Ohio Keeps Talking About the ‘Science of Reading,’ But What Does That Mean? (2023)

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A chunk of Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed budget zeroes in on what’s called the science of reading method.

Specifically, it includes $64 million for science of reading curricula, $43 million each year for the next two years to offer science of reading instruction for educators, and $12 million to support 100 literacy coaches in schools and districts.

“I truly believe there’s nothing more important than the science of reading, and making sure that every single child in the state of Ohio, as they are learning to read, has the benefit of the science,” DeWine said at a March 23 event. DeWine has been making literacy stops in classrooms around Ohio to learn about how the science of reading method has been implemented in lessons.

The science of reading method incorporates phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, said Brett Tingley, the president of both Parents for Reading Justice and OH-KID (Ohio Kids Identified with Dyslexia).

“Teaching reading should be systematic, explicit, and direct based on the system of processing language,” said DeJunne’ Clark Jackson, president of the Center for Literacy and Learning, a Louisiana-based literacy nonprofit organization.

Meanwhile, some skeptics argue that the science of reading method doesn’t do enough to provoke the kind of thinking that enables deep comprehension in realistic reading situations.

“We must teach comprehension as a multidimensional experience,” wrote educators Jessica Hahn and Mia Hood in Education Week. “We want children to comprehend what’s happening literally in the text (who did what when), but we also want them to be able to analyze how parts of the text (literary devices, figurative language, structural choices) work together to develop ideas. And we want them to interpret the purpose and significance of the text in relation to their lives and to society.”

How children best learn how to read has been debated for decades, and a recent six-part podcast series from American Public Media called Sold a Story has thrust this hotly-debated issue further into the national spotlight.

A little more than half of the states and the District of Columbia have passed laws or implemented new policies related to evidence-based reading instruction since 2013 as of August, according to Education Week. DeWine is hoping Ohio can be added to that list.

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Structured literacy

Structured literacy is an approach to reading instruction that applies the knowledge of the science of reading method, and it includes explicit and systematic instruction in foundational reading skills, including phonics. The science of reading says most children need explicit phonics when learning how to read.

“Phonics isn’t the only component of literacy instruction, but it can’t exist without phonics,” said Troy McIntosh, executive director of the Ohio Christian Education Network.

The science of reading method prioritizes this.

“To have a student say that they can comprehend what they’re reading, there’s two components to that, that go hand in hand, and it’s word recognition and language comprehension,” said Lindsey Roush, an assistant professor at Walsh University’s division of education.

Walsh University, a private Catholic college in North Canton, converted all their education courses to be aligned with the science of reading method in 2019, Roush said.

The method focuses on how letter sounds and printed letters work together, she said.

“We want their eyes to stay focused on the word and start from those little points of the sounds to bigger chunks of the word to analyze the word to be able to decode it and understand it,” Roush said.

Which is where phonics comes into play.

“Phonics is a very big part of this in terms of really getting down to those phonemes the letter sounds and understanding which sound each of those letters make, individually, and as they’re grouped together in different formats,” Roushsaid.

Balanced literacy

There is another approach to reading instruction called balanced literacy that does not teach phonics in an explicit, systematic way, but prioritizes students’ comprehension of a text.

Critics of that approach say it’s not based on the science. “It’s not using the foundational skills,” allegedDanielle Fontenot, vice president of program development at the Center for Literacy and Learning.

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Balanced literacy incorporates the three-cueing method, which encourages children to read words by asking three questions: Does it make sense? Does it sound right? Does it look right? For example, there could be a picture of a horse on a book’s page and a student may say “pony.”

“When you get to books without pictures your strategy’s not working,” Tingley said.

The science of reading method eliminates guessing, Roush said.

“We don’t want them looking at pictures,” she said.

Whole language is another approach to reading that is more in line with balanced literacy that, as the name suggests, teaches students the whole word instead of parts of the word, Jackson said.

The balanced literacy and whole language methods teach children the “habits of poor readers,” Tingley alleged.

“The children are the ones who are suffering,” she said. “It’s hard to have someone you love struggle to read. … If you can’t read, you can’t do a story problem. You have a hard time in math, you can’t access science or social studies, so reading is the most important thing.”

Linda Fenner, a founding member of Citizen Advocates for Public Education (CAPEOhio), said she wonders if there is a “global solution or a one-size fits all program” that works best for teaching all students how to read.

“Different kids need different things in order to learn how to read,” she said. “The kids who need the most support really need different things and in different combinations.”

Ohio school districts

It’s unclear which Ohio school districts are using which methods when it comes to the reading curriculum. Ohio law gives local schools and districts sole authority regarding decisions about curriculum, so there is no required state curriculum, said Ohio Department of Education Spokesperson Lacey Snoke.

