System 44: Research Evidence Base

At a glance

Read 180 now incorporates the comprehensive foundational literacy skills scope and sequence from System 44.

Dear Educators,

A major impetus of the national push for more rigorous state standards is the continuing decline in the performance of college-bound high school students on college entrance exams. Because this decline has been tied to a progressive simplification of school reading materials over the years, a central goal of rigorous standards initiatives has resulted in increasing the levels of text complexity that students must read. For too many students, however, the ability to comprehend texts to the level of complexity recommended by the new standards is currently out of reach.

There is a great need for all students to develop the capacity to read, comprehend, and respond to more complex texts—the sorts of texts they will face in college, the workplace, and their day-to-day responsibilities and opportunities beyond high school. Their lives depend on it. By raising the bar, rigorous standards force us to reexamine expectations and lessons to which we have become accustomed. They force us to ask what else we can and should do to better assist our students. This is the challenge before us, and it is a critical one.

Toward meeting this challenge, it has been my great pleasure to work with the Intervention Solutions Group in bringing the findings of seminal theory and empirical research to the aid of struggling students as we have revised and expanded System 44. System 44 Next Generation, launched in 2013, focuses on providing explicit instruction in phonics, reading comprehension, and writing for the most challenged readers. It is designed to help these students acquire decoding automaticity alongside the linguistic strengths and metacognitive skills on which their literacy growth depends.

To date, System 44 has been implemented in thousands of schools across the United States. The profiles in this book are part of a larger body of evidence indicating that System 44 can improve the learning trajectories of even our most challenged readers. Moving forward, we will continue to build off this positive momentum toward ensuring that the literacy levels of all students are ready for college, career, and life upon high school graduation.


Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams

More than seven years since the launch of System 44 Enterprise Edition, students are learning to read and write in a time of rapid societal change and continuous education reform. The enactment of the new rigorous standards reflects a pivotal moment in education history.

Although educational professionals and families have worked tirelessly to advance the reading achievement of our students, there is still room for improvement. New standards clearly communicate expectations for all students in English Language Arts & Literacy (ELA) and Mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade. The ELA standards define the knowledge and skills students should have in the areas of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language –– with the goal of preparing all students for college and career readiness.

In spite of educators’ best efforts, there are still too many students who continue to struggle with literacy. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results (2013) revealed little to no change from earlier years in the reading achievement levels of the lowest performing readers. For example, approximately one-third of all fourth and eighth graders scored at or above proficient from 2002 through 2011.

The outlook is particularly dim for those students who do not complete high school. Nationwide, about one in four highschool students, or more than one million students a year, drops out before graduating (US DOE, 2011). Lack of readiness for college and the 21st century workforce is an equally serious threat. Among students who do graduate, one-third require remedial courses in one or more subjects at post-secondary schools because they lack certain requisite skills (ACT, 2006).

In an effort to combat the stagnant results in reading proficiency, the new standards begin with mastering the foundational reading skills and place an increased emphasis on informational text, complex text, reading aloud, and inquiry-based learning. However, the new standards leave out an explicit instructional path. This is particularly salient for our most challenged readers who lack foundational reading skills and yet will be held to the same grade-level standard as their reading-proficient peers. The phonics instruction guidelines leave much to interpretation, allowing educators to choose the content and method of delivery (Brady, 2012). Thus, it is up to educators to lead the way for our lowest-performing students to be on track for college and career readiness.

In order for the lowest-proficiency students to be able to succeed in the era of rigorous standards, educators must continue to incorporate research-based programs and evidence-based best practices into the curricula. Explicit, systematic instruction in foundational reading skills remains paramount, along with responding to students’ individual needs. The focus of reading instruction needs to shift away from a particular type of lesson, activity, or instructional material found in a given classroom and toward each student and their individual learning needs. A rotational instructional model that blends face-to-face instruction with online learning technology is an efficient and effective way to support the needs of today’s students.

Additionally, students need access to a range of quality texts and multiple opportunities for independent reading. With focused, deliberate assessment and instruction, even the most challenged students can be provided with the tools they need to access grade-level work and to support their journey toward college and career.

System 44 is designed to offer the most challenged readers and their teachers a comprehensive system for mastering the foundational reading skills and moving students toward the independence needed to meet the rigorous expectations of the new standards. Since its inception, System 44 has relied on the research-based design of Dr. Ted Hasselbring and his work through Vanderbilt University. System 44 leverages the power of research-based instructional practices and adaptive, personalized technology driven by the FASTT (Fluency and Automaticity through Systematic Teaching with Technology) algorithm that Dr. Hasselbring helped to pioneer with READ 180®, in order to deliver the precise foundational literacy instruction each student needs to achieve mastery. Since its launch in 2008, System 44 has earned a history of success, including an endorsement by the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) and countless successes across varying implementations nationwide. System 44 has been proven to raise reading achievement for the most challenged student populations, including students with special needs and English learners.

With the newest edition of the program, System 44 Next Generation, our most challenged readers and their teachers have everything they need to prepare for the next generation standards and assessments. The goal of System 44 remains the same: to ensure that each student masters the system of 44 sounds and 26 letters that constitute the English language, allowing them to become fluent and confident readers.

Instruction in System 44 builds on the successful, research-driven practices of Enterprise Edition, blending daily opportunities for teacher-led instruction, personalized technology, and independent reading, while new components outlined below have been designed explicitly to help educators meet the rising demands of college and career readiness.

The System 44 student software has been enhanced to deliver an even more comprehensive personalized learning path, with new features including:

  • A new Dictation activity that provides students with the opportunity to apply decoding skills to writing while building fluency
  • A new context activity in Success that allows students to demonstrate comprehension with independence
  • A new writing component that provides students with scaffolded practice in writing summaries tied to content in the Software, helping students build comprehension and writing fluency
  • Enhanced Student Dashboards that allow students to explore and celebrate individual progress through the program

System 44 provides teachers with the comprehensive tools and supports needed to successfully raise reading achievement in their classrooms. The 44Book Teacher’s Edition provides a clear path for daily, explicit instruction in the phonics, reading, and writing skills. The 44Book includes:

  • Readings of increasing text complexity that cover a broad range of content-area topics, supporting the development of academic vocabulary and knowledge
  • Text-based questioning to build comprehension
  • Stretch texts designed for read-alouds that expose students to complex, grade-level text
  • Instructional routines such as summarizing and collaborative discussions that accompany each lesson
  • Writing instruction that focuses on the skills required for college and career––informative and argument––and is scaffolded to move students toward independence
  • Performance-based assessments in the form of short research projects that ask students to synthesize and present their learning, preparing them for assessments

The System 44 Student Library provides students with daily opportunities for modeled and independent reading of high-quality fiction and nonfiction. Each library includes a range of leveled, age-appropriate titles ranging from 100 Lexile® measures (L) to 450L, targeting decoding skills and strategies to promote comprehension and build vocabulary and content-area knowledge. The System 44 Library is available in three formats designed to support anytime/anywhere reading: Paperbacks, Audiobooks and eBooks. The System 44 library includes resources that provide scaffolded supports, including Comprehension, QuickWrites, Discussion Questions, and Reading Counts!® quizzes for each title.

The new Teacher Dashboard increases the capacity of effective teachers. The Teacher Dashboard provides teachers with comprehensive supports for effective teaching and data-driven instruction, including:

  • Data snapshots that provide at-a-glance views of implementation and performance data and allow teachers to drive differentiated instruction
  • The Groupinator® which aggregates student performance data and applies it to a proprietary algorithm, generating groups that are data driven and 100% automated
  • Notifications that teachers can opt in to receive when performance or implementation factors require their attention
  • The Report Scheduler, which allows teachers to schedule best practice reports
  • Embedded Professional Development resources, such as on-demand video
  • Access to the Interactive Teaching System (ITS)
  • The new Individual Learning Plan (ILP), which gives teachers a snapshot of how students are meeting their academic and behavioral goals

The Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI) book is a comprehensive guide that provides teachers with a wide array of resources to deliver differentiated reading instruction. The RDI includes a collection of targeted phonics and word analysis lessons, plus instructional routines, aligned to the scope and sequence of phonics instruction. Additionally, the RDI presents research, instructional best practices, and tools for the successful implementation of Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), including a Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS).

The Leadership Dashboard provides school and district leaders with transparent visibility into System 44 implementation metrics, and includes the following:

  • Data snapshots to view school- or district-wide performance
  • Data drill-down into individual school-, class- and student-level data
  • Notifications and the Report Scheduler that allow leaders to receive regular notifications on program data

The bilingual System 44 Family Portal, available in English and Spanish, supports the diversity of family members and caregivers invested in the success of System 44 students. The Family Portal includes a wide variety of information and resources to support phonics instruction at home for all families, including students with disabilities and English learners.

System 44 is proven to help students master the foundational reading skills required for success and includes everything you need to teach foundational reading. The path to the college and career readiness starts here.

System 44 is informed by an extensive body of literature about best practices for accelerating challenged readers to reading independence. In the following section, for each curriculum and instructional element of the program listed below, relevant information from the research base and expert opinion is presented alongside descriptions of how these research foundations have been translated into the program design and curriculum.

