the second is the design and study of specific interventions, with particular attention to basal readers.
Learning from Exemplary Practice We know that very successful reading teachers manage to integrate the components of early reading instruction. But many teachers are less successful. An important resource for advancing understanding of the practices that promote student success is the study of contrasting practices and outcomes.
One approach to this research would be to identify teachers who consistently beat the odds with the performance of their students on the full range of literacy skills. Observing these teachers—the constellation of practices that they employ, the mix of activities, the distribution of time spent on various tasks, and the assessment measures to which they attend and respond—would allow for hypothesis formation regarding the features of effective, integrated reading instruction programs. These beat-the-odds teachers would be compared with teachers in the same school and teaching the same grade level whose students consistently make only average progress for their school, in order to identify the crucial features that differentiate the two groups of teachers.
These features are likely to differ by grade, and by the average achievement level and language development of the students in the classroom. Designing the research to look at various levels (kindergarten, first, second, third grade) and at classrooms chosen to represent a wide variety of demographic factors (e.g., in suburban high-scoring schools, in urban low-scoring schools, in schools serving language minority learners) would be required to draw implications for practice.
A first level of analysis of the data would be to see whether the features that differentiate the beat-the-odds teachers are the same for different groups of learners. It is entirely plausible that the characteristics of excellent teaching for inner-city or for English-language learners are different from those that work best with suburban youth. It is even more strongly to be suspected that the characteristics of excellent instruction in one year (e.g., third grade) will vary from the instruction that has gone on in earlier years. Clarity about these and other dimensions that require instructional responsiveness is an important target for this research.