Turning the Page to Secondary Literacy

Tested practices for schools to identify gaps and implement interventions for secondary readers


About this Collection

Reading proficiency correlates strongly with educational attainment and broader life outcomes. Yet secondary students with disabilities are not developing the reading skills necessary to support college and career readiness. Turning the Page to Secondary Literacy includes a set of best practices for improving learning outcomes in secondary students — particularly Black and Latinx students with disabilities experiencing poverty — using evidence-based practices for reading intervention in the secondary setting.

Research-to-Impact Practices

This collection includes four best practices that participating schools used to plan, implement, and monitor the effectiveness of secondary reading interventions, as well as tools and templates to bring the practices to life. It concludes with one case study showcasing a professional learning community designed to build the capacity of NIC educators to use data to enhance these practices.

The collection also includes a literature review of research on reading intervention for students in grades 4-12, which synthesizes the evidence on instructional practices for nonproficient readers.

In addition, our work highlights several cross-cutting findings about improving literacy at the secondary level:

  • Adolescence is not too late to intervene.
  • Effective assessments and data analysis practices provide the roadmap for designing gap-closing reading intervention programming in the secondary setting.
  • Secondary reading intervention does not have to exist in a silo.
  • Secondary educators want to and can develop the knowledge and competencies necessary to effectively address the range of reading needs that present in their classrooms.

Guiding Literacy Interventions Through Tiered Assessment

Tiered assessment to guide literacy intervention planning refers to the practice of identifying secondary students who are at risk of not meeting grade-level ELA benchmarks or standards, pinpointing specific reading skill gaps for these students, and planning aligned evidence-based interventions to address the identified skill gaps. This chapter outlines the individual steps involved in this process — 1) universal screening of reading, 2) diagnostic assessment of reading, and 3) alignment of evidence-based interventions to student needs — and provides guidance on the selection of assessments, development of decision-making criteria, and protocols for collaborative data-driven decision-making.

Why it Works

  • Quality universal screening assessments allow schools to efficiently identify students who are not reading at grade-level expectations.
  • Diagnostic assessments administered to the students identified as reading below grade level provide information on the specific reading skills students need.
  • Aligning evidence-based reading interventions with these identified skills ensures that students are getting the right support.

In 2022–23, three out of four students receiving additional reading interventions made progress in their oral reading fluency.

Glynis Shulters, Improvement Lead, Green Dot Public Schools California


Repeated Reading: Building Oral Reading Fluency in Secondary Readers

Oral reading fluency is highly correlated with reading comprehension, and schools that use a tiered assessment approach to guide literacy interventions will likely encounter a subgroup of students who lack the reading fluency necessary for reading comprehension. This chapter describes the implementation of repeated reading, an evidence-based practice for building oral reading fluency, across several settings within the NIC. This practice includes a three-day repeated reading protocol.

Why it Works

  • Reading fluency is correlated with reading comprehension.
  • Reading fluency can be positively influenced by instruction.
  • Repeated oral reading is highly effective.

Through a daily oral reading fluency practice, students with IEPs at Noble Schools demonstrated beginning- to end-of-year Lexile growth commensurate with students without IEPs.

Students at Noble Schools


Developing Multisyllabic Word Reading Skills in Adolescent Readers

Weak word analysis skills and inaccurate decoding of multisyllabic words are often key contributors to low reading fluency rates for nonproficient secondary readers.  This chapter describes the implementation of a word study intervention designed to improve fluency and accuracy of multisyllabic word reading.

Why it Works

  • Word study intervention can improve reading outcomes for struggling students by teaching them to be flexible decoders and to access word analysis and word recognition strategies.
  • Explicit instruction designed to build morphological awareness has been shown to be especially helpful for English Language Learners and secondary students with disabilities.

By the end of the 2022-23 school year, all students at Uncommon Charter High School in Brooklyn, New York, enrolled in Academic Prep, a reading intervention class for 9th grade students with reading disabilities, read text with 98–100% accuracy.

Uncommon Charter High School in Brooklyn, NY


Strengthening Timely Interventions through Goal Setting and Progress Monitoring

Effective implementation of secondary reading intervention requires establishing clear student goals, implementing valid and reliable assessments to monitor student progress toward those goals, and engaging in regular analysis of progress monitoring data to guide instruction and intervention planning decisions. This practice provides guidance on the selection of progress monitoring tools and outlines a process for collecting data, conferencing with students, and analyzing data to inform intervention decisions.

Why it Works

  • Research studies have consistently demonstrated the value of regularly assessing students’ reading progress.
  • Engaging students in goal setting and progress monitoring can serve to support motivation to read.

Half of the students who participated in the reading fluency intervention at Green Dot Public Schools during the 2022-23 school year increased their oral reading fluency by over 30 words-per-minute from fall to spring. As a result, Green Dot educators decided to exit these  students from an oral reading fluency intervention because they had met the benchmark.

A teacher at Green Dot’s Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy meets with a student to set goals for reading growth.


Case Study: Enhancing Educator Capacity to Implement Evidence-Based Reading Interventions

Teacher knowledge of language and literacy constructs, implementation of evidence-based practices, and proficiency with assessments and data-based decision-making are all associated with improved student outcomes. Building these competencies requires practitioner-focused professional development and aligned coaching for educators. This case study highlights the approach taken by the Marshall improvement team to build the capacity of educators across the NIC working to implement secondary reading intervention through a professional learning community and individual coaching structures.

Why it Works

  • Research studies have consistently demonstrated the value of regularly assessing students’ reading progress.
  • Engaging students in goal setting and progress monitoring can serve to support motivation to read.

Upon conclusion of a year-long practitioner-focused professional learning community (PLC) designed to increase educator capacity to implement evidence-based instructional practices for adolescent readers with disabilities, 100% of participants reported that the PLC enhanced their knowledge related to adolescent literacy, provided them with practical tools and resources that were applicable to their work, and was instrumental in addressing challenges faced within their roles and local contexts.

Uncommon Charter High School, Brooklyn, NY

Explore the Collections

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    Opening Doors to Collaboration

    Interdisciplinary practices for building collaboration between general and special education teams

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    Navigating Data for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

    Equity-based practices for using data at the district, school, and classroom levels to accelerate student supports

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    Igniting Postsecondary Aspirations

    Proven school-based practices to empower students to transition into meaningful college, career, and community postsecondary pathways

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    Anchoring Emotions

    One school’s skill-based practices for supporting students with emotional-based disabilities

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