  • Explicit and Systematic Instruction in Foundational Reading Skills

Phonemic Awareness

✔ Phonics Foundation

✔ Word Analysis (Syllabication and Morphology)

✔ Spelling

✔ Sight Words

✔ Oral Language Development

  • Explicit and Systematic Instruction in Reading Comprehension and Writing

✔ Reading Comprehension

✔ Range of Complex Texts

✔ Academic and Domain-Specific Vocabulary

✔ Evidence-Based Writing

  • Technology, Engagement, and the Brain

✔ Personalized Technology

✔ Principles of Motivation and Engagement

✔ Principles of Cognition and Learning

  • Data-Driven Differentiated Instruction

✔ Efficient Screening, Placement, and Progress-Monitoring Assessments

✔ Comprehensive Support for Teachers, Administrators, and Families

✔ Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

  • Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners

✔ Older Struggling Readers

✔ Students With Disabilities

✔ English Learners

Struggling readers need explicit, systematic daily instruction and individualized practice in foundational reading skills. Recognizing that foundational reading skills are critical to reading success in the era of rigorous standards, System 44 provides systematic support for the development of the most critical foundational reading skills. Students have frequent opportunities to learn and practice the phonics and phonemic awareness skills that are essential components of language and literacy development.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Difficulties associated with achieving success in reading appear to reflect a persistent deficit in phonemic awareness, as well as overarching phonological skills, through adulthood (Siegel & Ryan, 1989; Snowling et al., 1997; Wilson & Lesaux, 2001; Lipka, Lesaux, & Siegel, 2006). A number of studies have shown that adult illiterates essentially lack awareness of phonemes (Morais, 1991; Adams et al., 1998).
  • In some cases, phonemic and greater phonological deficits may not be evident until the third and fourth grades. Without intervention, weak phonics skills are likely to impede reading ability in subsequent years (Lipka, Lesaux, & Siegel et al., 2006).
  • In very poor readers the inability to identify phonemes impedes spelling, word recognition, and vocabulary development. Direct instruction on speech-sound identification improves these skills in struggling readers and is necessary for fluent and meaningful reading, regardless of chronological age (Moats, 2001).
  • The ability to understand and manipulate phonemes strongly correlates with success in reading through 12th grade (Adams, 1990).
  • Phonological awareness is especially important for English language learner readers from different native language backgrounds (Muter & Diethelm, 2001).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 delivers research-based, explicit, scaffolded, and systematic instruction in the 44 speech phonemes of English, providing the foundational literacy skills that are essential to the academic success of all struggling readers. The instructional sequence for phonemic awareness lessons presents the most stable, frequent, and highest-utility sounds first so that students can quickly begin to experience success connecting sounds to letters and decoding words.

In the adaptive Software, The Code presents explicit instruction based on a comprehensive scope and sequence. Direct instruction embedded in the Software further develops phonemic awareness skills in the context of decoding, or word identification, and encoding, or spelling. For example, in the Software students engage in auditory and visual phonological awareness activities such as word/syllable recognition, onset/rime recognition, and listening/responding.

With the new 44Book, teacher-led S.M.A.R.T. (Strategies for Metacognition, Academic Language, Reading, and Thinking) lessons provide metacognitive training in blending, segmenting, and other phonemic awareness skills and strategies. Correct pronunciation and articulation of phonemes is reinforced by the teacher as well as with video models in the Software. The teacher-led instruction allows for students to transfer the acquisition of foundational skills they have learned while working independently on the Software.

Students have many opportunities to use visual, aural, kinesthetic and tactile modalities to strengthen phonemic awareness. For example, the Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI) Small-Group lessons incorporating the word-building kit use letter tiles to offer students the opportunity to manipulate letters and morphemes in order to create new words. This visual/tactile activity builds phonemic awareness as students add and subtract phonemes.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • “Weaknesses in basic decoding skills may be the most common and can be the most debilitating source of reading difficulties (Perfetti, 1985; Shankweiler et al., 1995; Stanovich, 1986; Vellutino, 1991; Vernon, 1971)” (Adams et al., 1998).
  • Numerous studies show that poor word identification skills are strongly coupled with poor reading comprehension in both children (Perfetti, 1985; Rack, Snowling, & Olson, 1992; Stanovich, 1982; Vellutino, 1991) and adults (Bruck, 1990; Cunningham, Stanovich, & Wilson, 1990) (Adams et al., 1998).
  • Recent studies of older struggling readers found that more than 60% of the participating students performed at very low levels on basic word-reading skills (Hock, Deshler, Marquis, & Brasseur, 2005; Hock et al., 2009; Leach, Scarborough, & Rescorla, 2003; Torgesen et al., 2007).
  • Phonics instruction increases accuracy in decoding and word recognition skills, which in turn improves comprehension. It has a positive effect for students with disabilities, as well as struggling readers (National Reading Panel, 2000).
  • Technology is a particularly effective method of fostering decoding automaticity because it affords students repeated opportunities to systematically practice new skills until they are mastered (Hasselbring & Goin, 2004).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 delivers explicit, scaffolded, systematic instruction in the phonological structures of English. The adaptive Software activities and teacher-led lessons provide intensive training in letter-sound relationships, segmenting, and blending. Instruction and modeling help students build aural discrimination between sounds and match those sounds to their spellings. As students work independently on the computer, the Software moves students from foundational instruction in phonics and decoding, to reading 100 percent nonfiction Success passages, which are connected texts designed to be a stretch for them. Audio and visual effects, such as images, animation, context sentences, and Spanish translations assist students as they blend and read new words.

System 44 is designed to scaffold challenged readers in applying decoding skills to connected text from the start. The scope and sequence first introduce grapheme-phoneme combinations that are most stable, most useful in making words, and most frequent in occurrence. The Software, transfer routines, and teacher-led instruction then scaffold students in transferring newly acquired decoding skills to novel words and connected text in the 44Book, Student Library titles, and the Decodable Digest.

In the 44Book, S.M.A.R.T. lessons build metacognitive decoding knowledge and word strategies by directly teaching foundational phonics principles and essential concepts. S.M.A.R.T. lessons offer targeted instruction and practice in phonics and grammar during small group, reinforcing key skills and concepts students encounter in the Software and Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI).

Each RDI, Code, and Word Strategies lesson contains oral practice opportunities for key words that tie to a particular phonics element. In addition, students have independent practice with sound spellings that help develop fluency by recording under a time constraint in The Code Strand of the Software. To monitor student progress, teachers can use the Oral Fluency Assessments (OFA), which measure the number of words read correct per minute by students.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • The decoding of multisyllabic words poses difficulties beyond decoding of single-syllable words (Beck, 2006). Whereas skilled readers can syllabicate words to read them, struggling readers have difficulty syllabicating (Bhattacharya & Ehri, 2004). “While many struggling readers at the secondary level are proficient at reading single-syllable words (stint, core, plan) they may lack strategies to decode the multisyllabic words that are common in higher-level reading materials (Archer, Gleason, & Vachon, 2003)” (Boardman et al., 2008, p.6).
  • The goal of syllabicating words is to help the reader sound them out correctly. Recognizing open and closed syllables can help identify vowel sounds as long or short (Adams, 1990; Adams et al., 1998).
  • Noticing sounds, syllables, and morphemes simultaneously is linked to better memory for learned words (Moats, 1995). Instruction in using morphemic analysis helps students develop more advanced word recognition strategies. When students understand the meaning of component morphemes and are able to quickly pronounce them as parts of longer words, the speed and accuracy of their reading improves (Nagy, 2005).
  • Several meta-analyses have shown the benefit of morphological instruction, especially for less able and younger students (Reed, 2008; Bowers, Kirby, & Deacon, 2010; Goodwin & Ahn, 2010; Carlisle, 2010 as cited by Bowers & Cooke, 2012).
  • Studies of fourth- and fifth-grade students demonstrate the effectiveness of teaching students to break down words into meaningful parts and use prefixes, suffixes, and roots as clues to meaning (Kieffer & Lesaux, 2007; Baumann et al., 2002, 2003). Both Spanish-dominant English learners and English-dominant students benefit from the instruction (Kieffer & Lesaux, 2007).
  • “Quick speed drills, conducted as challenge games to achieve a goal, can build automatic recognition of syllables and morphemes” (Moats, 2001, p. 38).

System 44 Delivers

Early in the sequence, System 44 begins teaching strategies for decoding multisyllabic words as students master the building blocks of the English language. The Software’s Word Strategies lessons build word attack skills through instruction with word-analysis strategies, beginning with English syllable patterns and syllabication. High-frequency morphemes are introduced, together with morphological word-reading strategies. The lessons offer immediate, corrective feedback as students learn to consciously apply strategies and use morphology to read and understand multisyllabic words. Developing morphological and syllable sense enables students to read essential words across the content areas.

In the 44Book, teacher-led lessons also focus on syllabication. Students are taught to count the beats in a pronounced word, identify the graphemes in the syllables, and then blend syllables to read the word. While reading, students identify patterns within the text to deepen phonological awareness and grammar skills. S.M.A.R.T. lessons offer targeted instruction and practice to reinforce key skills such as morphology.

As a supplement to the Software, the Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI) lessons teach students how to identify morphemes that will help them to “chunk” words in order to determine their meanings. Students learn to look for prefixes and affixes, count the “vowel spots” to identify syllables, break the words into syllables, read each syllable, and read the word. Thus, System 44 equips students to decode and determine the meanings of unfamiliar multisyllabic words they encounter in reading across content areas.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • For native speakers and English language learners alike, spelling is highly correlated with reading accuracy (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002; Honig, Diamond, & Gutlohn, 2000).
  • Students who are taught to analyze speech sounds in words and relate them to their spellings progress faster in spelling and reading (Moats, 1995).
  • Good phonemic decoding skills are necessary in the formation of accurate memory for the spelling patterns that are the basis of sight word recognition ability (Ehri, 1998; Bhattacharya & Ehri, 2004).
  • “At more advanced levels, spelling memory draws on a child’s knowledge of word structure, words’ meaningful parts, a word’s relationship to other words, and so on. Word knowledge builds systematically on other word knowledge” (Moats, 1997, para. 3).
  • Spelling instruction is most effective when students receive immediate corrective feedback when they make errors. Error imitation and modeling is a validated strategy that involves the teacher reproducing the student’s spelling error and then correcting it, highlighting the difference between the incorrect and correct spellings. (Gerber, 1986; Moats, 1995). The number of words presented at one time also needs to be limited for poor spellers (Moats, 1995). (See also Metiri Group, 2008; Sweller, 1988, 1999).

