The instructional materials reviewed for Express Readers Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2 partially meet the criteria for alignment to standards and research-based practices for foundational skills instruction. The instructional materials use an analytic approach to phonics. Materials include a scope and sequence that clearly delineates an intentional sequence in which phonics skills are to be taught, but not phonological skills. There is an absence of evidence that the sequence introduced was built upon a research-based explanation. Instructional materials include explicit instruction in letter identification and formation and provide limited instruction in general concepts of print. Materials provide limited systematic and explicit instructions for phonological awareness and student practice opportunities (K-1). Materials include repeated teacher modeling of each newly taught letter and sound by providing consistent instructional routines to learn the letters and sounds; however, some phonics skills do not consistently include explicit instruction and contain limited examples and limited modeling of the skill from the teacher. Materials include opportunities for students to decode phonetically regular words in the sentence-solving activities, which occur one time per five-day instructional sequence. Some instructional guidance is available for teachers to help students in self-correcting procedures; however, there is a lack of direct, systematic practice for decoding words. Materials include a list of high-frequency words called Sticky Words for each step of the program. Materials provide opportunities for explicit, systematic instruction in fluency elements; however, there is a lack of evidence regarding explicit instructions in fluency beyond the initial modeling by the teacher. Materials include decodable readers that align to the phonics scope and sequence but partially align to the scope and sequence of the high-frequency words.
The ELA foundational skills rubric contains only two gateways: Alignment to Standards and Research-Based Practices for Foundational Skills Instruction (Gateway 1) and Implementation, Support Materials & Assessment (Gateway 2). The structural pieces that we normally review as a part of Gateway 3 (e.g. differentiation) in our comprehensive reviews are critical to the success of a program, and are, therefore, interspersed and combined with other indicators in Gateway 2.