Tier 1: General Classroom Instruction
Armed with information and research from the National Research Panel and universities from across the nation, schools have been encouraged to examine their general reading instruction. Institutions of higher learning such as the University of Oregon have provided ideas and tools to analyze instruction across a variety of perspectives. Schools (K-12) have been asked to look at the number of students and the demographic data in each classroom to answer the question: What kinds of students are there? Schools should also look at the alignment of reading instructional curricula and instructional practices across grade levels to see is the appropriate amount of instruction given at the right time? Finally, and probably the most difficult question of all for schools to answer has been “Do the reading curricula and instructional methods have a basis in scientific research?” This last question has sent schools scrambling for answers.
Schools have been guided for years by standards from national teachers groups such as the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the National Science Teachers Association. The purpose of these national groups is to inform professionals about best practices for instruction and expectations that are based on research and current thinking among academic disciplines. However, these groups do not typically recommend curricula, specific programs or products.
A need to evaluate commercially available products was addressed by the University of Oregon. Here researchers invited publishers to allow them to examine instructional materials to see if they were in line with goals set by reading research. A list of basal reading curricula that had passed research expectations was published by the University of Oregon shortly after the Reading Panel report in 2001. Additionally, researchers at Florida State University began to do the same comparisons; not just for basal reading programs, but also for programs that addressed remedial reading, computer based learning, phonics, spelling, and a host of other supplemental curricula used in reading instruction. The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) became a widely used standard for schools to evaluate their reading materials.
With guidance from the National Reading Panel, states and schools across the nation began the change to scientifically based reading instruction. Led by universities and state agencies, the federal government gave large sums of money to states to provide professional development under the “Reading First” initiative. Schools were receiving information and training that promoted the tenets of the National Reading Panel. Schools were guided in how to instruct students in the Big 5 Areas of Reading that were highlighted by research.
In 2002, President George Bush created the Institutes for Educational Sciences (IES). Using public funding, the goal of the IES was to consolidate research gained at universities across the nation, and make public the challenges facing students from diverse populations. A number of centers were created, including the Institute for Education Sciences, National Center for Education Research, National Center for Education Statistics, national Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, and the National Center for Special Education Research. Other centers sprang up across the nation with the intent of establishing the best in education for all students which include: The IDEA Works Center for Children with Disabilities and the Center for Applied Linguistics. The goal of these centers is to guide schools toward the most appropriate choices of reading curricula to match the needs of the students in their schools. Schools are asked to analyze their students, find the specific needs of those students, and match curricula to the needs. It is a model that is continuing to grow and expand.
At the same time that American schools were transforming reading instructional approaches, researchers from disciplines were hard at work applying the same concepts for math, writing, and behavior. New centers began to emerge that began to tackle important questions such as: What does this mean for math, writing, behavior and diverse populations? Centers that are working to provide guidance in choosing curricula or instructional strategies include: the Center on Instruction, What Works Clearinghouse, and Best Evidence in Education, and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.
The current elementary model for Tier 1 instruction includes a set amount of time for instruction that covers the five areas of reading previously outlined in the Evidence Based Instruction section of this module. Across a designated 90-minute period, students could be grouped and re-grouped according to the activity. ALL students would participate in this level of instruction, commonly known as “core reading instruction”. Even Tier 2 and Tier 3 students would attend Tier 1 for their primary source of reading instruction. The effectiveness of all instructional materials are to be validated by research.
Reading instruction is assessed by the means of the oral reading fluency and spelling for students able to decode. Grade level math probes are given to students to indicate facility with grade appropriate skills. Students who are at low risk of reading or math problems are measured 3 times a year, in the fall, winter and spring. Of course, with all good teaching, the collecting of student work samples is highly encouraged. In order to made educational decisions for intervention, the scores from probes are compared with a student’s progress in classroom assessments as well as state required assessments.
For younger students at the kindergarten and first grade level, the Phoneme Segmentation Task and Letter/Sound fluency are used. These assessments were popularized by the University of Oregon’s assessment titled Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). DIBELS is still widely used today for young learners.
Probes, whether for reading or math, are defined under the concept of Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM) and are very short, timed events that must be given to students on an individual basis. The score is often reflected in words correct per minute or numbers correct in three minutes, etc. The student score is then compared to scores by grade level found in the norms.