System 44 Delivers

Spelling and decoding are taught as reciprocal skills in System 44. The adaptive Software provides direct, explicit, and differentiated instruction on meaningful word parts and syllable patterns, which helps students in spelling words. Each lesson in the Software’s Spelling Zone provides explicit instruction that helps students apply knowledge of known sound-spellings to encoding tasks. The Spelling Zone uses assessment to further individualize study for each student and provides systematic practice with immediate, corrective feedback specific to students’ errors.

In the new dictation activity in The Code strand, students hear a sentence read aloud and are directed to type words of that sentence which contain specific elements (such as phoneme-grapheme associations, prefixes, suffixes, and inflectional endings). The new dictation activity promotes listening comprehension and improved spelling, and helps students practice punctuation and sentence formation. The student receives immediate, corrective feedback on spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.

The Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI) book lessons reinforce the explicit, systematic instruction embedded within the Software. These differentiated lessons begin with instruction that focuses students’ attention on the specific spelling pattern they will encounter in that day’s lesson and in the Software. In every Code lesson there is a dictation activity, providing students with ample opportunities to transfer the spelling patterns they have learned into writing. To minimize overload on students’ attention and working memory, new words and spelling patterns are introduced in small, manageable amounts and connected to prior learning. In addition, teachers can use the Sound and Articulation videos to model correct academic pronunciation of all sound-spellings as taught in the program.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Skilled readers have a large vocabulary of automatically recognized sight words, built through frequent reading. Struggling readers tend to have a harder time building a large sight word vocabulary (Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1999; Boardman et al., 2008).
  • Many of the most high-frequency words cannot be sounded out based on orthographic patterns (Adams, 1994). Approximately 300 high-frequency words make up about 65 percent of all written material (Fry & Kress, 2006).
  • Repeated, accurate reading of the same word eventually leads to the word being stored in memory as a sight word—one that is identified automatically and without conscious thought (Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1999; Torgesen, 2002).
  • A study of middle school students with disabilities found that direct instruction in improving sight word knowledge increases isolated sight word knowledge and decreases the likelihood of inaccurately reading the sight words in text passages (Ruwe, McLaughlin, Derby, & Johnson, 2011).
  • Readers learn sight words by forming connections between phonemes and the letters that represent them. These connections help readers develop the necessary word memories for automatic sight word recognition (Ehri, 1998; Bhattacharya & Ehri, 2004).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 is geared toward promoting automaticity in recognizing high-utility words that appear with the greatest frequency in text. In the Sight Words strand of the Software, students focus on building fast and automatic recognition of the highest-utility sight words. Each lesson begins with an assessment that is used to customize instruction for each student. Students learn that the English language includes a group of high-utility, high-frequency words which are not decodable. This Strand helps build automaticity with these non-decodable words, too, helping students to progress faster through the program.

With the research-based teaching routines available in the Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI), teachers can use direct instruction to help students commit high-frequency sight words to memory. The Decodable Digest and System 44 Student Library titles provide students with further opportunities to practice reading sight words and build automatic word recognition.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Oral language skills include expressive (speaking) and receptive (listening) skills, vocabulary, semantics (knowledge of word meanings), morphology (knowledge of word formation rules) and syntax (knowledge of sentence structure), and narrative discourse skills (the ability to tell or retell a story) (Owens, 2004).
  • Oral language development is an essential component of literacy development; well-developed listening and speaking skills are directly linked to reading and writing proficiency (August & Shanahan, 2006; Biemiller, 1999).
  • Extensive exposure to words through both speaking and reading can help build a wide range of oral and print vocabulary; which in turn aids reading comprehension (National Institute for Literacy, 2007).
  • Providing strong models of oral language in the classroom is particularly important for children whose home language or dialect differs from the language environment of the school (August & Shanahan, 2006; Dutro & Kinsella, 2010; Craig & Washington, 2004; Washington & Thomas-Tate, 2009).
  • Research and expert opinion support incorporating extended talk time and structured peer discussions into literacy instruction so that students have multiple opportunities to practice and hear academic language—especially important for English learners and those who speak nonstandard dialects of English (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002; Biemiller, 1999; Dutro & Kinsella, 2010; National Institute for Literacy, 2007).
  • Teachers can more effectively facilitate English language and literacy development by structuring student engagement and participation. “All too often, the teacher is the only individual in the classroom who uses actual academic language, while students are allowed to passively listen or use casual, daily vernacular . . . we must structure daily classroom contexts so that all students are accountable for using newly introduced terminology in their speaking and writing” (Feldman & Kinsella, 2005, p. 8).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 provides a systematic approach to developing oral language skills and strategies. For struggling readers, it is particularly important to provide them with opportunities to speak about rich academic content, which is why System 44 is designed with daily routines for students to engage and collaborate with their teacher and peers in meaningful discussion. Through these daily discussions about text, students develop facility with academic and conversational English practice expressing their own ideas and responding to those of others.

Oral language is an integral component of the new 44Book instructional path. Recognizing that struggling readers need highly structured and teacher-mediated opportunities for academic discussion, System 44 instruction builds structured academic conversation into every lesson. These scaffolded speaking and listening tasks provide students with frames to help structure their responses and ensure that they use the target vocabulary and grammatical structure. During these daily conversations, teachers use structured engagement routines to provide a consistent format for discussion and help hold all students accountable for engaging in conversation. Students engage in these academic discussions both one-on-one with the teacher and their peers. Academic discussions help develop the oral language skills that students can use to communicate across the content areas while also providing an opportunity for students to summarize and share what they have learned.

In addition, each Module of the 44Book includes fiction and nonfiction Stretch texts that are read aloud, exposing students to thought-provoking, grade-level text. In the System 44 Student Library, students find the key idea of the text and respond both orally and in writing to text-based questions. Audiobooks provide engaging models for pronunciation, phrasing, and prosody. With sound and articulation models in the Software, students can record themselves and compare their pronunciation and articulation against the model.

System 44 carefully integrates instruction in reading comprehension and writing, including meta cognitive strategies and a gradual-release model, in order to prepare students for the rigors of college and career. The program’s wide range of content-area texts and increasing levels of text complexity ensure that students build the domain knowledge, academic vocabulary, and comprehension skills required to ultimately access advanced texts in college, the workplace, and beyond.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Very few instructional programs in early reading focus on reading comprehension (Pearson & Duke, 2002; Sweet & Snow, 2002); however, explicit comprehension strategy instruction benefits all students, including English learners and students with learning disabilities (Duke & Pearson, 2002; Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer, & Rivera, 2006; Gersten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001; Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw, & Rycik, 1999; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000; Nokes & Dole, 2004; Pressley, 2000).
  • Research and expert opinion support explicitly teaching students to understand and interpret narrative and expository text structures. When students have knowledge of text structure, they are able to treat the material as more than a series of unrelated facts. They can utilize signals to recognize the text’s organization, and thus extract the important information more easily. (Duke, 2010; Duke & Pearson, 2002; Gersten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001; Readence, Bean, & Baldwin, 2004).
  • Research-supported practices for students with learning disabilities include instruction in story grammar for narrative texts (Gersten et al., 2001, citing 11 studies), and simultaneous use of multiple comprehension strategies for expository texts (Gersten et al., 2001, citing 16 studies).
  • Effective comprehension strategy instruction helps move students to independent use of strategies by using a gradual release approach that first provides high support and gradually decreases the level of support to promote self-sufficiency (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Duke & Pearson, 2002; Nokes & Dole, 2004; Raphael, George, Weber, & Nies, 2008; Readence, Bean, & Baldwin, 2004).
  • Comprehension instruction should be coupled with scaffolded practice that helps students comprehend text and internalize new skills (Afflerbach, Pearson, & Paris, 2008).
  • In addition, critical reading deepens comprehension and is an important characteristic of a successful reader (Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, 2010; CCSS, 2010; National Assessment Governing Board, 2008). Critical reading involves using higher-order thinking skills—such as analyzing, critiquing, and evaluating—to critique texts and draw connections with other texts, knowledge, and experiences (National Assessment Governing Board, 2008).
  • To be well prepared for college, the workplace, and life, adolescents need opportunities to develop critical thinking skills, through instruction that requires them to critique a variety of texts, formulate and justify personal opinions, and discuss and evaluate different viewpoints (Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, 2010; Lewis, 2007).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 is built to move students from foundational reading to comprehension of grade-level text required for success in college and career. The program exposes students to grade-level expectations by asking them to apply rigorous comprehension and higher-order thinking skills, such as analysis and evaluation, as they read increasingly complex text.

The System 44 instructional Software includes scaffolded supports to develop comprehension and fluency. In the Fluency Zone, students encounter reading tasks that promote skills transfer and build fluency and comprehension. Students read decodable text and engage in activities that require them to read and think about the meaning of the text. In the Success Strand, a new Context Passage activity is designed to support the application of comprehension and vocabulary skills. Students complete a close passage to develop and demonstrate understanding of what they have learned in the Success Strand. The all-new Writing Strand provides ample independent practice in writing summaries of the Success passages, thereby helping students build comprehension skills in addition to writing fluency.