But one thing is clear — there are Ohio school districts not teaching the science of reading method and DeWine is working hard to change that through his proposed budget.

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“This is a problem that we know how to fix,” Tingley said. “And we owe it to these children to fix it.”

Athens City School District in Athens County currently uses what would be considered a balanced literacy approach, but supports DeWine’s science of reading method budget proposal, Superintendent Thomas Gibbs said in an email.

“We have continued to see stagnation in our reading scores and have been internally training and reviewing different curriculum that is more in line with the Science of Reading,” Gibbs said. “The allocation of dollars in the budget to purchase new materials that are in line with SOR and dollars to support the additional time and commitment our teachers will have to put into professional development is necessary and would be a good investment.”

Athens Schools third grade English Language Arts reading scores from the 2017-18 to the 2020-21 school year have been between 9% to 29% for limited scores, between 17% to 25% for basic scores, between 13% to 22% for proficient scores, between 11% to 20% accomplished, and between 12% to 34% for advanced scores, according to ODE.

Ohio’s tests scores

Ohio’s test scores dipped in the latest report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which published in October.

Eighth grade math proficiency dropped from 38% in 2019 to 29% in 2022. In reading scores for the same grade level, proficiency went from 38% in 2019 to 33% in 2022, according to the NAEP data.

Fourth graders saw decreases as well, going from 38% in 2019 to 33% in 2022 in reading scores, and from 38% in 2019 to 29% in 2022 in math.

“I believe that one of the biggest educational mistakes we have made over the last three to four decades is abandoning direct phonic instruction,” McIntosh said. “That has been disastrous for Ohio’s kids.”

“One of those ‘aha moments’”

Roush distinctly remembers being introduced to the science of reading method through Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) professional development training about four years ago.

“It’s just one of those moments, I feel as an educator, like one of those ‘aha moments,’ like, why haven’t we been doing this?” Roush said.

She previously taught for 13 years at McKinley Elementary School, part of Lisbon Exempted Village Schools in Columbia County, and remembers seeing frustrated students struggling to read before the district switched to the science of reading approach.

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“If we can prevent that, of course, we should want to do that as educators,” Roush said.

She remembers students looking at a picture in a book that was near the word on a page and say something that might have started with the same letter, but was ultimately incorrect.

“(It) made zero sense whatsoever, because they were just simply guessing by looking for context clues in the pictures rather than trying to decode the word,” she said.

She starting noticing a difference after incorporating the science of reading method in her third grade classroom.

“It started to click with students,” Roush said. “The big thing was seeing them start to problem solve and how to break apart a word. If they came to a word that they didn’t know, they had the strategies to decode that word.”

Educators say it’s worth putting in the time to learn the science of reading method.

“It’s our obligation to do what’s best for students and if we have been doing it one way for so long and it isn’t working, then we have an obligation to our students to know better and do better,” Fontenot said.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ohio Keeps Talking About the ‘Science of Reading,’ But What Does That Mean? ›

The science of reading says most children need explicit phonics when learning how to read. “Phonics isn't the only component of literacy instruction, but it can't exist without phonics,” said Troy McIntosh, executive director of the Ohio Christian Education Network.

What does the science of reading mean? ›

The science of reading is a vast, interdisciplinary body of scientifically-based research about reading and issues related to reading and writing. This research has been conducted over the last five decades across the world, and it is derived from thousands of studies conducted in multiple languages.

What does the science of reading believe? ›

It says that reading comprehension (RC) is the product of decoding (D) and language comprehension (LC), or RC = D x LC. Learning to read for understanding requires sounding out and recognizing words—decoding—but it also requires making meaning of the words and sentences we hear—language comprehension.

Are science of reading and Orton Gillingham the same? ›

The Orton-Gillingham Approach follows the Science of Reading – respecting that the skills needed to become a proficient reader need to be explicitly taught, individualized to the student.

Is science of reading a curriculum? ›

The Science of Reading, a complete and effective literacy system, brings together five key components — assessment, curriculum, intervention, personalized learning, and ongoing professional development—to ensure that the needs of every student are met with aligned, proven, research-based practices.

Is science of reading just phonics? ›

What's the Difference Between Science of Reading and Phonics? Phonics is part of the science of reading. Phonics instruction refers to the specific skills students learn about letter sounds and symbols. The science of reading is more complex that just phonics.

What grades is science of reading for? ›

The science of reading approach can be effective for teaching reading to upper elementary students (typically students in grades 3-5). Here are some specific strategies you can use when teaching reading to upper elementary students using the science of reading approach.

