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Simplifying the Science of Reading

The science of reading, a simple phrase many of us are now familiar with, has become more of a convoluted conversation than a common practice. What started decades ago as a researcher-led effort to improve classroom practices for all students has, in some regards, gotten lost along the way. Let's pick up the pieces and get back on track.

Given its complicated nature, the science of reading (SoR) has been dependent on simplification since its inception. However, many attempts at this have been aimed in the wrong direction, trying to simplify the science behind it instead of the forward-facing implementation. The reason why this doesn’t work is because science and research necessarily rely on constant growth, improvement, and further understanding, which isn’t to say the original findings are wrong, rather they were just the tip of the SoR iceberg.

As Mark Seidenberg describes in his blog The “science of reading” is a work in progress, “teachers (and other educators) have to be able to understand the research in order to make use of it.” A concept that may seem relatively straightforward, yet has been mostly ignored or misunderstood by many companies and administrators.

As a result, much of the preparation and professional development teachers receive has been woefully inadequate in guiding them through the many complications of the science of reading. This causes unnecessary stress and guilt, reducing focus on what can be done to improve student outcomes. There is no doubt that teachers have been underserved and under-supported by the systems in place for preparation as well as ongoing development, but there is also no reason to believe that, under a more aligned and effective system, all teachers can’t be successful.

Reading and rocket ships, for the purpose of this conversation, have more in common than you might expect (and we’re not the first to make this comparison). Just like SoR, rocket ships are state of the art, designed by a team of scientists who’ve devoted their entire career to this particular practice. On top of the vast complications that go into designing a rocket is the additional requirement for the finished product to be far simpler to use than it is to understand. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to fly one. This is where SoR falls behind.

Unlike rocket ships, the research results that make up the SoR have not been made easier to understand and implement, which might be why mankind has made it to the moon but still struggles to teach children to read. In order to capitalize on the progress that researchers have made in understanding how children best learn to read, these findings need to be translated for teachers. Seidenberg argues that the key issues needing to be addressed in reading instruction are “What to teach, when, how much, and for whom.” We couldn’t agree more. Research has proven the what, when, and hows of teaching are a settled science, all that's left is to make these findings readily available and easy to use for teachers. A2i does exactly this.

Developed by researchers, and co-designed by teachers, A2i has been at the forefront of reading science for over a decade by supporting the instruction of reading. Our team consists of leading researchers and veteran teachers, collaborating to turn the most relevant findings into easy-to-use tools for the everyday classroom. Using our groundbreaking instructional algorithms we know exactly what each student needs, but more importantly, we make it easy for teachers to understand how, bridging the gap between research and results.

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