In support of comprehension, the new 44Book exposes students to higher-level text, high-leverage academic and domain-specific vocabulary, and daily opportunities for reading, writing, and speaking. Each Module includes instruction in phonics, word study, comprehension, writing, and performance-based assessments. Within each Module, students read three increasingly complex texts around one content-area topic (science, social studies, and life skills). Multiple readings on the same topic reinforce vocabulary and comprehension skills. For each reading in the 44Book, teachers model close reading through multiple reads of each text and guide students in responding to text-based questions by finding evidence to support their answers.

In addition, sophisticated, grade-level Stretch texts further develop student knowledge and comprehension. After each reading, students receive explicit instruction and practice in summarizing, either orally or in writing, to help them determine and articulate the key idea of each text with supporting details.

During the independent reading rotation, students develop their ability to comprehend as they read their choice of 56 Library titles available in three formats: Paperbacks, Audiobooks, and eReads. Each leveled title in the Student Library includes embedded comprehension questions that help guide students’ thinking, understanding, and discussion of the text. System 44 eBooks (accessible anywhere with an Internet connection) provide even more opportunities for independence with engaging text. Audio recordings that accompany every Library title help scaffold student access and promote listening comprehension. Discussion questions and Small-Group activities are included for each Decodable Digest reading and Student Library title to further support comprehension building. The Reading Counts! quizzes tied to each Student Library title measure comprehension and hold students accountable for their understanding. The Teaching Resources Guide includes Comprehension QuickWrites to reinforce and monitor oral and written comprehension.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Students in early elementary classrooms are not sufficiently exposed to informational texts (Duke, 2000; Yopp & Yopp, 2006), and more importantly, to effective instruction with these texts (Moss, 2005). Students reach fourth grade without the necessary literacy skills to comprehend the increasingly complex texts to which they are exposed. Research has pinpointed fourth grade as the time when many students, who had previously been reading on grade level, start to demonstrate signs of learning disabilities due to this sudden exposure (Compton, 2009; Kiefer, 2010).
  • School texts increase significantly in complexity—in terms of words, structure, text features, and concepts—after the third-grade concepts (Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, 2010). Research indicates that the ability to independently read and comprehend complex texts is critical to success in school, college, and beyond (ACT, 2006; Adams, 2009). When students read complex texts, they gain new language and knowledge that they need in order to access ever more advanced texts (Adams, 2009).
  • Since students’ ability to read complex text does not always develop in a linear fashion, the Common Core condones the use of additional supports to help challenged readers who are reading well below grade level (CCSS, 2010).
  • Research shows that all struggling readers, including English learners and students with special needs, benefit from highly scaffolded instruction and gradual releases of responsibility in comprehending challenging texts (Duke & Pearson, 2002; Fisher & Frey, 2008; Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer, & Rivera, 2006).
  • An effective literacy intervention for adolescent readers should include high-interest, low-difficulty texts on a wide variety of topics and subject areas (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004).
  • To ensure that students have successful reading experiences, it is important to provide them with texts that match their reading level—not too easy and not too hard (Gambrell, Palmer, & Codling, 1993).
  • Research indicates that in a special education teaching situation, especially one meant to evaluate responsiveness to instruction, the text must be better matched to student needs than it is in the typical classroom (Shanahan, 2008).
  • “Despite steady or growing reading demands from various sources, K–12 reading texts have actually trended downward in difficulty in the last half century”(CCSS, 2010, p. 3). To combat these downward trends, the Common Core State Standards call for a “staircase” of increasing text complexity.
  • The Common Core State Standards (2010) recommend a three-part model for measuring text complexity consisting of three dimensions: 1) Qualitative dimensions of text complexity; 2) Quantitative dimensions of text complexity; and 3) Reader and task considerations.
  • The Common Core State Standards (2010) recommends the use of the Lexile® Framework for Reading, a readability formula, as a quantitative measure of text complexity. The Lexile Framework for Reading, developed by MetaMetrics Inc., uses word frequency and sentence length to produce a single measure called a Lexile (Lennon & Burdick, 2004).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 provides a personalized learning progression that builds an individualized staircase of increasing text complexity. The instructional Software provides opportunities for students to connect with all nonfiction text that is relevant to their content-area classes, including science, social studies, and life skills. Anchor Videos support students’ ability to build background knowledge and access increasingly challenging text.

The wide variety of compelling texts, including high-quality fiction and nonfiction, provides students with daily opportunities for modeled and independent reading in order to help develop their decoding skills and reading fluency. Through explicit, daily instruction in the 44Book, students move from applying foundational reading skills to building comprehension of increasingly complex text. All Modules are designed to include three readings that increase in text complexity within each Module, as well as over the course of the program. In addition, each Module includes two Stretch texts that provide students with the opportunity to engage with complex, grade-level text. The 44Book is composed of diverse text types, including Nonfiction (80 percent), Primary Sources, Infographics, Opinion, Blogs, Fiction, Poems, Graphic Novels, and more. These diverse text types help students develop visual and media literacies and support them in their content-area classes.

The Student Library offers students age-appropriate, relevant books they can read with success, and the Decodable Digest provides further opportunities to practice decoding and improve automaticity. With over 9,000 words of decodable text passages, the Decodable Digest is comprised of 60 percent nonfiction text presented in graphic formats and reflects diverse interests and personal experiences. These passages are at least 75 percent decodable, and are designed in graphic novel format to engage reluctant readers and build in complexity as students progress through the program.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Because the range of vocabulary in text grows rapidly after third grade (Anderson & Nagy, 1992), students must continue to expand their knowledge of word meanings in order to construct the meaning of what they are reading. Vocabulary and verbal knowledge play increasingly important roles in supporting reading comprehension as students move from elementary to middle to high school (Schatschneider et al., 2004) (Torgesen et al., 2007, p.7).
  • Academic language is “one of the terms. . . used to refer to the form of language expected in contexts such as the exposition of topics in the school curriculum, making arguments, defending propositions, and synthesizing information” (Snow, 2010, p. 450).
  • Research shows there is a strong and apparently reciprocal relationship between reading comprehension and knowledge of both conversational and academic vocabulary (Baumann, Kame’enui, & Ash, 2003; Duke & Pearson, 2002; Gersten et al., 2001; NICHD, 2000; Peterson, Caverly, Nicholson, O’Neal, & Cusenbary, 2000; Pressley, 2000).
  • “Numerous studies have documented the positive impact of direct, explicit vocabulary instruction on both immediate word learning and longer-term reading comprehension (Baker et al., 1995; Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002; Biemiller, 2004; Marzano, 2004)” (Feldman & Kinsella, 2005, p. 5).
  • “Stahl and Fairbanks (1986) found that vocabulary instruction providing both definitional and contextual information can significantly improve students’ reading comprehension” (Honig, Diamond, & Gutlohn, 2000).
  • Repetition and multiple exposures to new words are crucial to vocabulary development (National Reading Panel, 2000; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2002; Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986).
  • Learning the spellings of new vocabulary words helps students remember their pronunciations and meanings. Spelling is an especially important part of vocabulary learning for English learners (Ehri & Rosenthal, 2007).
  • Research shows that morphological awareness contributes to vocabulary growth (Boardman et al., 2008; Nagy, Berninger, & Abbott, 2006). For every word known, a reader who can apply morphology and context should be able to understand as many as three more words (Nagy, Berninger, & Abbott, 2006).

System 44 Delivers

System 44’s program-wide emphasis on nonfiction builds academic vocabulary and content-area knowledge. In the Software, academic vocabulary is developed through explicit instruction in the Smart Zone. To support students’ vocabulary development, images are provided for over 2,000 words. For words that are difficult to image, such as concept words and verbs, there are additional supports including sound effects and video. In the Success Strand, students encounter high-leverage academic and content-area vocabulary that is defined for them. Anchor Videos provide background knowledge that helps students build mental models for unknown words.

Through daily reading, writing, and speaking activities, the 44Book exposes students to higher-level text and high-leverage vocabulary. Explicit instruction in academic vocabulary helps students develop and apply content-area word knowledge. Every direct instruction lesson in the 44Book includes instructional routines for preteaching vocabulary words that students will encounter in the lesson and the Software. New words are introduced in small, manageable amounts as well as in groups that share a sound-spelling or morphological pattern. Students will also encounter these words in their readings.

Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI) includes resources for further word-study instruction. Every Code and Word Strategies lesson in RDI has five target words and multiple additional words to continuously expand students’ vocabulary.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Research shows that writing instruction can have a positive impact on students’ reading skills and comprehension, particularly when students write about texts that they read, learn the writing skills and process behind the creation of a text, and have frequent opportunities to write (Graham & Hebert, 2010).
  • Research shows that writing can improve students’ comprehension of science, social studies, and language arts concepts when they write about texts they read in these content areas (Graham & Hebert, 2010).
  • Students’ writing development flourishes when it is scaffolded in various ways by supports that help students progress or carry out writing tasks and processes (Graham, Gillespie, & McKeown, 2012).
  • For English learners, structured approaches to writing have been found to be more effective than approaches without structure or scaffolds (Shanahan & Beck, 2006). In addition, teaching grammar and vocabulary as it is used in specific genres prepares English learners to succeed with academic writing tasks (Schleppegrell, 1998).
  • Expert opinion supports providing students with instruction and practice in writing for a variety of purposes, including to persuade, to explain, and to convey experience (ACT, 2007; Graham & Perin, 2007; National Assessment Governing Board, 2010; National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association, 1996).
  • Research indicates that in addition to writing to convey information, writing to argue or persuade is an important skill for success in college and beyond (ACT, 2009; Milewski, Johnson, Glazer, & Kubota, 2005). However, many students are not adequately prepared for argument writing when they enter college (Graff, 2003).
  • Research suggests that using technology as a tool for writing can be motivating and have a positive impact on the quality of what students write (Perin, 2007).
  • Students are increasingly expected to be comfortable composing writing using word-processing software in order to be successful in school, college, and the workplace (National Assessment Governing Board, 2010).

