Improving Student Outcomes Requires Deep Commitment to Reading Research
Alexis Pochna, EdM

Becoming a skilled reader is a complex process that continues to elude far too many children. Thoughtful and intentional action is required; action that is informed by research and not subject to well-intentioned but misguided solutions that lead to more of the same results. Improving student reading outcomes in this country requires a deep commitment to reading research, teacher training, the de-implementation of inadequate programs, and the implementation of effective, evidence-based instructional methodologies, curriculum, and interventions. 

In this issue, Hugh Catts, PhD, and Yaacov Petscher, PhD, put forth a muiltifactorial causal basis of dyslexia, suggesting that a range of influences impact a child’s difficulty in learning to read as opposed to a core deficit in a single area. With this model, dyslexia is a result of cumulative effects of risk and resilience factors, with resilience mechanisms having the potential to mitigate risk. Of the resilience factors discussed, it is not surprising that explicit instruction in decoding and word reading is underscored. For a discussion about the need to address word reading difficulties through multicomponent interventions, see Research Roundup

Given that high quality reading instruction is critical for all children, not just those at risk of reading difficulties, teacher training in effective practices must be at the forefront of the work. Such training begins with pre-service education programs and continues through ongoing professional development. See Head Lines by Jamie Williamson, EdS, for an in-depth look at the principles of cohesive professional development and the ways in which this model is actualized at The Windward School. 

The most well-trained teachers cannot move the dial on reading achievement with reading programs and interventions that are not solidly grounded in the Science of Reading. In Inside the Institute, John J. Russell, EdD, reveals the troubling truth about Reading Recovery, an intensive intervention program for struggling readers in first grade. 

How can schools respond when faced with the daunting realization that the programs and interventions they are implementing are not efficacious? De-implementation in education involves discontinuing ineffective or outdated programs that don’t serve learners to the greatest degree possible. As Danielle Scorrano, MPS, notes in Intersecting Research with Educational Practice, understanding the complexities of and executing de-implementation are essential for impactful reading reform. And as Annie Stutzman, MS, outlines in Turning the Tide, striving for mutualism, or holistic systems, in school communities addresses the larger contexts and influences that affect learning and benefits all stakeholders, including teachers, parents/guardians, and students. 

The above are just some examples of articles in this issue that highlight themes integral to reading reform. We invite you to join us in exploring these topics and more as you delve into The Windward Institute’s Spring 2023 Beacon. Thank you for taking this journey with us and for advocating in support of the right to literacy for children everywhere.