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Same As It Ever Was...

Uncategorized May 04, 2024

Teachers are telling me they have been mandated to implement their core reading program "with fidelity." I'm not sure this is a good idea.

What if the core program has no research on its effectiveness?

What if the core program is not well-matched to the needs of the students?

What if elements of the instructional system won't support accurate and consistent implementation of the core program?

If a doctor prescribed an antibiotic to treat a broken leg, you wouldn't expect the bone to be healed by faithful administration of the antibiotic treatment - it is the wrong treatment for the concern.

Before mandating implementation fidelity, schools should carefully consider the needs of the students, analyze available resources, and design evidence-based instruction for Tier 1. In other words, they should engage in team-based, systems-level problem solving.

Here are some thoughts for your consideration.

What Is Implementation Fidelity?

Implementation fidelity, also referred to as treatment...

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You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy

Uncategorized Mar 04, 2024

I keep getting asked the same questions and running into the same issues related to MTSS and Tier 1. These questions and issues are challenging my understanding of the MTSS model. Am I crazy or have we strayed from the original intent of the model?

So I'm going to put some ideas out there for you to (respectfully) react to. 

1. Tier 1 instruction shouldn't always be implemented with fidelity.

2. All students don't necessarily need the same Tier 1 instruction.

3. Tier 1 instruction shouldn't always be delivered in whole group.

4. Students with disabilities don't have to have the same Tier 1 instruction as the rest of the grade.

Here are what I consider to be characteristics of effective Tier 1 reading instruction:

  • designed for the purpose of primary prevention of reading failure
  • available to all students
  • planned for a protected block of time
  • aligned to research in terms of what to teach and how to teach
  • highly differentiated (not always all whole group)
  • designed to meet the...
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Tier 2 FAQs

As more schools use MTSS as the framework for implementing the science of reading, questions arise about the characteristics of the tiers of instruction.

Here are a few FAQs about Tier 2 intervention.

1. What Is The Purpose of Tier 2?

Tier 2 is:

  • provided to the small group of students who are still at risk after the provision of effective Tier 1 instruction
  • designed to accelerate learning
  • aimed at catching students up to grade-level reading goals

2. How Is Tier 2 Defined?

The characteristics of Tier 2 include:

  • small group
  • in addition to, not instead of, Tier 1 instruction
  • 3-5 times per week
  • 30-45 minutes per day
  • explicit, systematic, research-aligned instruction, delivered by a trained instructor
  • focused on eliminating skill deficits
  • frequent progress monitoring so intervention can be changed if it isn't working
  • planned by a grade-level or school-level planning team using screening and diagnostic assessment data

3. How Is Tier 2 Different From Tier 1?

Tier 2 is more intensive,...

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Should You LoveCATs?

data and assessment Mar 30, 2023

Early literacy screening is one of the most important educational technologies available today. I believe districts are not taking advantage of the full opportunity available in universal screening when they choose to use Computer Adaptive Tests (CATs).

What is a CAT?

A CAT is essentially an achievement test that is used to identify risk status. Students take the test on a computer. The test includes many, many items that have been ordered from easy to hard. Students are first presented with items somewhere in the middle of the difficulty scale, or at a place indicated by their grade level, or perhaps based on a previous test score.

When the student responds correctly to an item or items, they are presented with more difficult items, based on the performance of other students who previously took the test. When the student responds incorrectly to an item, they are presented with easier items. Each student has their own unique path through the assessment.

The computer software does a...

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Ode to MOY

Uncategorized Jan 24, 2023

Ode to MOY (Middle of Year)

The middle of the school year is a great time to stop and take stock of the path you are on. Middle of year screening results provide useful information for planning what Tier 1 reading instruction should look like for the second half of the school year.

      "And there's still time to change the road you're on." -- Led Zeppelin

Listed below are key considerations for grade-level team planning:

1. What percentage of students in each grade scored in the at-risk range on the screening measures? If less than 20% are at risk, analyze and improve the Tier 2/3 system. If more than 20% are at risk, analyze and improve the Tier 1 system.

