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. By equipping secondary educators with applied skills and knowledge drawn from the science of reading, we can close the research-to-practice gap and improve outcomes for nonproficient secondary readers.

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 takeaways about improving literacy at the secondary level:

  • 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.
  • Adolescence is not too late to intervene.
  • Effective assessment 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 and should be connected to course content to build skills alongside content knowledge for secondary students.

Guiding Literacy Interventions Through Tiered Assessment

Glynis Shulters, Improvement Lead, Green Dot Public Schools California

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 practice 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.


Repeated Reading: Building Oral Reading Fluency in Secondary Readers

Students at Noble Schools

Repeated reading directly builds oral reading fluency skills, which has the potential to unlock access to grade level content for students. Fluent, accurate, and automatic word reading is strongly correlated with reading comprehension, or the ability to make meaning from text, which is the ultimate goal of reading. This practice describes the implementation of repeated reading — an evidence-based practice for building oral reading fluency — connected to authentic grade-level instruction, 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.


Developing Multisyllabic Word Reading Skills in Adolescent Readers

Uncommon Charter High School, Brooklyn, NY

Multisyllabic words make up the majority of words that secondary readers encounter in text. As a result, weak or dysfluent multisyllabic word reading can significantly impact a student’s ability to access and make meaning from complex grade-level texts. This practice explores how to approach word study intervention to build secondary students’ multisyllabic word-reading skills using authentic texts from content area courses.

Why it Works

  • Research suggests that word study instruction can positively impact student reading, even in short increments of 5–10 minutes daily.
  • 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.


Strengthening Timely Interventions Through Goal Setting and Progress Monitoring

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

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

  • Consistent progress monitoring — in combination with data-based decision-making processes — helps educators tailor interventions to students’ needs.
  • Goal setting and progress monitoring help students visualize their progress and build important skills like self-monitoring and self-evaluation, which have been found to be especially beneficial for students with learning disabilities.

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.


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

Uncommon Charter High School, Brooklyn, NY

Educators need access to professional development and coaching aligned with the science of reading. This case study includes best practices for building the capacity of secondary educators to implement evidence-based interventions for student literacy. These practices emerged from two years of leading professional learning communities (PLCs) on evidence-based literacy interventions focused on applying the practices in secondary classroom settings. Together with corresponding recommended resources, they provide a blueprint for schools across the country to build educator capacity for teaching reading.

Why it Works

  • Professional development and coaching bridge theory and practice, supporting the consistent implementation of evidence-based interventions in classrooms and schools.
  • The practices described in this case study help secondary educators understand and apply the science of reading, while equipping them with the tools and coaching to teach reading skills as part of their core instruction.

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.

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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    Research-to-Impact Home

    Evidence-based practices to improve outcomes for Black and Latinx students with disabilities experiencing poverty

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