System 44 Delivers

In System 44, students write every day. Each 44Book Module includes writing tasks focused around the writing skills at the heart of the CCSS: informational/explanatory and argument writing. Scaffolded writing tasks build in complexity as students progress through the Modules, working their way toward writing evidence-based paragraphs with independence. Scaffolds such as prewriting steps, embedded grammar practice, and sentence frames support developing writers in organizing and writing well-developed ideas. As students progress through the 44Book, these writing scaffolds decrease.

Each Module culminates in a performance-based task. Students produce a range of writing types synthesizing what they have read and apply that knowledge to a research question. Students engage in multiple steps to complete the project, including collaborating with peers to brainstorm ideas, gathering evidence, and practicing and refining writing and presentation skills that are critical for college and career readiness.

Summary writing in the Software reinforces the writing skills students practice in the 44Book. The instructional Software’s Writing Strand provides students with independent practice in writing summaries around the content of the Success Passages, helping students to build comprehension and writing fluency. Writing prompts and scaffolds such as sentence frames echo those that students encounter through teacher-mediated practice in the 44Book, thereby increasing students’ competence and confidence in writing.

Innovative use of personalized technology is a central component of System 44’s instructional approach. Research-based principles of motivation, engagement, cognition, and learning inform System 44’s adaptive technology, providing struggling readers with a highly motivating and personalized learning environment. Throughout the program, care is taken to address the individualized needs of challenged, often disenfranchised, readers. While the benefits of System 44’s technology extend to educators, the following section will focus on the benefits for students.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Creating technology environments that heighten students’ motivation to become independent readers and writers can increase their sense of competency (Kamil, Intrator, & Kim, 2000).
  • Using modern technology is advantageous for developing “flexible, supportive, and adjustable learning and productivity experiences” for all students (Hitchcock & Stahl, 2003).
  • Using video and audio to build students’ background knowledge before reading helps them construct the mental models needed to approach a new text (Hasselbring & Goin, 2004).
  • Digital learning materials are valuable for addressing individual learners’ needs because they can offer supportive features such as read-alouds, alternative texts to match different instructional levels, and strategy prompts and vocabulary links embedded within the text (Proctor, Dalton, & Grisham, 2007; Rose & Meyer, 2002).
  • Computer instruction affords students the opportunity to receive individualized support, learn at their own pace, and receive immediate corrective feedback (Kamil, 2003). Adaptive technology breaks down tasks into steps, administers feedback immediately, and supports independent practice (Estevez et al., 2003).

System 44 Delivers

System 44’s research-based Software combines learning theories, pedagogical principles, and integrated media technology in a unique way. The Software uses adaptive technology to customize and scaffold individual skill practice and application in phoneme manipulation, word recognition, vocabulary, spelling, comprehension, writing, and fluency. Throughout the program’s sequence, the Software offers consistent and targeted support and feedback with nonjudgmental and individualized coaching. Background videos in the Software help students build mental models of new concepts before reading an informational passage.

Personalized learning in System 44 is driven by the proven FASTT (Fluency and Automaticity through Systematic Teaching with Technology) algorithm, which helps students manage their acquisition of new information and then carefully synthesizes this information as long-term memory in the brain. As students work independently on the computer, the System 44 Software is automatically and continuously collecting student performance data, which feeds multiple reports that teachers use to inform Small-Group differentiated instruction.

Research & Expert Opinion

Research Principle: Building Intrinsic Motivation

  • The National Academy of Sciences has identified loss of motivation as one of the three major obstacles some students face when learning to read (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).
  • “That engaged and intrinsically motivated children will become more proficient readers than less engaged and less intrinsically motivated children is a truism that generalizes across advantaged and disadvantaged populations and is supported by abundant evidence (e.g., Guthrie, Cox, et al., 1998; Guthrie, Van Meter, et al., 1998; Guthrie, Wigfield, & VonSecker, 2000; Snow et al., 1991; Strickland, 2001; Sweet, Guthrie, & Ng, 1998)” (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002, p. 86).
  • Students experience greater motivation and confidence when they are aware of their ongoing academic successes (Pressley, Gaskins, Solic, & Collins, 2006).
  • Matching students to text with the appropriate level of challenge—not too easy or not too hard—is one mechanism for successful reading experiences (Gambrell, Palmer, & Codling, 1993).
  • High-interest, low-difficulty texts play a significant role in an adolescent literacy program and are critical for fostering the reading skills of struggling readers and the engagement of all students (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004; see also Braunger & Lewis, 1998).
  • One factor that affects motivation is known as attainment value. Students will not recognize reading as an important aspect of their lives unless they perceive success in reading to be attainable (Guthrie & Wigfield, 1997).

Research Principle: Setting Goals and Mindset

  • Research has identified patterns of cognitive-based and affective-based processes that are “set in motion” when a particular goal is adopted over the short or long term (Elliot & Dweck, 1988).
  • Setting clear goals and expectations increases motivation by encouraging student involvement in and responsibility for their own learning (Ames, 1992; Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000). Neuroscientific brain research shows that when students understand the goals of their work, they are more likely to stay focused, self-monitor, and appreciate their own progress (Rose, Meyer, Strangman, & Rappolt, 2002).
  • Academic confidence comes from experiencing academic success daily (Pressley et al., 2006). By giving students ways to feel competent, it becomes more likely that they will learn what is necessary to be successful. In this way, students are able to experience the satisfaction of feeling competent (Sagor, 2003).

Research Principle: Sustaining Attention

  • Creating technology environments that heighten students’ motivation to become independent readers and writers can increase their sense of competency (Kamil, Intrator, & Kim, 2000).
  • By giving students control of the screen and their progress, self-directed technology creates a sense of engagement and independence (Hasselbring, Lewis & Bausch, 2005).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 includes personalized learning technology that is designed to increase students’ intrinsic motivation, as well as their ability to read. System 44 provides multiple opportunities for students to take ownership over their learning by setting goals and carefully tracking their mastery of lesson content. The Gradual Release Model, used throughout the program, leads to ownership over learning as responsibility for performing a new skill is gradually transferred from teacher to student.

The new Student Dashboard allows students to track their overall progress while motivating and supporting them to build executive function skills. Before beginning instruction, students are reminded of their current progress in the Software. From the Dashboard, students can explore items of interest, including their total number of words mastered and unlocked Success videos. The Dashboard’s on-screen graphics encourage students to celebrate their successes and keep working toward their goals. Digital stickers enable students to track their progress on the My Software Tracking Log. For example, red stickers celebrate a Fast-Track, which denotes when students demonstrate mastery of content, allowing them to move quickly past a Software topic.

Once in the Software, on-screen mentors sustain the learner’s engagement and interest by scaffolding, encouraging, and reinforcing his or her efforts, offering individualized corrective feedback according to the student’s performance. In the Success Strand, students experience and celebrate their achievements by watching exciting videos that build mental models for reading. In Success, students also read high-interest, engaging passages that include the phonics exemplars, sight words, and multisyllabic words they have been studying.

System 44 leverages the power of technology to motivate students and provide structured engagement opportunities. Students who are not drawn to print media but voluntarily spend hours on the computer can use a tool they value to master skills they need. The on-screen host provides feedback and encouragement that is private, nonjudgmental, and respectful of students, and the endless patience of the computer cannot be overemphasized as students have opportunities to try, try again. Students who need extra support with a particular skill will encounter multiple opportunities to practice with fresh content.

The Student Digital Portfolio, accessible via SAM™, now includes a goal-setting tool to help teachers and students evaluate progress toward yearly academic and behavioral goals. Tracking academic goals increases students’ intrinsic motivation, classroom engagement, and the desire to continue to succeed. Students can also track and monitor their own progress through the use of additional print materials such as the System 44 Self-Monitoring Chart, available as a resource.

System 44 Paperbacks, Audiobooks, eBooks, and Anchor Media are high interest, age appropriate, relevant to students’ lives, and able to generate and sustain student interest. Throughout, reading materials are carefully matched to students’ current reading levels as they progress through the program, ensuring that they experience success while being appropriately challenged. In addition to providing titles matched to students’ current level of performance, each Module of the 44Book includes a fiction and nonfiction Stretch text that exposes students to more challenging, grade-level text.

Research & Expert Opinion

Research Principle: Developing Metacognitive Strategies

  • The use of metacognitive strategies helps students “think about their thinking” before, during, and after the task (Boulware-Gooden, Carreker, Thornhill, & Joshi, 2007).
  • “Metacognitive practices have been shown to increase the degree to which students transfer to new settings and events (Lin & Lehman, 1999; Palincsar & Brown, 1984; Scardamalia et al., 1984; Schoenfeld, 1983, 1984, 1991)” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 19).

Research Principle: Optimizing Brain Activity

  • MRIs of dyslexic readers show decreased activation in left hemisphere brain systems that are important for decoding and fluency (Shaywitz, Lyon, & Shaywitz, 2006).
  • Reading strategies that focus on phonemic awareness and phonics increase activation in these brain regions (Hudson, High, Al Otaiba, 2007; Shaywitz et al., 2002; Shaywitz et al., 2004; Simos et al., 2002; Simos et al., 2007; Temple et al., 2001).
  • A growing body of research documents the role of morphologic awareness—the recognition that word parts can carry meaning—in reading and reading disability. In dyslexic students, activation was found to be significantly reduced in the brain regions associated with morpheme mapping. Reading intervention increased brain activation such that quantity and pattern of activation closely resembled that of normally achieving readers (Aylward et al., 2003).

