Response to the Reading Recovery Press Release from The Reading League

By: The Reading League

Recently, a press release was posted by the Reading Recovery Council of North America.

Within this release, Dr. Billy Molasso, Executive Director of RRCNA said, “It is important to note that three-cueing is not a method of literacy instruction at all, but rather an acknowledgment of some of the sources of information the brain uses to solve unknown words by using phonics in addition to context and syntax. In attempting to set classroom educational policy, the legislation displays a complete misunderstanding of literacy acquisition, which is best left to practitioners and has no place hidden within a 6,000 page budget bill.

It is important to understand the differences among the definitions and uses of the term three-cueing. What Molasso neglects to mention, however, is that what he refers to as an “acknowledgement of some of the sources” has indeed been turned into a method of literacy instruction that is not supported by research. The intent of banning cueing is not to deny that context and syntax are important to some aspects of literacy such as confirming the meaning of a word. The intent is to eradicate the unfounded and widespread practice of using multiple cues to learn to read the words on a page. This practice has held an immeasurable number of students back from developing proficient decoding, an essential foundational skill for the development of reading comprehension.

Furthermore, the press release goes on to promote damaging misconceptions of the “science of reading movement,” boldly claiming that it lacks peer-reviewed research. This shows the organization’s lack of understanding of what is meant by the science of reading. The Science of Reading: Defining Guide (2022) offers the following definition:

The science of reading is a vast, interdisciplinary body of scientifically-based* research about reading and issues related to reading and writing. This research has been conducted over the last five decades across the world, and it is derived from thousands of studies conducted in multiple languages. The science of reading has culminated in a preponderance of evidence to inform how proficient reading and writing develop; why some have difficulty; and how we can most effectively assess and teach and, therefore, improve student outcomes through prevention of and intervention for reading difficulty.

With this definition, one can see that the science of reading actually is the body of knowledge comprised almost entirely of peer-reviewed research. Thus, the argument does not hold.

In addition, the press release states, “education experts cite a range of issues with SOR programs: their one-size-fits-all structure lacks the flexibility to differentiate instruction for multilingual learners and other vulnerable populations.

There are many phrases in this statement that reveal the Reading Recovery Council of North America’s lack of understanding of what is meant by the science of reading (e.g., that the science of reading is a program or a one-size-fits-all approach). First, a body of knowledge cannot be a program. A program can either be aligned or misaligned to the science, but a program cannot be the science of reading. To prevent this misunderstanding, in 2019 The Reading League developed the Curriculum Evaluation Guidelines. It is important to note that these guidelines include a section on assessment, which is essential in an evidence-aligned system for identifying instructional needs of students. A system that supports all learners in what they need, based on assessment data, should not be misrepresented as “one-size-fits-all.”

Furthermore, the body of scientific knowledge related to reading absolutely includes research on multilingual students. More information can be found on The Reading League Compass’ English Learners / Emergent Bilinguals page. While Reading Recovery purports that the science of reading does not address the needs of multilingual learners, organizations that do the work of supporting EL/EB students such as the National Committee on Effective Literacy (NCEL), Teachers of English as a Second Language (TESOL), WIDA, the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), and many others disagree as evidenced by The Reading League / NCEL Joint Statement.

Schools, districts, and states that have built knowledge in the science of reading, then applied that knowledge to build evidence-aligned systems, have seen a great deal of progress in their students’ literacy outcomes. Success stories can be found in the media as well as at the bottom of several pages of The Reading League Compass.

We urge Ohio leaders to continue on their remarkable path to supporting evidence-aligned literacy in their state and reject the claims of this ill-informed statement.


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