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Science of Reading
The Science of Reading is a vast body of research from multiple fields (i.e., education, linguistics, psychology, neuroscience) and derives from multiple studies that explain how individuals learn to read and the practices most effective in maximizing student literacy outcomes. This body of research informs the “what” and “how” of teaching literacy (reading and writing). It also informs the focus of teacher preparation programs, the instructional materials districts select and the professional learning most likely to impact teaching and learning.
The Science of Reading is not a philosophy, a specific program, or a single method of teaching or component of instruction. While scientifically based reading research is supported by state (Iowa Code 279.68(2a)) and federal policy (Public Law 114-95), the Science of Reading is a nonpartisan topic; it is based on what is most effective in teaching reading and writing.
The Science of Reading recognizes the most scientifically based “what” and “how” of teaching reading and writing. These components have the most evidence for impacting learning outcomes for typical learners, learners with disabilities and those at risk for reading concerns. It is important to recognize that the Science of Reading is evolving and dependent on continued scientifically based reading research. Teaching based on the Science of Reading is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Some students may need more or less emphasis on specific components of literacy and/or more or less explicit, systematic and sequential instruction. The effectiveness of instruction based on the Science of Reading is dependent on responsive teaching and using data regularly to ensure instruction is having the expected impact. See the Full Breakdown of the Science of Reading Components.
All learners with disabilities can obtain high levels of reading achievement. The content and practices included in the Science of Reading framework have evidence for being effective with nearly all learners, including those with disabilities. However, to maximize learning, Individualized Educational Program (IEP) teams must plan instruction that:
- is individualized for a learner’s unique needs;
- has the most scientific evidence for being effective in addressing a learner’s unique needs;
- is diagnostic and responsive (i.e., regularly adapted to a learner’s unique needs).
While almost all learners will progress with instruction based on the Science of Reading framework, some students with significant disabilities (i.e., approximately 1% of learners participating in an alternate assessment) will most likely require an instructional approach focused on language, communication and comprehensive literacy.Back to top
Iowa LETRS® Science of Reading Professional Learning Courses
The Iowa Department of Education is launching a new, intensive professional development opportunity statewide to support evidence-based reading instruction, improve grade-level reading proficiency, and close achievement gaps across the state. The sustained professional development in the Science of Reading, called LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling), is being provided at no cost to K-5 teachers and school administrators.
The spring 2023 assessment results from the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress show 66 percent of Iowa’s third graders reading at grade level and significant achievement gaps experienced by students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (51 percent proficient), students with disabilities (25 percent proficient), and students who are English learners (26 percent proficient). To improve grade-level reading proficiency and close achievement gaps, educators participating in LETRS professional development will master the four critical outcomes for effective reading instruction: understanding the Science of Reading, converting research to practice, enhancing teacher effectiveness, and transforming instruction.
Who is Eligible?
Any Iowa K-5 educator currently teaching or serving as an administrator in an Iowa school can register for the course, including special education teachers, Title I educators, instructional coaches, and others who provide elementary literacy instruction. Teachers are invited to register for the LETRS for Elementary Educators (K-5 classroom teachers, Title I, reading support). Instructional Coaches may choose to take either the LETRS for Elementary Educators or LETRS for Administrators. Instructional Coaches will not need to take both courses. Administrators are invited to register for LETRS for Administrators. Administrators will not need to take both courses.
If you are a school or district with less than 40 teachers interested in registering for LETRS training during a time that fits your schools’ schedule, first fill out the Building/District registration form. In addition, consider signing up using the LETRS Training Option for Small Districts/Schools and finding others who might be interested in common training times. For example, if you are considering training on an early out day, find another school looking for that same request. If you are considering training during a professional development session, look for another school with the same days and times requested. This would allow your school and others the opportunity to receive the LETRS training during a time that fits your schedules. As a reminder, the training sessions are virtual, so the buildings partnering within the same cohort will not be in the same physical location. When using the Google spreadsheet, input all information. It is the responsibility of the school or district to reach out and make these arrangements between both parties. Once you have 40-43 participants, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org for next steps in creating your personalized group training sessions.
Access Iowa LETRS® Science of Reading Professional Learning Courses for more information.Back to top
Literacy News You Can Use
Sign up to get the Literacy News You Can Use, a monthly newsletter for Literacy educators.Back to top
Literacy Teaching Endorsements
In Iowa, the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners handles teacher licensure. For the requirements for teaching endorsements in literacy, use the following links:
- K-8 English/Language Arts
- 5-12 English/Language Arts
- 5-12 Language Arts - All
- 5-12 Journalism
- K-8 Reading
- 5-12 Reading
- K-8 Speech Communications/Theatre
- 5-12 Speech Communications/Theatre
- K-12 Reading Specialist
- 5-8 Middle School Language Arts
Iowa Reading Research Center
The Iowa Reading Research Center provides guidance for literacy instruction in schools by conducting research in practical settings to evaluate the effectiveness of literacy practices.Back to top
AEA Literacy Websites
- Central Rivers
- Grant Wood
- Great Prairie
- Green Hills
- Mississippi Bend
- Prairie Lakes
Laws and Regulations
Chapter 12 of the Iowa Administrative Code describes English-language arts instruction at grade levels 1-12, which includes the following:
12.5(3) Elementary program, Grades 1-6.
a. English-language arts. English-language arts instruction shall include the following communication processes: speaking; listening; reading; writing; viewing; and visual expression and nonverbal communication. Instruction shall incorporate language learning and creative, logical, and critical thinking. The following shall be taught: oral and written composition; communication processes and skills, including handwriting and spelling; literature; creative dramatics; and reading.
12.5(4) Junior-high program, Grades 7 and 8.
a. English-language arts. Same definition as in 12.5(3) “a” with the exclusion of handwriting.
12.5(5) High school program, Grades 9-12.
a. English-language arts (six units). English-language arts instruction shall include the following communication processes: speaking; listening; reading; writing; viewing; and visual expression and nonverbal communication. Instruction shall incorporate language learning and creative, logical, and critical thinking. The program shall encompass communication processes and skills; written composition; speech; debate; American, English, and world literature; creative dramatics; and journalism.