Cover: Exploring Foundational Reading Skill Instruction in K–12 Schools

Exploring Foundational Reading Skill Instruction in K–12 Schools

Findings from the 2023 American Instructional Resources Survey

Published Apr 30, 2024

by Anna Shapiro, Sabrina Lee, Ashley Woo

Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.4 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Research Questions

  1. What proportion of elementary and secondary English language arts (ELA) teachers frequently engage students in activities that promote print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition, and fluency?
  2. How does frequent engagement in these activities vary by the demographics of the students teachers serve, including the proportion of students of color, proportion of English learners (ELs), and the proportion of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)?
  3. How does frequent engagement in these activities vary by whether teachers work in states with legislated requirements around reading instruction compared with teachers in states without these laws?

Drawing on the spring 2023 American Instructional Resources Survey, the authors examine teachers' use of foundational reading activities in their instruction. These activities correspond to the four foundational reading skill domains for kindergarten-through-grade-5 students that are set forth in the Common Score of State Standards: print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition, and fluency.

The authors compare teacher responses by grades taught, characteristics of their schools and classrooms (e.g., students' race or ethnicity, English language proficiency, disability status), and state policy context.

Key Findings

  • At least two-thirds of kindergarten through grade 5 teachers and one-third of middle and high school teachers who teach ELA reported frequently engaging their students in foundational reading activities.
  • Secondary ELA teachers who served schools with a majority students of color and who taught classes that consist of more than 10 percent ELs were more likely to report that their students frequently engaged in foundational reading activities.
  • Elementary ELA teachers in classrooms in which 10 percent to 49 percent of students have IEPs were less likely to frequently engage their students in foundational reading activities.
  • Elementary teachers in states with and without legislation relating to reading instruction were equally likely to report frequently engaging their students in foundational reading activities.
  • Secondary ELA teachers in states with reading legislation were significantly more likely to report frequently engaging their students in these activities than secondary ELA teachers in states without such legislation, even though only one-quarter of states with these laws include requirements around secondary ELA instruction.

Research conducted by

This study was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. All users of the publication are permitted to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and transform and build upon the material, including for any purpose (including commercial) without further permission or fees being required.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.