2. Is this an increase or decrease from beginning of year?  Discuss the potential reasons for the change in scores from beginning to middle of year.

3. Review the characteristics of effective Tier 1 instruction (primary prevention of reading failure). Which characteristics could be changed or improved to...

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Holiday 2022 SOR Booklist

Uncategorized Nov 23, 2022

Dr. Stephanie Stollar is the founder of Stephanie Stollar Consulting LLC and the creator of The Reading Science Academy. She is a part-time assistant professor in the online reading science program at Mount St. Joseph University, and a founding member of a national alliance for supporting reading science in higher education

You can follow Stephanie Stollar Consulting and the Reading Science Academy on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and contact her at [email protected].

Get Dr. Stollar's free resources on the science of reading here! → 


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Small Group Q & A

Uncategorized Jun 22, 2022

As teachers move away from balanced literacy instruction grounded in using leveled text and "word solving" based on the text's meaning, syntax, and visual information, several practical questions emerge about classroom grouping practices.

How much time to spend in whole group vs. small group?

Universal screening data should help answer this question. If most of your students score at the same level on a skill, it makes sense to teach it in a whole group format. However, if there is a wide range of performance on a skill, it might be better to use targeted small group instruction.

Many times, this sorts out into teaching vocabulary listening comprehension, and background knowledge in whole group, and phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and reading comprehension in small groups.

How to put students into small groups?

Universal screening data that indicates the essential early literacy skills provides a starting place for forming small groups. Basic patterns of strengths and needs...

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Do We Stop Making Sense When We Assess With Nonsense Words?

Uncategorized Mar 23, 2022

I recently posted a video about my love of the Nonsense Word Fluency assessment that generate lots of questions and discussion. People asked for a document that included the points I had made in the video. I couldn't find anything, so I'm attempting a summary here. Let me know what you think.

Why Do So Many Assessments Use Non-words?

Reading non-words is a true indicator of the alphabetic principle and basic phonics. To read non-words, students must apply their knowledge of phoneme-grapheme relationships to decoding.

The alphabetic principle is an essential understanding that includes two parts:

1.  the understanding that letters represent sound

2.  the ability to recode letter sounds into whole words

Reading non-words requires accurately and automatically matching sounds to symbols, and blending the letter-sounds into words.

Students will only do well on nonword reading if they have acquired the alphabetic principle. Students who are reading via rote memorization of...

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Blinded With Science?

Uncategorized Jan 14, 2022

If you’ve been following the recent conversation about phonemic awareness, you may be experiencing a range of thoughts and emotions that include avoidance, confusion, and disappointment. I’ve felt all of those, and more!

Many of you have expressed thoughts along the lines of … If the experts can’t agree, then is there really a science of reading?

Although I don’t support the personal attacks and angry rants, I recognize that disagreement and conflicting conclusions are essential elements of science.  Science advances through the free exchange of ideas – even opposing and conflicting ideas – in a community of professionals who are willing to keep each other honest.

 Raising questions about prevailing beliefs and practices is healthy, normal, and necessary. The ideas and practices that hold up to challenges are the ones we can implement with confidence. The ideas and practices that lack scientific support form the basis for future...

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Holiday Reading and Gift Guide 2021

Uncategorized Nov 17, 2021



Title & Author


Ordering Link




Reading for Life

An accessible introduction to the essential early literacy skills, the reading wars, and effective reading instruction.





Archer and Hughes


Explicit instruction

The definitive guide to designing instruction that is explicit, systematic and sequential.




Gibbons, Brown and Niebling


Effective Universal Instruction

A practical guide for analyzing and improving Tier 1 reading instruction.







Speech to Print

The best way to learn the language foundations of reading and writing.

Book https://amzn.to/3Cu4YuZ

Workbook https://amzn.to/3cj1ktB





Language at the Speed of Sight

A comprehensive review of the reading research and reasons for the gap between research and practice.


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