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Research on Literacy

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A current emphasis for decision making in the area of literacy, and specifically reading, is the descriptor "research-based." Several states mandate “research-based” programs for reading and "scientifically based research” is a part of the No Child Left Behind legislation. Yet many individual research reports are conflicting or criticized as tainted by poor design or by vested interest on the part of the researchers. Where can you look to access research that is being talked about in educational planning? Fortunately, the Internet provides sites with free information.
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Current research survey of achievement to top
The National Center for Education Statistics administers the National Assessment of Educational Progress to students in grades 4, 8, and 12 throughout the United States and releases the results in The Nation’s Report Card. Assessments have been conducted periodically since 1969, making the NAEP the only national continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. In 2007, the NAEP reading assessment was administered to approximately 351,700 students

Results on reading achievement can be accessed in various forms:
National results
Achievement level results
State-level results by individual state
Sub-group results
Long-Term trends

This site includes information on the framework upon which the NAEP reading assessment is based, and how the test is administered.

Currently, NAEP is featuring the 2007 Reading Results.

The U.S. Department of Education site Stronger Accountability summarizes data on academic performance nationally and by state. Measures include student achievement in reading and math, high school graduation rates, schools making adequate yearly progress, highly qualified teachers, parents taking advantage of tutoring and choice options, and state participation in flexibility options.

The National Center for Education Statistics provides print and online (pdf) versions of The Condition of Education archived for multiple years. The 2007 report summarizes the latest available data to report developments and trends in education including a special analysis on high school courseetaking. Five indicators used for analysis are: (1) participation in education; (2) learner outcomes; (3) student effort and educational progress; (4) the contexts of elementary and secondary education; and (5) the contexts of postsecondary education.

Ongoing research for literacy instruction to top
The Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement is a national center for research on early reading, generating reports and presentations on research and issues related to the learning and teaching of beginning reading. CIERA‘s funding through the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education has ended so the site is being revised as an “archive only” site.

The site is not easy to navigate initially, but there is quantity and quality in the library’s sections: instructional resources, technical reports, archives, and presentations. Technical reports are categorized under three headings:
Characteristics of readers and texts related to achievement
Home and school effects on achievement
Policy and professional effects on achivement.

Author researchers published by CIERA include:
David Pearson
James Hoffman
Connie Juel
Elfrieda H. Hiebert
Elizabeth Sulzby
Barbara M. Taylor

Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is a comparatively new regional center which both identifies empirically sound research and supports development of new research. Sections include:
Policy Briefs to summarize research and recommend policy
Think Twice to review thnk tank research
Education Research & Reports to disseminate specific significant reports
Links to research centers
A recent example is the pdf document of the Education Public Interest Center report Examining the Funding and Activities of Free Market Education Think Tanks.

The National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement is a national center for literacy research in the United States. CELA is a national research and development center (established in 1987), which initially focused on the teaching and learning of literature. In March, 1996, the Center expanded its focus to include the teaching and learning of English, both as a subject in its own right and as it is learned in other content areas, with emphasis on grades 4-12. In 2004, the Center added the Literacy Corner, with research information and activities for preschool-grade 1. Housed at the School of Education at the University at Albany, CELA's work to date has been funded primarily by Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education.

Explore the site to find newsletter articles, descriptions of ongoing research, online research briefs and Research-to-Practice booklets.

Author researchers published by CELA include:
Judith A. Langer
Richard Allington
Michael Pressley
Deborah Brandt.
Arthur Applebee
Peter Johnston
Note: The ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education maintained the Reading Pathfinder web site to provide easy access to information related to developing competent readers by third grade. This site was discontinued as of January, 2003. Research articles were among the topics covered on the main ERIC:EECE site. The US Department of Education closed the EECE Clearinghouse on December 31, 2003. Public domain materials produced by ERIC/EECE moved to the Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting (CEEP) operated by the University of Illinois.
Retrospective research summaries to top
While there have been many research reports and summaries of research in reading over decades, the effort to sift quality research that is influencing current national policy probably began almost ten years ago. The National Research Council issued the 1998 report Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children which was heralded at the time as the means to end the “reading wars.”

At this same time Congress asked for a national panel to assess the effectiveness of different approaches used to teach children to read. The National Reading Panel submitted their report Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and It’s Implications for Reading Instruction in April, 2000. The National Reading Panel was convened by the Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in consultation with the Secretary of Education, but NICHD also continued its coordination of ongoing research.

The National Right to Read Foundation has posted an online version of the Bonita Grossen authored synthesis of research on reading from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Her report describes the NICHD research process and summarizes findings. The document attributed to Grossen has been widely published and distributed through various channels including the Internet, email, and mass mailings to legislators. However, research analysts such as Richard L. Allington point out discrepancies between generalizations in the ‘30 years/synthesis’ document and the reports of other NICHD researchers.

Various panels continue doing research summaries. The National Early Literacy Panel (NELP), convened by the National Center for Family Literacy, with funding from the National Institute for Literacy, is synthesizing scientific research on the development of early literacy skills in children from birth to five years. The National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth, funded by the U.S. Department of Education/Institute of Education Sciences, has published a meta-analysis of research studies related to language minority students with the Executive Summary online in pdf format.

Defining “research-based” for policy to top
As director, Reid Lyon coordinated the research efforts of NICHD and his views continue to play a role in shaping national policy. His statement before a House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce provides background on research standards.. His coauthored article The Science of Reading Research in the March, 2004 issue of Education Leadership continues this explanation of how research is used in determining “what works”.

The International Reading Association issued a position statement on this topic in June, 2002. The IRA paper What Is Evidence-Based Reading Instruction? is summarized online and the full text document can be downloaded.

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act legislation which, in effect, defines national policy. On February 6, 2002, the U.S. Department of Education hosted a panel of experts to discuss and define the meaning of “scientifically based research” called for in NCLB.

The description used across current documents reads:
Scientifically based reading research is research that applies rigorous, systematic and objective procedures to obtain valid knowledge relevant to reading development, reading instruction, and reading difficulties.
This includes research that:
1. Employs systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment;
2. Involves rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify the general conclusions drawn;
3. Relies on measurements or observational methods that provide valid data across evaluators and observers and across multiple measurements and observations; and
4. Has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective and scientific review.
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page last updated: 2/28/08
© 2003-2008, Mary Berry. All rights reserved.