Reading Accelerators: A report by Student Achievement Partners

June 23, 2021

Reading Accelerators: A report by Student Achievement Partners

Erratic and uneven access to literacy instruction exacerbated by the current pandemic is intersecting with a long-delayed racial and socio-economic reckoning in America. Creating equity requires knowing when and where to personalize instruction in order to give students the resources they need when they need them. This report breaks down the five indicators that provide direction to making literacy instruction more effective for all students.

Article By Rachel Schechter, PhD

Report Name: Reading as Liberation—An Examination of the Research Base

Conducted by: Student Achievement Partners

Finding 1: Five literacy/reading accelerators lead to strong readers and writers. They are mutually interdependent and when activated, work together to produce results for students. They are foundational skills, knowledge building, vocabulary, writing, and reading comprehension.  The list of skill areas is not surprising, for we’ve known about their importance for over 20 years (many are in the National Reading Panel 2000 report). The public education sector has really struggled historically with accelerating gains in these areas.

Finding 2: Personalization does not automatically imply acceleration, but technology can be harnessed to help equitable growth in many cases. Personalization approaches do have the potential to accelerate literacy outcomes when they are employed equitably in ways that are in direct service to the literacy discipline. Personalization approaches must be tightly integrated into the specifics of the content students are learning.

Five Literacy Accelerators

500 expert sources used in producing the report

Funded by

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Overdeck Family Foundation, and The Robin Hood Foundation.

Finding 3: Educators can partner with technology to personalize instruction and practice to accelerate growth.

There are particular ways to redesign teaching to bridge curriculum and design to increase the effectiveness of schooling in these areas. No matter the tool, consider these operating principles to advance the right content.  The personalized product or approach should:

  • focus on the five literacy/ reading accelerators,
  • align with learning sciences,
  • follow the class structure and culture,
  • support co-learning, and
  • respond to students’ real-time strengths and needs.

Finding 4: Equitable operating principles to ensure that personalization supports all learners.

Equity cannot work as an afterthought or superficial gesture; equity needs to be baked into literacy instruction from the start. The manner, frequency, and intensity with which instructional materials are used, whether for the whole class, small group, or personalized learning, with or without the inclusion of technology, dictate how equitable or inequitable the instruction is. As yourself, is this tool:

  • Advancing the right content?
  • Promoting equity and counteracting bias?
  • Cultivating student agency and elevating student interest in their learning?
  • Ensuring ease of use and implementation by teachers and schools?

“A truly productive approach to literacy learning must advocate for ways to fundamentally redesign the schooling system, not just maintain the trappings of school as we know it. We believe this crossroads represents opportunity, not threat.” Sue Pimentel and Meredith Liben, page 8

Who would benefit from reading this report?

This report has so much excellent information, so different audiences will need to sort through it to find pieces most relevant for them.

  • Those who serve education, either philanthropically or through developing products and materials for students, will find essential information to guide their literacy investments.
  • Funders can use this report to guide program leaders to better leverage personalization tools in their districts.
  • Developers can use this information to evaluate their products’ ability to differentiate intensity and rate of progress for students who require additional support or are moving at different paces all along the user journey (not just a differentiated placement tool).
  • The audience also includes all educators—those at the school and district level—who are seeking ways to accelerate student outcomes in literacy and considering how personalized learning approaches might enhance that acceleration.

Additional Considerations:

  • No single product will meet every need of a school. A research-based comprehensive set of instructional materials should drive literacy learning in schools. Schools must curate toolkits that are suited to their needs which integrate these literacy accelerators in powerful ways. Ensuring such power is in the hands of teachers and students is crucial.
  • Empirical research must keep up with the changes in technology and use cases. Much more research is needed to discover where the power of personalization is and for whom. Empirical research in what constitutes effective personalized practices in literacy is thin.
  • Literacy learning inescapably grows out of the larger social context of the classroom. Engagement and motivation require students to feel a sense of belonging. In the absence of such a feeling, no instructional materials will be effective in ensuring that students thrive.