- A majority of teachers are unclear about the types of reading instructional practices that are called for in their state’s standards, according to a new survey conducted by the RAND Corporation.
- Teachers, for example, tended to think that their standards emphasized the use of materials that match students’ current reading levels. On the contrary, the report says that most state standards focus on using appropriate grade-level texts.
- The authors recommend that state and district leaders give teachers “clearer messages” about instructional approaches called for in their state standards, as well as support and guidance in how to engage “all students in working with complex, grade-level texts.”
RAND conducted the survey with its American Teacher Panel, a nationally representative sample of educators who provide feedback on policy and practice. They found that teachers in states that have adopted the Common Core were more likely to use standards-based practices, but that those teaching English learners, students with disabilities, and those from low-income families were more likely to use leveled readers.
Leveled readers have drawn criticism in recent years, with some literacy experts saying that limiting students to books that are “just right” for their reading skills prevents them from gaining access to texts that are more engaging and interesting to them. Those who defend the role of leveled texts say they are only a tool for teachers and should not be the only books students are reading.
The researchers recommend that school leaders and instructional coaches should develop clear guidelines as to when leveled readers are appropriate and provide teachers with professional development on practices that allow struggling readers to benefit from more complex texts. These include strategies such as pair reading, echo reading and even audio recordings.