Research Principle: Focusing on Meaning

  • When people understand and think about the meanings of words, they remember them better (Craik & Tulving, 1975; Medina, 2008).
  • Information is more readily processed if it can be immediately associated with information already present in the learner’s brain. Providing examples makes the information better encoded and therefore better learned (Medina, 2008; Palmere et al., 1983).
  • “Transfer is affected by the degree to which people learn with understanding rather than merely memorize sets of facts or follow a fixed set of procedures” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 53).

Research Principle: Maximizing Memory and Learning

  • The ability to retrieve useful information from memory appears to be especially challenging for children with learning disabilities or those who are at risk of school failure (Hasselbring et al., 1991).
  • Short-term memory is limited in the number of items it can store simultaneously. Within working memory, verbal/text memory and visual/spatial memory work together to augment understanding (Metiri Group, 2008; Sweller, 1999).
  • Overfilling either verbal/text memory or visual/spatial memory can result in cognitive overload and cause items to be lost from short-term memory before they can be transferred (Metiri Group, 2008; Sweller, 1988, 1999).
  • Because of the limits on the amount of information that humans can hold in short-term memory, short-term memory is enhanced when people can chunk information into familiar patterns (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Metiri, 2008; Miller, 1956). Therefore, memory is enhanced by creating associations among concepts. Words presented in an organized, structured way are better remembered than those that are randomized (Medina, 2008).
  • Technology that affords students the opportunity to practice new skills systematically, with information presented in manageable sets, fosters automaticity which reduces the strain on memory retrieval processes (Hasselbring & Goin, 2004).

Research Principle: Providing Multisensory Learning Experiences

  • “Our senses evolved to work together—vision influencing hearing, for example—which means that we learn best if we stimulate several senses at once” (Medina, 2008, p. 219).
  • Multisensory strategies have proven effective to help English learners make connections between content and language and to support their communication and social interactions (Facella, Rampino, & Shea, 2005). For example, English learners benefit from learning vocabulary with visual clues to help them understand word meaning (Ybarra & Green, 2003).
  • Practitioners have learned that parsing language into small pieces with the aid of multisensory experiences, along with direct, systematic, sequential, and cumulative teaching, allows struggling students to learn basic language skills (Birsh, 2000).
  • Research has revealed that guided practice with recognizing and generating sounds, using a speaker’s face to model articulation, can help struggling English learners, hearing-challenged students, and autistic learners to perceive and generate the sounds of English (Bosseler & Massaro, 2003).
  • Training software with multisensory presentations helped students improve word-writing skills with strong transfer from trained to nontrained words (Kast, Meyer, Vögeli, Gross, & Jäncke, 2007).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 teacher-led instruction and adaptive Software scaffold students in developing metacognitive understanding of the English language’s finite system of 44 sounds and 26 letters. Students in System 44 apply metacognitive strategies as they learn how the system can help them tackle the deep orthography of the English language, how English is structured, and what it all means to them as readers.

System 44 provides explicit, research-based instruction that has been shown to enhance brain function in learners. Throughout the program, new material is presented in ways that help the learner process meaning and integrate the new concepts with previous knowledge. For example, sound-spelling patterns are introduced in multiple contexts with multiple examples. The Software presents words organized according to sound-spelling patterns, accompanied by pictures and sentences that illustrate their meaning. In The Code Strand, the use of images and animation helps anchor word meanings as the pronouncer demonstrates correct articulation of sounds and words.

System 44 Software uses proven techniques for transferring information in short-term memory to stable, automatic, learned elements in long-term memory. These techniques include introducing new words and concepts in small sets, with multiple exposures at spaced intervals. The Software’s FASTT model is designed to facilitate transfer from effortful practice in short-term memory to long-term memory by introducing manageable sets of items, providing repeated exposures, spacing review, and shortening response time. FASTT algorithm expands recall by interspersing new elements with a gradually increasing number of known elements during practice.

System 44’s multisensory instructional approach gives students daily opportunities to view, listen, speak/record, and write about what they are learning. The multisensory approach in System 44 includes videos, images and graphics, sounds, Audiobooks, several different types of print components, and manipulatives, thus offering multiple ways for all learners to access and learn the content. Students have many opportunities to use visual, aural, kinesthetic, and tactile modalities, including visual and tactile experiences with mouth positions and building words on the computer and with letter tiles.

System 44 uses personalized learning technology to deliver individualized, explicit instruction and provide unparalleled access to data and instructional planning. Through adaptive technology and a comprehensive assessment system, the program efficiently screens, places, and monitors student progress throughout the year. The Software engages students in monitoring their own learning while supplying educators with clear, actionable information to guide instructional decision making. Educators will benefit from the comprehensive supports, including professional development resources. With its built-in academic and behavioral intervention supports, System 44 fits seamlessly into a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • According to Wagner (2008), several studies of struggling adolescent readers suggest that a substantial proportion had problems with word-level reading. In some cases, deficits in phonics and word recognition may not be evident until fourth grade (Catts, Hogan, & Adlof, 2005; Chall, 1996; Hock et al., in press; Juel, 1988; Leach, Scarborough, & Rescorla, 2003; Lipka, Lesaux, & Siegel, 2006). Such findings underscore the necessity of using reliable and efficient methods to assess phonological decoding in the middle and upper grades.
  • A comprehensive assessment system integrates assessment and instruction, so that educators can continually use data to ensure they are meeting the needs of all students (National Center on Response to Intervention, 2010; Smith, 2010). Data collected through the assessment system should be used to 1) track student growth; 2) identify students who need more intensive intervention; and 3) assess the efficacy and implementation quality of instructional programs (National Center on Response to Intervention, 2010).
  • “The value of in-depth classroom assessment comes from teachers’ deep understanding of reading processes and instruction, thinking diagnostically, and using the information on an ongoing basis to inform instruction (Black & William, 1998; Place, 2002; Shepard, 2000)” (Valencia & Riddle Buly, 2004, p.229).
  • Regular progress-monitoring is vital to track student growth and determine which students need additional help or intervention (Fisher & Ivey, 2006; National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 2008; Stecker, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2005; Torgesen, 2002). Data collected through progress monitoring should provide a clear profile of students’ strengths, weaknesses, and needs, and should be linked with resources for providing targeted follow-up instruction and intervention (Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, 2010; National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 2008; Vaughn & Denton, 2008).
  • When students are included in monitoring their own progress, they better understand their academic growth, gain motivation, and acquire a sense of ownership over their learning (Andrade, 2007/8; Forster, 2009; Hupert & Heinze, 2006).
  • “Technology creates a sense of engagement that is incomparable to what most students experience with paper-and-pencil test administration. The self-directedness of the accessible online assessment gives many students a feeling of empowerment that can facilitate a more accurate display of student ability” (Hasselbring, Lewis, & Bausch, 2005, p. 13).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 contains a suite of tools to efficiently screen, place, and monitor students’ progress through the program. To ensure that students are placed in the program at the appropriate level, System 44 includes the HMH Phonics Inventory®. This is a computerized, research-based, and validated assessment that should be administered to any student who receives a Lexile measure (L) between BR and 400L–600L on the HMH Reading Inventory®. In cases where elementary students score above 400L or secondary students score above 600L on the Reading Inventory, placement into READ 180 is recommended. Used together, these resources help build capacity while maximizing student growth potential.

Using various discrimination tasks, the Phonics Inventory determines whether or not the root cause of reading difficulty is an inability to decode and identifies the appropriate point of entry for each student in the program’s continuum of phonics instruction. The Phonics Inventory also provides important information to teachers to inform direct, data-driven instruction in Small-Group differentiated rotations. The Phonics Inventory is highly reliable and validated against the Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE) and Woodcock-Johnson® III; it can be group administered in approximately 10 minutes. Through ongoing assessments, the Reading Inventory and Phonics Inventory can be used throughout the year to continue monitoring student progress and differentiating instruction as needed.

Additional tools and resources, such as the educator Dashboards, help develop and maximize human capital. Accessible anywhere an Internet connection is available, the new Teacher Dashboard highlights the most important student performance data and allows teachers to use data to plan and differentiate instruction. Teachers have access to daily customizable lesson plans, and an at-a-glance summary of each day’s lesson, thereby ensuring they are delivering targeted instruction at the class, group, and student levels. The Report Scheduler allows teachers to schedule best practice reports on a customizable schedule. In addition to using data-snapshots to monitor class performance, teachers can also opt in to be notified when students meet specified performance thresholds or alerted when implementation factors like time-on-task require their attention.

In SAM, educators can access nine actionable reports about student progress, such as the Screening and Placement Report and Student Mastery Report, to determine the response to intervention for each student. In addition, these reports link to relevant resources for differentiating instruction. The System 44 Software helps teachers identify holes in students’ knowledge so that these skills can be reinforced through direct instruction. In-person training services, teacher resources, and instructional manuals further support teachers as they continue to monitor student progress from placement through the end of the school year.

