Dr. Tracy WeedenBy Dr. Tracy Weeden

Scholars in public and charter schools across the nation are teetering on the brink of a COVID academic cliff. The conversation is no longer about a summer slide but of a pandemic pit many of our children will not rebound from without focused, strategic, and coordinated effort. A yawning literacy gap persists and is expanding for children from historically marginalized groups, as well as for some of our children who are forced to navigate the war zone of poverty daily. Why is that the case?

The stark reality is underscored by the anguished echoes of those wounded by systemic racism and classism from the past. COVID-19 has outlined the white elephant in the front room in bold strokes of reality that cannot be ignored by citizens and decision makers of our state and nation who are committed to making wrong things right. Fallout from the pandemic puts our most economically vulnerable children at risk for seismic opportunity gaps they will not recover from unless we act collectively with vision and boldness, and with the science of reading and evidence-based practices paving the path ahead. (more…)

Susan Van Zant

Nancy Volpe

by Susan Van Zant and Nancy Volpe, Senior Literacy Specialists, CORE

As the current school year comes to an end, primary teachers are beginning to look ahead to the fall and plan for filling in the gaps of any unfinished learning. They may need to review the basics of phonological awareness with students. Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that includes the awareness of the larger parts of spoken language as well as the smaller parts. It can be broken into four developmental levels: word, syllable, onset-rime, and phoneme. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds, or phonemes, that can be isolated and manipulated. Students need to have well-developed phonological skills, especially phonemic awareness, to be successful readers and spellers as they progress through the grades.

This blog provides teachers with a series of fun activities and games designed to add sparkle to a foundational skills review. All activities are more fully explained in the CORE Teaching Reading Sourcebook. This blog will help to refresh your memories of the many phonological awareness How lessons found in this useful reference. Some favorite activities were selected. They are listed in sequential order because instruction should be explicit and sequential. (more…)

Video: How to Ensure Remote or In-Person Reading Assessments Provide the Data You Need to Guide Instruction
Watch this 20-minute video from Pivot Learning to hear Drs. Michelle Hosp and Louisa Moats discuss:


Educators know that many students will need targeted instruction next school year to close gaps in reading. But that’s not enough. Educators need to know exactly where every student is at with specific reading skills, like phonics, so that instruction can target the exact skills students need support with. That’s where reliable assessment data comes in.

In this 20-minute video, Drs. Michelle Hosp and Louisa Moats discuss why even if remote learning is still occurring, you need to continue to assess students’ reading skills. They also provide recommendations to help ensure that remote reading assessments provide the data needed to guide instruction and close gaps. (more…)

Near the start of the 2020-21 school year, El Rancho Charter Middle School in Anaheim, California, opened its doors to a hybrid model of instruction, with some students attending classes in person and some students attending simultaneously online. In this interview with Dean Ballard, CORE’s Director of Mathematics, principal Michele Walker shares the experiences at El Rancho with hybrid instruction this year — the ups and downs, challenges and successes, and tips for other educators using or considering this model of instruction. (more…)

Carrie Thomson Beckby Dr. Carrie Thomas Beck, Director of Literacy, CORE

Almost 30 years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a student I will never forget. The year was 1993 and I was a new middle school teacher in a large district in the Midwest. I was a special education teacher, providing support to students identified as having learning disabilities in grades 6–8. The student, whom I will call Dan, was a 7th grader assigned to my caseload. Dan was a bright student who was identified as having a specific learning disability (SLD) in the area of reading and received speech and language services. He was a nonreader when I met him.

I was fortunate enough to have been trained in Direct Instruction in my master’s program at the University of Wisconsin. I had just graduated from this program three years prior. I was also fortunate to have access to Corrective Reading materials in my building. I started the year by administering the placement test for Corrective Reading to all the students I worked with. Dan placed in Level A, the lowest level of the program with lessons that went all the way back to the pre-primer reading level. There was one other student who placed in Level A so I grouped the two boys together and met with them daily to teach the lessons. (more…)

Dr. Keyon AndersonAs a young child, Keyon Anderson knew that his brain didn’t work like other people’s. His peers were learning to read and he wasn’t. His teachers told him to try harder. His mother was told he would grow out of his reading difficulties. Keyon was diagnosed with a processing disorder and held back in the second grade, but he continued to struggle. When he reached high school he was reading at a second grade level. He wanted to be successful but didn’t have the skills. It wasn’t until 9th grade that he finally received effective intervention for dyslexia. A dedicated teacher worked with Keyon to teach him the fundamentals of reading and ways to learn that worked for him. By the end of his freshman year, Keyon was transformed from a failing student to one with a 4.0 GPA and a fierce desire to learn. (more…)

Linda Diamondby Linda Diamond, President, CORE and author of Teaching Reading Sourcebook and Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures

“Once you learn to read you will be forever free.” Frederick Douglass

As I get ready to retire from CORE in late December, I have been looking back at all of those who guided us along the way. CORE started inside an education, public policy think tank because of the willingness and vision of my then boss, Paul Berman. He, in turn, was urged by Marion Joseph, a grandmother with political acumen and a former California state board of education member, who saw the damage being done to children in California who were not learning to read. Bill Honig, California’s former superintendent, Anne Cunningham, Sheila Mandel, and Ruth Nathan and I took a leap in 1995 and decided to create what was first called the Consortium on Reading Excellence (CORE). We knew that a strong body of research existed, then over 30 years’ worth, but it had not made its way into the field. California’s reading scores were awful and whole language was the main approach. (more…)

Pajaro Valley Unified School District (CA) students whose teachers participated in training and instructional coaching provided by CORE achieved greater growth in their reading skills.

Many factors contribute to student achievement but research conducted by SEG Measurement, an education research, evaluation, and assessment firm, has found that professional development provided by Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education (CORE) moves the needle on student achievement. A study of third grade reading performance in Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) conducted in January 2020 and recently peer-reviewed for presentation at AACE’s Innovate Learning 2020 Summit found that students in classrooms with teachers who participated in CORE professional development showed statistically significant growth in their reading skills in comparison to students in classrooms whose teachers did not receive training and coaching from CORE. 

Since the 2016–17 school year, CORE has provided professional development and technical assistance to elementary teachers and administrators in PVUSD to help implement, in addition to their broader English Language Arts instruction, the Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Sight words (SIPPS) reading foundational skills program. “We weren’t using SIPPS to fidelity,” Dr. Michelle Rodriguez, Superintendent at PVUSD, says. “Specifically, teachers weren’t given the instruction or training to implement it well.” CORE began working closely with classroom teachers and instructional coaches, providing training and instructional coaching within the context of the SIPPS curriculum and their own classrooms.  (more…)

Jasmine LaneJasmine Lane is a first generation college graduate and an early-career High School English teacher in Minnesota. In her short time in the classroom, and through her own personal history, Ms. Lane knows all too well the negative and life-long impact that poor literacy skills have on students.  In her blog, “Literacy: The Forgotten Social Justice Issue,” Ms. Lane shares that her grandfather, Willie Lane, did not learn to read until he was in his 30s because he would have been “attacked, threatened, or possibly murdered for daring to be a Black Man reading in the Jim Crow south.”

Linda Diamond, president of CORE and author of the Teaching Reading Sourcebook, sat down with Ms. Lane, just a few short weeks after her beloved grandfather passed away, to talk further about how today’s failure to apply the science of reading to instruction continues to put young people, particularly those who have been marginalized and traditionally underserved, at a disadvantage and ill equipped to reach their full potential. (more…)