Reading programs focused on changing daily teaching
practices do more to improve children's
reading skills than programs focused on textbooks and
technology, according to a comprehensive
research review by the Johns Hopkins University School of
Center for Research and Reform in Education. Simply
using books with a stronger emphasis on phonics was not
enough to improve reading.
Lead researcher Robert Slavin, director of the Center
for Research and Reform in Education,
and his colleagues looked at 62 previously released
experimental studies evaluating the effectiveness
of beginning-reading programs used in kindergarten and
first grade. The researchers' review covered
the effectiveness of textbooks, technology and professional
development when used on their own as
well as the effectiveness of combining textbooks with
professional development. They found that the
most successful programs focused on changing daily teaching
practices, such as the use of cooperative
learning methods in which children work together in groups.
Programs that combined a focus on
phonics and innovative teaching practices worked best.
"With national assessments showing reading proficiency
in fourth grade under 18 percent for
minority students, educators are struggling to boost
beginning-reading skills or risk continuing a trend
of low achievement in later years," Slavin said. "In the
current political climate of accountability,
school leaders need to ensure they are using programs that
work. That's where reviews such as this
Their most surprising finding relates to the debate as
to whether adding phonics to traditional
reading instruction is the way to cure reading problems, an
approach strongly emphasized in the Bush
administration's Reading First program. While Slavin and
his colleagues noted the importance of
phonics in beginning-reading instruction, they also
concluded that simply adding phonics is not enough
to bring about widespread improvement in children's
"Phonics instruction is necessary but insufficient,"
Slavin said. "What matters is changing how
teachers teach, how they group students, how they motivate
children and how they assess children.
Programs that consistently make a difference are ones that
engage children in active lessons in which
they interact with other children, constantly practice
their new skills with the teacher and their
classmates, and receive fast-paced, exciting lessons."
The full report is available on the Best Evidence
Encyclopedia Web site at:
The Center for Research and Reform in Education is a
nonprofit center that receives funding
from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S.
Department of Education. It is part of the
Johns Hopkins University School of