachers to implement reading instruction in all classrooms based on decades of research in reading and professional development.

Despite the well-documented evidence outlined in Teaching Reading is Rocket Science (Moats, 1999, 2000), teachers are often still not adequately prepared to implement systematic, explicit reading instruction to their students, particularly for students with reading difficulties and diagnosed language-based learning disabilities like dyslexia. As a result, many students do not acquire the skills they need to become proficient readers. Recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (2019) shows that about 2/3 of students in fourth grade are not proficient in reading.

The NAEP data also illustrates a far more problematic depiction of reading education across the country for students with disabilities. Moats (2020) argues for more consistent application of research-based instruction and curriculum grounded in the science of reading.

Moats (2020) confirms, “Teaching reading is rocket science. But it is also established science, with clear, specific, practical instructional strategies that all teachers should be taught and supported in using.” The Windward School is invested in ensuring all teachers are prepared to teach reading based on research, and The Windward Institute leverages the expertise of The School to support the implementation of research-based methodology in all schools. 

Read the original article (1999): Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science

Read Dr. Moats’ updated response (2020).