Drawing from a wealth of well-researched knowledge in disciplines such as developmental psychology, cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience, the science of reading has been proven to offer the most effective strategies for teaching kids how to become proficient readers. The Orton-Gillingham approach is a leading example of how literacy can be based on scientifically proven methods, combining explicit, direct, sequential, systematic, and multimodal instruction topics such as phonemic awareness to reach students at all grade levels.

In 2013, the Mississippi legislature passed a series of laws to improve the reading scores of students in all corners of the state. Six years later, fourth-grade reading scores on the nationwide NAEP test increased by ten points in Mississippi, which was a larger increase than any other state had experienced during this time period. Other states soon recognized Mississippi’s literacy achievements and took to reimagining their own systems and instructional practices to achieve the same results. In fact, according to an Education Week analysis, as of January 24, 2024, 37 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws or implemented new policies influenced by evidence-based reading instruction.

As evidence-based literacy instruction grows more popular throughout the US, science of reading professional development for teachers will become a district requirement to ensure research-based teaching methods are being successfully implemented within classrooms. That’s why school and district leaders need to invest in a science of reading professional development solution that will give teachers a wide range of tools to create instructional practices that impact every student at every tier. Training teachers in the science of reading and topics such as phonemic awareness is the key to improving literacy and student outcomes.


PD Rooted in the Science of Reading


How we teach is just as important as what we teach. The science of reading is a powerful body of research describing why certain literacy teaching strategies work and how they are best applied in practice. Professional development programs need to give educators the tools, training, and resources to implement literacy instruction that taps into those proven methodologies and reaches every student with in-depth literacy instruction at all grade levels. Not just any professional development program will give teachers all the tools they need to create proficient readers. District leaders need to seek out programs with key characteristics, such as on-site literacy coaches and flexible training sessions, to ensure the success of their teachers.


Based on the Science of Reading

To improve student outcomes at every level, programs based on the science of reading should provide in-depth education on the primary pillars of literacy such as Scarborough’s Reading Rope, and instruct educators about implementing Structured Literacy in their classrooms. For teachers to successfully incorporate the science of reading, they first need to unpack essential components of research and literacy such as phonemic awareness, morphology, word recognition and comprehension, and the role each plays in helping students become proficient readers.


Use a Structured Literacy and Orton-Gillingham Approach

Structured literacy is an umbrella term that was adopted by the International Dyslexia Association to refer to the many programs and instructional practices (like Orton-Gillingham) that teach reading by following the evidence and research behind the science of reading. Programs that exemplify the components and methods that are outlined in Structured Literacy are found to be beneficial for all students, especially those who struggle with reading.


Ensure PD Has Practical Implementation

Moving from the theory behind the science of reading to its practical implementation in the classroom is essential to ensuring any PD opportunity is truly beneficial to educators. Failing to bridge the gap between theory and how it will actually be used in the classroom can hinder efforts to enhance student outcomes and literacy scores.


Five Ways to Master the Science of Reading


The same thought must be given to instructing educators as instructing students, which means there needs to be options that suit the different learning styles and needs of teachers. A professional development program worth investing in must have a range of learning options readily available to ensure all teachers have access to the materials that further their abilities as educators.


College Credits and Accreditations

Some professional development organizations collaborate with other institutions to advance a common goal. This often involves obtaining accreditations or offering college credits, demonstrating that the training provided by the professional development organization meets the standards and rigor of the partner institution. In the case of the science of reading professional development counting as college credits or accreditations, educators can apply their training towards a college degree or to move up in their career.


Asynchronous Courses

These courses provide educators with a wide range of instructional practices, allowing them to move through as their schedules permit, making professional development opportunities accessible to everyone. This flexibility ensures that teachers unable to attend in-person training events can still learn about and apply the science of learning.


Certification Programs

Certification program offerings allow teachers to scale and build their science of reading understanding over time. These program offerings provide educators with the building blocks to scale their careers depending on whether they want to pursue district leadership opportunities or even be involved in curriculum development.


Videos and Webinars

Video and webinar training materials allow teachers to learn from their peers about real-world examples and student outcomes. These media offerings are a great way to keep teachers engaged, allowing them to connect through their shared successes, learnings, and challenges.


District & Group Training Virtually or On-Site

Collaborative and group learning opportunities present new dynamics for teachers to learn about the science of reading. District training can also provide teachers with a literacy coach to prepare them with hands-on instruction based on the science of reading. Virtual and on-site group courses create collaborative learning environments that will increase fidelity and consistency across classrooms and their districts.


Which Training Should You Take to Understand the Science of Reading?


The science of reading offers educators a deeper understanding of the best methods to help students learn to read, which is why many states have reevaluated their literacy programs to be science and research-based. 

IMSE brings effective literacy approaches — including Orton-Gillingham — to the modern classroom. In the 1930s, neuropsychiatrist and pathologist Dr. Samuel T. Orton and educator and psychologist Anna Gillingham developed the Orton-Gillingham approach specifically for students with “word blindness,” now referred to as dyslexia. 

This approach was one of the first designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds and combining direct, multimodal teaching strategies with systematic, sequential lessons focused on components like phonemic awareness. Orton-Gillingham is a highly structured approach, which means reading and spelling are broken down into smaller skills involving letters and sounds and then built on over time.


The key benefits of the Orton-Gillingham approach include:



Through IMSE’s Structured Literacy and Orton-Gillingham approach, we have seen that all children learn to read; not just those who are struggling. School leaders need to choose a program that is scientifically backed, has strategies that fit the needs of each student, and is based on Structured Literacy. Not only that, but practical and actionable resources are the key to ensuring teachers stay engaged and have the confidence to apply the science of learning in their own classrooms once training is complete. Professional development isn’t just a way for teachers to learn new skills; it is an investment in the success of your district and student outcomes.


Jumpstart Your Career With IMSE Today


IMSE is more than just a philosophy. We’ve spent decades working on the practical implementation of Orton-Gillingham and the science of reading in the classroom. If you are interested in learning more about how to implement approaches based on the science of reading in your classroom, contact IMSE today to learn more. With in-person and virtual opportunities available year-round and one-on-one access to a literacy coach, you can easily register your district or school for professional development training.


FAQs About Professional Development in the Science of Reading


What is the best training for the science of reading?

The best training for the science of reading is based on research-backed models that are a blend of structured learning and Orton-Gillingham literacy approaches. The integration of these high-level literacy approaches with the availability of flexible and accommodating course options indicates that a professional development resource will be beneficial in deepening your understanding of the science of reading and a wide range of essential topics such as phonemic awareness.


What is the professional goal of the science of reading?

The primary goal of the science of reading is to make sure students thrive in the classroom by mastering the essential skill of reading. In a time where many students — and even some adults — struggle with reading, educators must be equipped with effective teaching strategies. The science of reading is more valuable than ever to ensure all grade levels are set up for success and to learn how to read.


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