System 44’s diagnostic assessment and reporting tools also provide students with individualized pacing and a sense of ownership over their learning. Fast-Track assessments in the Software check mastery of skills, accelerating students to the next appropriate instructional level to maximize success and instructional time.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • In addition to teacher scaffolding of learning, new technologies providing scaffolds and tools can be used to enhance learning. “These designs use technologies to scaffold thinking and activity, much as training wheels allow young bike riders to practice cycling when they would fall without support. Like training wheels, computer scaffolding enables learners to do more advanced activities and to engage in more advanced thinking and problem solving than they could without such help” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 214).
  • To assess program efficacy and support effective instruction, teachers, principals, and district administrators need easy access to real-time data at the classroom, school, and district levels (Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, 2010; U.S. Department of Education, 2010).
  • Teachers “have limited time to assess students’ performances and provide feedback, but new advances in technology can help solve this problem . . .” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 142).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 provides comprehensive supports for teachers, leaders, and families, which in turn empowers them to better support our most challenged readers. System 44’s educator Dashboards empower leaders and build capacity of effective teachers by making the most important data transparent. In addition to freeing the teacher from many time-consuming tasks, System 44 provides the teacher with key actionable data, which helps drive differentiated instruction. The Software also continually collects data about student performance and provides continuous corrective feedback to the student, freeing the teacher to focus on targeted direct instruction.

With the new Dashboards, educators have anytime/anywhere access to the most important implementation and student performance data to help drive instructional decision making and planning. The Teacher and Leadership Dashboards highlight key implementation metrics, such as time-on-task, which are key to overall programmatic results. With the Teacher Dashboard, data is made actionable with the algorithmic Groupinator, which assigns students to groups based on skill or progress in the Software. In addition to Data Snapshots and Notifications, the Teacher Dashboard provides additional point-of-use professional development resources, such as short videos of model lessons and differentiated lessons tied to that day’s instruction.

The System 44 44Book Teacher’s Edition assists teachers in scaffolding direct instruction for students during Small-Group lessons. Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI) provide differentiated instruction lessons to reteach or reinforce skills that require additional attention according to student needs. System 44 includes a suite of professional development resources. Teacher resources and instructional manuals support teachers in tailoring instruction and creating learning environments for multiple purposes. In-person training and ongoing coaching services are also available to maximize successful implementation.

In recognition of the importance of family and community engagement, the System 44 Family Portal was developed to support the diversity of System 44 students’ family members and caregivers. The Family Portal, which is available in Spanish and English, includes a variety of information and resources to support phonics instruction at home for all families, including those with special education students and English language learners. Visit

Research & Expert Opinion

  • The enactment of federal education legislation, such as the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the more recent adoption of the CCSS all point to the need for a model that encompasses the needs of all learners, regardless of whether they are struggling or have advanced learning needs, and provides a clear, systematic approach for intervention when students are not on track to mastering these standards (CCSS, 2010).
  • A Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework is defined as a “coherent continuum of evidence-based, system-wide practices to support a rapid response to academic and behavioral needs, with frequent data-based monitoring for instructional decision making to empower each student to achieve high standards” (Kansas MTSS, 2008).
  • To date, more than 40 states have already implemented a version of MTSS, and students are benefiting from the early intervention and learning support that MTSS models provide (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2011).
  • As defined by the National Center on Response to Intervention (2010): “RTI integrates assessment and intervention within a multi-level prevention system to maximize student achievement and to reduce behavioral problems.” RTI delivery models typically include three or four tiers of instruction and intervention designed to provide differentiated support for students identified as in need of special services by providing effective early intervention in general and special education classrooms (Prasse, 2009). An essential component of RTI is that each tier includes research-based instruction, monitoring of student learning, and data-based decision making to ensure that each student receives the intensity of instruction and intervention that he or she needs in order to prevent future educational difficulties (Clark & Tilly, 2010; Batsche, et al., 2005).
  • Like RTI, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) models provide a continuum of supports increasing in intensity based on the degree of students’ behavioral and social needs, generally organized into three tiers of prevention. At each level, key components of the model include: clearly defined expectations explicitly taught to all students, opportunity for students to practice the skills, reinforcement for students who meet expectations, and a system for monitoring student progress (Lane, Robertson, & Graham-Bailey, 2006; Sugai, et al., 2002).
  • The purpose of PBIS is to take a proactive approach to addressing school discipline by promoting positive behaviors school-wide, identifying problem behaviors early, and responding to and reducing those behaviors through research-based instruction and intervention (Stewart, et al., 2007).
  • PBIS models have been found to be particularly effective in helping students with emotional and behavioral challenges stay on track and experience success (Sugai et al., 1999).
  • By combining behavioral support with effective academic instruction, schools aim to increase the chances that all students will succeed (Stewart et al., 2007).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 is designed with the recognition that behavioral issues and academic difficulties are often intertwined. System 44 helps educators address the principles of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) by addressing both Response to Intervention (RTI) criteria and Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports (PBIS) criteria in order to meet the needs of the whole child. The program includes embedded supports and procedures for increasing student engagement, promoting positive behaviors, and motivating students to succeed.

In System 44, all new resources and tools built in to instruction, planning, and data management are designed to support both academic and behavioral interventions. The MTSS resources found in the Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI) book and 44Book Teacher’s Edition help teachers personalize the level of academic and behavioral intervention. Teachers explicitly teach behavioral expectations for all rotations in the first three weeks. Aligned rubrics allow both teachers and students to effectively evaluate and monitor behavior through shared goals and expectations. Structured lessons for each day of Small Group allow teachers to introduce and strategically reinforce behavior and expectations throughout the year. Introducing the MTSS framework and tools early prevents academic and behavioral difficulties from becoming long-term challenges.

The new System 44 Individualized Learning Plan (ILP), accessible via the Student Achievement Manager (SAM) and the Teacher Dashboard, provides teachers with a quick and simple way to set and monitor academic and behavior goals for each student. Via SAM, teachers can set academic goals for Decoding, Spelling, Fluency, and Independent Reading and align those goals to Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Data for these goals are collected through Student Software performance and teacher input. Teachers can also create customized benchmarks that align to their school’s grading periods or IEP marking periods. The ILP Data Snapshots on the Teacher Dashboard provide an at-a-glance view to how an individual student is tracking toward his or her academic and behavioral goals within a benchmarked time frame. When conferencing with students, teachers have the ability to adjust benchmarks toward cumulative academic and behavioral goals for each student within the SAM Student Digital Portfolio.

The 44Book instructional routines help teachers actively engage students and set clear behavioral expectations for the classroom, thereby bolstering their students’ level of motivation. In addition, each lesson in the 44Book provides implementation tools to consistently support behavior and build positive classroom culture. Using the “My Tools” tab within their 44Book, students are also empowered to record and monitor their behavioral progress using rubrics. Furthermore, RDI contains a variety of supplemental lessons for individual and Small-Group instruction that support the implementation of System 44 within an MTSS framework.

System 44 is designed to meet the needs of diverse learners in Grades 3 through 12 and beyond. The program targets students who are reading at basic or below-basic levels, yet vary in terms of age, language background, socioeconomic status, demographic background, special education classification, and disability type. While challenged readers may struggle for multiple reasons, this paper addresses three student populations that System 44 is specifically designed to support: Older Struggling Readers, Students with Disabilities, and English Learners.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Research indicates that some students with late-emerging reading disabilities have never learned to decode (Juel, 1991).
  • A variety of other factors can also contribute to difficulties with foundational reading skills among older students. For example, researchers have found associations among reading deficits and poverty (Chall & Jacobs, 2003; Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990; Lee, Grigg, & Donahue, 2007; Zill et al., 1995), parental reading level (Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990; Honig, Diamond, & Gutlohn, 2000), and/or biological, cognitive, neurological, or psychological learning issues. Students can also become struggling readers through lack of practice (Stanovich, 1986) or if they move between states with differing grade-level Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and expectations.
  • Whatever the cause, reading failure in the upper grades can be self-perpetuating. Stanovich (1986) explains that rather than gaining vocabulary through reading, struggling readers do not enjoy reading and read less than “richer” successful readers. The resulting lack of vocabulary growth continues to inhibit reading development (Blachman, 1996; Walberg, Strykowski, Rovai, & Hung, 1984; Walberg & Tsai, 1983).
  • Negative impacts of reading failure extend to achievement in all academic areas, extracurricular activity, and peer relations (Stanovich, 1986). In addition to being at risk for dropping out of school (e.g., McLeskey & Grizzle, 1992; Lichtenstein & Zantol-Wiener, 1988; National Center for Education Statistics, 1999), adolescents with reading disabilities have been found to be at higher risk of social problems (Sabornie, 1994; Wiener & Schneider, 2002), impaired self-concept (Boetsch, Green, & Pennington, 1996; Chapman, 1988), and substance abuse (Beitchman, Wilson, Douglas, Young, & Adlaf, 2001).

System 44 Delivers

System 44 uses adaptive technology to deliver a personalized learning progression via five instructional Strands. Students can learn at their own pace as they move through The Code, Word Strategies, Sight Words, Success, and the new Writing Strands. System 44 is aligned with the core principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a set of principles that promotes the creation of flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments to accommodate all learners’ differences. Harnessing the power of FASTT technology, the Software provides instruction and practice in each of the five learning Strands according to each student’s ability, adapting along the way. Students have the ability to fast-track through topics in which they demonstrate mastery, or receive new material when additional practice is needed.

Differentiated and individualized instruction are achieved by the integration of multiple assessments, multiple entry points, adaptive computer technology, and targeted instructional materials and strategies. In addition to the individualized instruction students receive through the Software, teachers have access to various resources to deliver targeted instruction as well. Through the Teacher Dashboard, the new algorithmic Groupinator® automatically recommends skills and strategies for each group based on student assessment data. Teachers can thus create learning environments for multiple purposes to meet the needs of individual students.

