Structured Literacy: Teacher Understanding and the Instructional Implications for Reading Achievement

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Literacy is a critical life skill which impacts individuals and society. Knowledge to practice gaps in the field of education have existed for many years, specifically while teaching all students to become proficient readers. The intention of this qualitative study is to explore teacher understanding and perspectives about early literacy components used while instructing students to read. In 2021, eight K-3 general education teachers from the focus school LEOES, a Targeted Assistance Title I elementary school in southern Maryland, were interviewed and asked to provide information about the current status of their literacy instruction. Teacher reported information about evidence-based literacy practices implemented were explored to identify and suggest future professional development needed to address low literacy achievement and comprehensive literacy planning. As the literacy coach for this school, teacher input was gathered about current early literacy instructional practices through individual interviews. The self-reported instructional approaches described by the participating teachers were then considered in relation to the six evidence-based components of Structured Literacy to determine teachers’ understanding of these components and the challenges teachers identify which impact foundational reading instruction. Participating teachers mostly named balanced literacy as the literacy approach implemented with an emphasis on the five areas of reading. The Structured Literacy components were not identified or described as critical components of daily literacy instruction implemented at LEOES. Teachers identified challenges related mostly to curricular weaknesses and student factors, rather than the daily instruction provided to students. Implications for LEOES and District A were developed to build teachers’ awareness of the invaluable impact of the classroom teacher to implement a proactive approach to literacy instruction using the evidence-based components and guiding principles of Structured Literacy.