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Guiding Principles

The Guiding Principles for the “Colorado Literacy Framework” reflect a collective agreement of the Colorado Department of Education’s leadership and staff around three assertions related to literacy.

The Colorado Department of Education believes that:

  • All students can significantly benefit from scientifically based literacy practices.
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  • Literacy initiatives must be continuously informed by the most rigorous and robust body of research available.
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Literacy is the gateway to opportunity.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD, 2000) considers reading failure a national public health epidemic.

The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research (McCardle & Chhabra, 2004, p. 39) states:

It is estimated that of the 10-15% of children who will eventually drop out of school, over 75% report difficulty reading; only 2% of students receiving special or compensatory education for difficulty learning to read will complete a four-year college program; surveys of adolescents and young adults with criminal records indicate that at least half have reading difficulties … approximately half of the children and adolescents with a history of substance abuse have reading problems.

Conversely, the benefits of improved literacy skills extend into other academic disciplines, and contribute to learners’ critical-thinking skills. The immeasurable payoffs of literacy include improved life skills for day-to-day living, broadened employment opportunities, enhanced self-confidence, increased ability to participate in civic affairs and expanded access to knowledge.

The Colorado Department of Education embraces the importance of literacy, the gateway skill that opens the door to information and opportunity throughout life.

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All students can significantly benefit from scientifically based literacy practices.

In many cases science has not yet provided the answers that educators need to make fully informed decisions about adopting or dropping particular educational practices (RMC Research Corporation, 2006). However, if a body of research exists pointing to the effectiveness of a specific approach, then it is incumbent upon the educational community to use the information to support effective instruction for all students.

In the early 2000s, the No Child Left Behind Act required schools to implement “scientifically based” research practices in classroom instruction and in the selection of reading programs and interventions. Defining the term “scientifically based reading research” presented some challenges and led to debate.

McCardle & Chhabra (2004) define scientifically based reading research (SBRR) as:

research that applies systematic and objective procedures to obtain valid knowledge relevant to reading development, reading instruction, and reading difficulties. Fundamentally, SBRR means using reliable evidence to make decisions about how to best deliver reading instruction… the criteria for SBRR is that the research must: 1) use rigorous, systematic, and empirical methods, 2) involve rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify drawn conclusions, 3) rely on measurements or observational methods that provide valid data across evaluators and observers and across multiple measurements and observations and, 4) be accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts through a comparable rigorous, objective, and scientific review.

The Colorado Department of Education embraces the belief that all students can experience academic growth when supported by scientifically based effective practices. As Commissioner Jones noted in the Forward Thinking Progress Report (2009), increasing academic achievement for all students is the CDE’s driving force.

Toward this end, Colorado’s student achievement indicators emphasize and assess growth and continuous improvement. Through the Colorado Growth Model each student’s progress on state assessments is calculated and compared to data from other points in time to provide a picture of learner progress, rather than merely a “snapshot” of student performance at a given time.

The CDE’s adoption of a Response-to-Intervention (RtI) model is consistent with these goals. The RtI framework promotes an integrated system for providing high quality, standards-based instruction and intervention matched to students’ academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs.

RtI practices are grounded in a data-based decision-making model (Deno, 1985) and behavioral consultation model (Bergen, 1977), development of precise, direct measures of growth-sensitive academic skills and the observation that the results of these appropriate and frequently administered assessments could be used effectively to modify instruction or raise learner goals (Batsche et al. 2006, p. 7).

RtI is recognized as a model for determining appropriate support and interventions to meet the needs of all learners. It is based on using benchmark and progress-monitoring data to inform instructional decision-making and improve achievement.

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Literacy initiatives must be continuously informed by the most rigorous and robust body of research available.

The quest to identify the most rigorous and robust body of research is a continuous process. It is not found in a methodology, but in a chain of reasoning.

The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research (McCardle & Chhabra, 2004, p. 74) identifies studies as scientific when:

  1. there is a clear set of answerable questions that motivates the research design
  2. the methods are appropriate to answer the question
  3. competing hypotheses can be refuted on the basis of evidence
  4. the studies are explicitly linked to theory and previous research
  5. the data are systematically analyzed with appropriate tools
  6. the results are made available for review and criticism

In the words of Stanovich & Stanovich, “Scientific thinking in practice is what characterizes reflective teachers – those who inquire into their own practice and who examine their own classrooms to find out what works best for them and their students.” (2003, p. 4).

Stanovich & Stanovich (2003) also note that evidence of effective practice in education can come from a range of sources, including: in-class assessment results, standardized test results, published findings of research-based evidence of effective instructional practice, or, in the absence of a source of direct evidence, reasons-based practice that converges with current research-supported practice.

To be effective, educators must be adept in scientific reasoning and possess an understanding of various research methods that serve distinct and specific purposes.

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Tools to Support the Guiding Principles


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