The new 44Book ensures all System 44 students receive direct instruction in phonics, decoding, reading, and writing skills. With enough content to cover a year of instruction, the new 44Book’s eight Modules expose students to higher-level text and high-leverage vocabulary along with daily opportunities for reading, writing, and speaking. Composed of 80 percent nonfiction texts, the texts are highly engaging and age appropriate for older struggling readers. The nonfiction texts include Stretch texts designed to expose these students to grade-level text. The new 44Book provides a clear instructional path for teachers in Small-Group differentiated instruction, including instruction in phonics, word study, comprehension, writing, and performance-based assessments. In addition, Resources for Differentiating Instruction (RDI) provides word-based routines for teachers to use to support older, struggling learners. For example, the suffix, prefix, and roots routines are helpful in teaching challenged readers how to unlock the meaning of grade-level academic vocabulary.

In order to engage and motivate older struggling readers, System 44 Student Library titles feature high-interest, age-appropriate topics and offer students a wide array of choice. Readings in all System 44 print materials reflect ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity and focus on engaging topics, such as careers, music, heroes, relationships, health, and family. This wide range of Library titles ensures that students have the opportunity to read about topics that are relevant to their interests and personal experiences. Audiobooks and eBooks offer challenged readers the opportunity to develop good reading skills and habits while enjoying natural voice narrations of the System 44 Student Library books.

Research & Expert Opinion

  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles that make learning universally accessible by creating flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments to accommodate all learners’ differences, including learning disabilities, physical challenges, and sensory impairment. Instructional materials designed with UDL principles increase student access to the curriculum by providing:
    • Multiple means of content representation, to provide students a variety of ways to learn
    • Multiple means of expressing learned content, to offer students alternatives to show what they know
    • Multiple means of engagement with content, to motivate and challenge students appropriately (Rose & Meyer, 2000)
  • UDL improves access to and participation in the general education curriculum for all students, including those with learning disabilities (Hitchcock & Stahl, 2003; National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 2008; Rose & Meyer, 2000).
  • Motivation is a strong predictor of reading comprehension in students with learning disabilities (Heo, 2007; Sideridis, Mouzaki, Simos, & Protopapas, 2006).
  • Research has demonstrated that captioned video and television programs can help deaf students improve their motivation, vocabulary, and reading comprehension (Jackson, 2003; Kalyanpur & Kirmani, 2005). It further deepens understanding of what is taught in the classroom (Hasselbring & Glaser, 2000).
  • According to Shaywitz (2003), effective intervention programs for students with reading disabilities: 1) provide systematic, direct instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics; 2) teach students to apply these skills to reading and writing; 3) provide fluency training; and 4) include rich experiences listening to and using oral language.
  • Interventions for students with dyslexia should be systematic, explicit, and multisensory (IDA, 2012). Many individuals with dyslexia require one-on-one help so that they can move forward at their own pace. In addition, students with dyslexia often need a great deal of structured practice and immediate, corrective feedback to develop automatic word recognition skills (IDA, 2012).
  • According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (2009), an effective treatment program for children with autism should build on the child’s interests, offer a predictable schedule, teach tasks as a series of simple steps, actively engage the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provide regular reinforcement of behavior (National Institutes of Mental Health, 2009).
  • Research shows that successful interventions for older students with special needs match students with reading materials at the appropriate level of difficulty (Vaughn & Denton, 2008). When students are matched with materials above their level, it is difficult for them to make maximum progress (Shanahan, 2008).
  • Adjusting the font, size, and color of the text can help address the needs of students with visual impairment (Hasselbring & Glaser, 2000).
  • All struggling readers, particularly students with learning disabilities, require time to read and respond to text with modeling and corrective feedback (Swanson, Wexler, & Vaughn, 2009; Vaughn & Roberts, 2007).
  • Immediate, computer-assisted corrective feedback accompanied by answer-until-correct procedures (Epstein, Cook, and Dihoff, 2005) or more practice (Hall, Hughes, & Filbert, 2000) have been found to be effective with special needs students.

System 44 Delivers

Throughout System 44, program materials reflect a consideration for the needs of students with disabilities. Endorsed by the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE), System 44 supports readers who have unique learning challenges and those who have been identified as in need of special education services.

While all learners can benefit from the program’s diagnostic instruction in phonics, multiple entry points, and opportunities for Fast-Track acceleration in the Software, students with disabilities will particularly benefit from the new Individualized Education Programs (IEP) supports. With System 44, teachers and parents can use point-of-use data and reports, such as the new Individual Learning Plan, to measure student progress toward annual academic and behavioral IEP goals. Furthermore, multiple print and digital resources, including customizable rubrics, support the implementation of academic and behavioral interventions within an MTSS or PBIS framework.

The System 44 Software aligns with the core principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), providing multiple means of presentation, expression, and engagement with media that includes closed-captioning for hearing-impaired students. Multisensory instructional resources, including visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic resources, help teachers differentiate instruction for students with disabilities. In addition, closed-captioning is available for all Success videos.

To expand upon the existing supports for students with disabilities, the new System 44 Family Portal provides ample resources for the parents and caregivers of these students. A wide variety of information and resources, such as IEP supports, helps improve the programmatic outcomes of students with disabilities. To learn more, visit

Research & Expert Opinion

  • English learners represent one of the fastest-growing subgroups of students in America’s school-aged population. As of 2009, there were over 11.2 million English learners in Grades K–12 (U.S. Department of Education, 2011).
  • While Spanish is the predominant home language (spoken by more than 80 percent of English learners), 56 different home languages are represented (NCELA, 2011).
  • It is estimated that approximately the same proportion of English learners (EL) as native English speakers have difficulty with foundational word-reading skills (Francis et al., 2006). For this reason, “ELs need early, explicit, and intensive instruction in phonological awareness and phonics in order to build decoding skills” (Francis et al., 2006, p. 17).
  • Struggling readers may include students who have difficulty mapping to standard English phonology, conventions, and syntax due to community, regional, cultural, or vernacular dialects (Craig & Washington, 2006; Labov, 2006) or differences between English and their primary language.
  • Many English learners need to acquire new phonemes or orthographic patterns as well as new matches between phonological segments and orthographic patterns (Durgunoglu, Nagy, & Hancin-Bhatt, 1993).
  • Captioned video provides both visual and print contexts and has been shown to increase word recognition in English learners (National Center for Technology Innovation and Center for Implementing Technology in Education, 2010).
  • Research shows that English learners’ reading comprehension improves when teachers activate and draw upon students’ background knowledge in relation to the story (Saunders, 1998; Schifini, 1994; Ulanoff & Pucci, 1999). To ensure success for English learners, Coady et al. (2003) suggest texts that 1) are comprehensible; 2) are reader friendly; and 3) make links to students’ prior knowledge and experience.
  • English learners in particular benefit from repeated reading using both print texts and audiobooks (Blum, Koskinen, Tennant, Parker, Straub, & Curry, 1995; De la Colina, Parker, Hasbrouck, & Lara-Alecio, 2001).
  • Research has revealed that articulation exercises and the visual reinforcement of seeing a speaker’s face can help struggling English learners, hearing-challenged students, and autistic learners to perceive and generate the sounds of English (Bosseler & Massaro, 2003).
  • Because academic language proficiency is related to achievement in reading and writing, direct instruction in oral and written academic language for English learners is critical (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004; Gersten & Baker, 2000).
  • In order to gain proficiency with academic language, English learners need significant, structured opportunities to engage in academic discourse through speaking and writing (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002; Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer, & Rivera, 2006a; Gersten & Baker, 2000; Feldman & Kinsella, 2005; Ybarra & Green, 2003).
  • Teachers can accelerate the language proficiency of English learners by explicitly teaching the conventions, vocabulary, and structures of academic language in specific domains (Dutro & Kinsella, 2010).
  • For Spanish native speakers, explicit instruction in Spanish-English cognates is an effective method of facilitating the acquisition of English—both conversational and academic—and developing reading comprehension across the content areas (Calderón, 2007).
  • Teaching vocabulary as it is used in specific genres prepares English learners to succeed with academic writing tasks (Schleppegrell, 1998).

System 44 Delivers

Throughout System 44, program materials reflect a consideration for the needs of English learners. All English learners can benefit from the program’s diagnostic instruction in phonics that addresses students’ individual needs through the placement test, multiple entry points, and opportunities for Fast-Track acceleration in the Software. English learners will particularly benefit from the vocabulary supports incorporated throughout the program, including images for over 2,000 words. For words that are difficult to image, such as concept words and verbs, there are additional supports including sound effects and videos.

In the Success Strand, students begin by watching an anchor video that builds background knowledge and helps them to build mental models of text. Sound & Articulation videos help teachers model correct academic pronunciation of all sound-spellings taught in the program. For Spanish speakers, home language supports allow students to click on any word during the Software instruction and receive a translation in Spanish.

English learners are able to apply and practice their learned skills in System 44’s decodable texts that provide frequent opportunities to experience success reading decodable and sight words in varied contexts. In the 44Book, students benefit by watching anchor media at the beginning of each Module that helps build background knowledge of the content addressed in the Module. Teachers also begin by frontloading academic vocabulary before engaging in the Module readings that include the targeted words. Picture cues and context sentences in the Software and Decodable Digest, explicit vocabulary instruction in teacher-led lessons, are all designed to support English learners. Like native English speakers, English learners are able to apply and practice their learned skills with audiobooks and independent reading books that are leveled so that students can experience frequent success with reading.

System 44 students come from diverse families who require different kinds of supports as they accompany students on the path to college and career. The new System 44 Family Portal includes a wide variety of information and resources, including tips and videos to support phonics instruction at home for all families, including those of students who are English language learners. All content on the Family Portal, including resources, tips, and video excerpts, is available in Spanish and English.

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