Is science of reading good? ›

In short, the science of reading has demonstrated the methods that best help children learn to read, from the earliest steps in spoken language to being able to successfully decode unfamiliar words.

What are the 5 key concepts of the science of reading? ›

Effective instructional programs and materials emphasize the five essential components of effective reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

What are the big 5 of science of reading? ›

Reading is broken down into five main areas: ​phonemic awareness​, ​phonics​, ​fluency​, ​vocabulary​, and ​comprehension​.

What are the negatives of Orton-Gillingham? ›

Another criticism of Orton-Gillingham is that comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary are not in their lessons. This really depends on the program. If you're following IMSE, which is meant to be something you can use with the whole class, they do let you know that you need to include those things in the lessons.

Does Fountas and Pinnell follow the science of reading? ›

Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ is based on the Whole Language theory of how kids learn to read. Fountas & Pinnell's approach is not Whole Language and is not based on Whole Language. Fountas and Pinnell believe that all children need explicit instruction in phonics, reading, and writing.

What is the best training for the science of reading? ›

LETRS is my pick for: most comprehensive training. A person who is LETRS trained will be well-versed in both theory and best practice surrounding the Science of Reading. Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) has become the gold standard for teachers in the Science of Reading.

What is balanced literacy vs science of reading? ›

The science of reading, through approaches like Structured Literacy, will help 95% of students become confident, capable readers. For balanced literacy to be effective, it must include explicit instruction in ALL the skills necessary for reading. For students to develop a love of reading, they first must learn to read.

How many states are adopting the science of reading? ›

As of May 9, 2023, 31 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws or implemented new policies related to evidence-based reading instruction since 2013.

Does Lucy Calkins follow the science of reading? ›

More states are now requiring districts to adopt curriculum that adheres to the science of reading. Lucy Calkins says she has learned from the science of reading. She's revised her materials.

What does science of reading look like in the classroom? ›

The “science of reading” is often described as an emphasis on foundational skills instruction—teaching students how to recognize the different sounds in words, how to link those sounds to letters, and how to blend those letters together to read words.

What reading curriculums follow the science of reading? ›

The coalition's report considers EL Education, Core Knowledge Language Arts and Wit & Wisdom to be the only science of reading core curricula used in California, since they are among the six curricula identified by nonprofit consulting firm StandardsWork's Knowledge Matters Campaign as “knowledge-building curricula.”

At what grade should a child be reading? ›

Experts say that most children learn to read by age 6 or 7, meaning first or second grade, and that some learn much earlier. However, a head start on reading doesn't guarantee a child will stay ahead as they progress through school. Abilities tend to even out in later grades.

What is a passing score for science of teaching reading? ›

What is the passing score for the TExES Science of Teaching Reading exam? To pass the exam, you must achieve a minimum scaled score of 240.

Is the science of reading test hard? ›

The Science of Teaching Reading exam is a 5-hour long test that includes 90 selected-response questions and 1 constructed-response question. The teacher STR exam is extremely challenging and requires a deep understanding of the content specifications.

Is Jolly phonics science of reading? ›

Jolly Phonics is described by its creators as, “a comprehensive programme, based on the proven, fun and multi-sensory synthetic phonics method that gets children reading and writing from an early age. This means that we teach letter sounds as opposed to the alphabet.

What does science of reading say about sight words? ›

Scientifically speaking, students are better able to recognize and memorize these sight words when they are able to quickly locate and identify the grapheme-phoneme connection rather than just memorizing a series of letters or the word as a whole.

Is reading a lot good for the brain? ›

Not only does regular reading help make you smarter, but it can also actually increase your brainpower. Just like going for a jog exercises your cardiovascular system, reading regularly improves memory function by giving your brain a good workout.

How do you teach using science of reading? ›

The Science of Reading: 8 Simple Steps You Can Take
  1. Stop using the 3 cueing system. ...
  2. Teach phonics explicitly and systematically. ...
  3. Encourage phonemic awareness.
  4. Build vocabulary and background knowledge. ...
  5. Create a support network. ...
  6. Have grace.

How does the brain learn to read? ›

Our brains aren't pre-wired to translate letters into sounds. We learn to read by repurposing parts of the brain meant to do other things — visual processing, language comprehension, and speech production. Researchers have studied these areas using a type of brain imaging called functional MRI (fMRI).

What are the 5 reading skills that you can use in reading a text? ›

There are five aspects to the process of reading: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, reading comprehension and fluency. These five aspects work together to create the reading experience. As children learn to read they must develop skills in all five of these areas in order to become successful readers.

