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What Are the Criteria for Remedial Reading Programs?
by Sue Whitney, Research Editor,

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"My child has been in remedial reading for a year. He made three months of progress this year so he has fallen even further behind his peers."

"Can the school select one reading program and use that program with all children? What are the criteria for remedial reading programs?

two students working with a reading tutor in a classroom

Sue answers:

Does the school believe your child is "unteachable" because he is having difficulty learning to read?

Reading is a learned skill. Children don't learn to read by receiving "support" in the classroom. Children - especially children with special needs - need direct, specific, intensive instruction with a research based program by a teacher who is trained to use that program.

We know why children have difficulty learning to read, how to teach these children to read, and what happens when we fail to teach them. We've had this knowledge for more than 30 years. (see Reading Disabilities: Why Do Some Children Have Difficulty Learning to Read? What Can Be Done About It?)

Be sure to check the 11 Questions to Ask About Your Child's Reading Program.

Three Reasons Why Remedial Reading Programs Fail

1. The reading program is not appropriate for children with disabilities and learning differences.

Most popular reading approaches, including Guided Reading and Balanced Literacy, are not effective for children with disabilities who struggle to read.

Structured literacy (SL) teaching is the most effective approach for students who have difficulty learning to read and spell printed words -- and it helps all children improve their reading skills. Structured literacy, multisensory structured language education, and structured language and literacy are similar.

The federal education law is the "Every Student Succeeds Act" (ESSA). The ESSA includes five "essential components of reading instruction" which is defined as: "explicit and systematic instruction in --

  • phonemic awareness;
  • phonics;
  • vocabulary development;
  • reading fluency, including oral reading skills; and
  • reading comprehension strategies."

2. Teachers do not have the training, experience or freedom to use appropriate research based reading programs.

A 2021 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) found that Few States Verify that Future Teachers Know How to Teach Children to Read.

Other Findings:

  • Nearly half of teacher preparation programs do not require aspiring elementary candidates to thoroughly cover the science of reading in coursework.
  • Only 20 states require elementary teacher candidates to pass a licensure test that is well grounded in the science of reading.
  • Only 11 of the 20 states with strong licensure tests in reading for elementary teachers extend this same requirement to special education teacher candidates.

3. Remedial reading programs are not implemented properly.

  • Remedial reading programs have too many students in each group to meet any particular child's unique needs;
  • Schools are slow to identify children as in need of intervention and remediation, so children do not receive the powerful benefits of early intervention;
  • Teachers are not adequately prepared to teach children to read; and
  • Schools are not penalized for failing to teach students to read.

Take a look at the Checklist of 11 Questions Parents Need to Ask About Their Child's Reading Program

  1. What is the name of my child's reading program?

  2. Is my child's reading program researched-based?

  3. Does my child's reading program program include the five essential components of reading instruction in the federal education law (ESSA)?

  4. How many children will be in my child's reading group?

  5. How are/were the children in this group selected?

  6. Has the teacher been trained in direct, systematic, multisensory reading instruction?

  7. Is the teacher certified in this particular program?

  8. Has the teacher completed a supervised practicum in this program?

  9. How many hours of instruction will my child receive per week?

  10. What criteria will be used to determine mastery?

  11. When (how often) will I be informed about my child's progress?

Be sure to check the articles and resources about Learning to Read, Teaching Reading, Writing, Free Pubs, and more resources on the Reading at Wrightslaw page.

END here . . . those cameras for now.

Revised: xxx


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