Nationwide Leadership on the Science of Reading for Over 35 Years

Success for All was developed with the goal of using the best science available to ensure that students have excellent instruction and other essential supports so that they will learn the critical skills of reading, and have the tools they need to succeed as a student. This mission started when Johns Hopkins researchers Robert Slavin and Nancy Madden conducted reviews of the research on effective programs for students at risk of failure under funding from a US Department of Education grant. After their review, it was clear that the findings of research on effective reading instruction were not very available to teachers and schools. Success for All was founded to change this, and to develop professional development, materials, and supports for teachers that bring the science of reading and learning into every school day.

The Success for All approach was first implemented in 1987, and since then almost three million children have been provided with the research-proven literacy instruction models developed to ensure that students receive the best that science can offer. Over 50 comparison group studies by a variety of researchers have confirmed the strong positive impact of the approach on literacy learning. Dr. Amanda Neitzel and her colleagues summarize the impact research on Success for All in this link. Based on this finding, the average school implementing Success for All gains the equivalent of 203 days of instruction in every year of implementation.

Recently, use of the Science of Reading has become a part of the educational policy in many states, and districts have been required to use tools aligned to this approach. In practice, this means that:

  1. Word recognition for decodable words is explicitly taught through letter-sound correspondence and word analysis skills. It is not taught by visual guessing, the shape of the word, or the use of context clues. Words that cannot be sounded out are explicitly taught as sight words.
  2. Phonics skills are practiced by applying letter-sound knowledge in decodable texts that match the phonics elements taught, supporting phonic decoding.
  3. There is a specific sequence of instruction, from simple to complex, and an instructional process that includes direct instruction in the target skill, and practice that includes a high level of teacher-student interaction.
  4. Fluency is an explicit focus that is modeled by the teacher, student practice focuses on accuracy and automaticity, and students receive frequent feedback on progress.
  5. Comprehension monitoring and strategies for building comprehension are explicitly taught and practiced.
  6. Vocabulary instruction is systematic and explicit for words not in students speaking vocabulary.
  7. A variety of texts, narrative and informational, are taught and are used to develop students’ background knowledge.

These features are described in more detail in a widely used document disseminated by the The Reading League, a national non-profit dedicated to the increasing knowledge about the Science of Reading. Success for All has utilized these features of the Science of Reading since its inception. Structures for instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics are embedded in Curiosity Corner for Pre-k, in KinderCorner for Kindergarten, in Reading Roots for grade 1, in Word Power for grade 2, and in Reading Wings for later grades. Direct instruction, interactive group practice, and cooperative learning to provide rich opportunities for partner practice, are strands that link all of these components. Decodable readers that support the presentation sequence for letter sounds allow for decoding in continuous text, and experience with both narrative and informational examples. See the links below for samples of lessons from each of these components.

Reading fluency has a strong focus in both Reading Roots and Reading Wings, which both include tools that allow students to assist each other with practice, and see their progress as their fluency grows. Direct instruction teaches students strategies for reading, including reading accurately, reading smoothly using the punctuation, reading with expression, and reading at the appropriate rate. Teachers use video models to teach students how to provide feedback to each other as they practice. Gradually increasing fluency targets set gradually increasing expectations for fluency, so students experience both success and challenge. See the links below for samples of the instructional materials designed to support growth of fluency.

Instruction in comprehension starts with the teachers’ oral reading of rich children’s literature with targeted instruction in concepts about print, text structures, understanding the text, vocabulary and connections to background knowledge. These skills are generalized to student’s reading during first grade. Cooperative learning activities allow students lots of time to practice fluency with feedback from their partners. Partners listen to one another read, assist with blending or sight strategies for difficult words, and provide encouragement and celebrations of success. Partners also learn to ask themselves and their partners about their comprehension. Readers ask themselves, “Did I understand what I read?” Listeners restate the reading to build listening comprehension.

For students who need additional instruction to master foundational reading skills, Success for All offers a cost-effective small group tutoring approach that is fully integrated with the core instructional model. The process follows the same sequence of objectives, but offers game like computer-assisted partner activities. Tutors, usually teaching assistants, work with 4 students at a time, and are able to serve 32 students if tutoring for a full day.

The research is clear – students’ reading achievement increases substantially when Success for All strategies are implemented.

The long-term research follow-up indicates not only that students taught using Success for All learn to read faster, but also that special education referrals and grade repetitions due to failure to learn are cut dramatically, saving schools the high costs of these remediation efforts.

Success for All has substantially greater impact on student achievement than other common approaches to intervention for low achievers, including extending the school day, digital learning, and summer school.

Success for All’s longstanding focus on the Science of Reading has worked since its first implementation. Success for All has also enriched the model with rich, technology based tools as they have become available, always maintaining its alignment to the Science of Reading. Digital tools for media-rich teacher presentations, classroom partner practice, formative assessment and easy progress-tracking, and use of data to guide instruction maintain the usefulness of the approach for teachers as well as the promise for student success.