What are the four domains of science of reading? ›

The four main research areas within the Science of Reading are education, psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience. The Science of Reading comprises five key components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

What are the 6 basic reading skills? ›

Because of the importance of these components, they have become known as the 'Big Six': oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

Does Orton-Gillingham really work? ›

It's true that the Orton–Gillingham (OG) approach is well-regarded in the field of dyslexia. But there's no research that supports the claim that it's “the best” way to teach kids with dyslexia. One of the reasons for the lack of research is the fact that OG is an approach, and not a program of instruction.

Is Orton-Gillingham still used? ›

Today, the Orton-Gillingham approach is used around the world to help students at all levels learn to read.

Who needs Orton-Gillingham? ›

Orton-Gillingham is a structured literacy approach that helps children with reading difficulties due to dyslexia, auditory processing, speech deficits, and other learning differences.

Does heggerty follow science of reading? ›

Heggerty is highly recommended by the science of reading teacher group.

Does reading mastery follow the science of reading? ›

Proven to raise reading performance for every student, Reading Mastery Transformations is a comprehensive ELA program aligned to the science of reading. This evidence-based Direct Instruction solution supports Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 learning, including special populations and students with Dyslexia.

Why is Fountas and Pinnell ineffective? ›

They have no idea their kids aren't being taught to decode. Given that these books are not calibrated for grade level, or by decodable pattern, but rather by the appearance of being easier or harder, the assessment says nothing about the kids' progress.

How many hours is the science of reading training? ›

In this 10-hour self-paced online course, participants will learn strategies to enhance their instructional practices in reading with any curriculum materials. Participants will be introduced to multisensory strategies and activities for phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, reading comprehension, and vocabulary.

How much does the science of reading cost? ›

Now you can trust that it is a science of reading-backed course, and it is open to the public twice a year. We're actually opening it on October 10th, 2022. The cost of the course's regular price is $309.

What makes a great reading specialist? ›

To become an effective reading teacher, you must have an advanced level of knowledge, understanding and sensitivity. Scientific research in reading and writing education has proven that some methods are more efficient than others on instructing young readers.

Why don t they teach phonics anymore? ›

After several decades of so-called reading wars, where dubious theories led educators to abandon the phonics method in favor of a variety of divergent — and often unsuccessful — literacy learning techniques, a growing number of states and districts are right back where they started.

What is the difference between phonics and whole word reading? ›

The two methods are phonics and whole language. Phonics is a method by which children are taught the sound of individual alphabets and how they can combine different sounds in order to form words. On the other hand, the whole language method is one whereby children are taught words as whole units.

What is the difference between reading literacy and reading? ›

Answer and Explanation: Reading is a sub-category of literacy. Literacy encompasses both reading and writing whereas reading is only the act of seeing written language and understanding what the written language is conveying.

What state has the best reading level? ›

New Hampshire has the highest literacy rate in the US, with a rate of 88.5%. Alaska has the second highest literacy rate, at 87.3%, and Vermont is the third state with the highest literacy rate, at 87.2%.

What state do people read the most? ›

After results were analyzed, Vermont was found to love reading the most, with a Reading Interest Score of 37.24.

What is the United States ranked in reading? ›

Performance in reading and science are both close to the OECD average. The United States ranks 17 in reading, (range of ranks: 14 to 20) and 20 in science (range of ranks: 17 to 25). There has been no significant change in these performances over time.

What are the 5 areas of science of reading? ›

The National Reading Panel identified five key concepts at the core of every effective reading instruction program: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension.

What do Fountas and Pinnell say about the science of reading? ›

Fountas and Pinnell believe that all children need explicit instruction in phonics, reading, and writing. F&P resources support children's attention to every letter, sound, and word in order to read and write with accuracy, fluency, and understanding.

What is the best method of reading? ›

The most productive reading techniques are SQ3R, skimming, scanning, active reading, detailed reading, speed reading, and Structure-Proposition-Evaluation reading. Reading techniques are approaches to reading that you can employ to become a better and more accomplished reader.

What reading curriculum follows the science of reading? ›

Reading Rangers is a reading practice program based on the Science of Reading filled with engaging experiences to help improve essential literacy skills.

What is the controversy with Dibels? ›

Many argue that DIBELS measures individual skills, rather than the students' ability to read for comprehension and meaning. While the Retelling sub-test asks the students to regurgitate as much information as possible from what they have read, there is no measure of comprehension involved at all within DIBELS.

What are the three 3 components in reading? ›

The three major components of reading are decoding, fluency, and comprehension. Each of these components has layered meanings that need to be explicitly understood by teachers that are responsible for teaching these critical skills throughout a students' educational journey.


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