Research-based Curricular Programs

Charles Arthur, Teacher/Administrator
Everybody Reads Program


Curricular programs being used in the ER program can be considered research-based for the following reasons.

1. They are research-based programs because they apply a valid theory of reading that accounts for facts that describe how good reading is done. If reading instruction is going to be successful, it must be based on an accurate theory or explanation of how good readers read. The massive amount of research completed on this subject has established a well-founded theory. This theory has various names, but it firmly established the fact that good readers are skillful because they have learned to see all of the graphic details in print, learned the alphabetic principal thoroughly and can therefore identify words very quickly and easily, even automatically. The higher levels of thinking required understanding the meanings in print are then available for attention by the skilled reader. 20

2. They are research-based programs because they apply the researched validated relationship between the two kinds of skills used in good reading, word recognition and comprehension. More specifically, this relationship asserts that good comprehension requires highly accurate and fluent word recognition. Word recognition leads to good comprehension not the reverse. Children who have difficulty learning how to read and still have difficulty in the later grades have one thing in common. They cannot identify the words in print very well. Their comprehension skills vary, but their inability to decipher the alphabetic language code is very much the same. Thus, any successful reading program must be able to teach children how to decode words quickly and easily. Other comprehension problems may exist with some children, but these problems cannot be address if they are still having difficulty knowing what the words are. 21

3. They are research-based programs because of the skills and knowledge that they begin with. They begin teaching skills and knowledge that have proven to lead to the likelihood of future reading success. These beginning skills are phonemic awareness and alphabetic understanding which are the strongest predictors of future reading success. Decoding words quickly and easily is dependent on a young reader's knowledge of the various sounds in words. Consequently, instructional approaches that enhance a beginning reader's awareness of sounds and experiences with spelling-sound relations, spelling patterns, and individual words should be embraced. 22

These first three bodies of evidence are a result of investigations into the reading process and are closely related. The relationship of word recognition to comprehension is a part of the theory of reading. The theory of reading and the relationship of word recognition to comprehension will determine beginning skills. Deciding on what beginning skills to teach will depend on the relationship given to word recognition and comprehension and the theory of reading used to construct the program. They all basically seek to explain the relationship of the language code to the over-all purpose of reading, which is to comprehend.

These topics have been thoroughly researched from all angles within the last thirty years, possibly more than any other topics in education or cognitive psychology.

4. These programs are research-based because they use a host of small teaching methods and strategies that have been well documented to lead to effective instruction.23

5. Finally, the programs used by ER are research-based because of the results of program comparison studies. A recent 1999 investigation, jointly sponsored by teacher's unions (NEA and AFT) and the three national school administrator's organizations, evaluated 24 of the nation's leading school-wide reform programs. Of these, only three programs were rated as having strong evidence of positive effects on student achievement and only five had promising evidence. 24 The instructional approach contained in the curricular materials used in the ER program is one of the three identified as "strong." This research included taking part in the largest national experiment ever conducted, Project Follow-Through. The model that the mastery learning programs is based on far out-did all other competing models. Not only did they produce higher achievement, but they also produced higher student satisfaction and self-esteem.25