Date of Award
Annette R. Jenner
Research on reading acquisition and instruction has identified the incorporation of an explicit, systematic code-based approach into a comprehensive reading curriculum as most successful in teaching beginning readers, including those who are reading disabled (e.g., Adams, 1990; National Reading Panel, 2000; Pressley, 2002; Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Pesetsky, & Seidenberg, 2001). Yet, 70% of 4th grade students nationwide and 60% of such students in Massachusetts are not reading at proficient levels (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2003), statistics which raise questions about how well the research is translated into educational policies and classroom practices. Over the course of my Fenwick year, I have investigated the process by which research may influence educational decisions regarding early reading instruction in Massachusetts public schools, through a review of the relevant literature and state and national policies (e.g., Massachusetts Education Reform Act, 1993; Massachusetts English/Language Arts Curriculum Framework, 2001; No Child Left Behind, 2001), a set of semi-structured interviews with policymakers, school administrators, and teachers (n=58), and a statewide teacher survey (n=112). Although educational policies are aligned with instructional methods supported by research, the degree to which individual districts or schools utilize these policies or the research itself to guide decisions varies. Furthermore, teachers tend to overestimate their own knowledge of reading research and/or devalue the worth of this knowledge for guiding classroom practices. Teachers' lack of motivation to become more familiar with research findings is compounded by a lack of access to such findings. Nor do teachers generally have the prerequisite knowledge to implement the code-based approach which is supported by research, as found on the Teacher Knowledge Assessment: Structure of Language (Bos, Mather, Dickson, Podhajski, & Chard, 2002). A more concerted effort by all professionals involved in the educational system, including educators, policymakers, and researchers, is required to better translate reading research into educational practice.
Piasta, Shayne B., "Beginning Reading Instruction in Massachusetts Public Schools: Research, Policy, and Teachers' Knowledge and Beliefs" (2004). Fenwick Scholar Program. 16.