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Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Evidence-based Reading Instruction (EBRI)/STAR

Evidence-Based Reading Instruction (EBRI) refers to "practices for teaching the essential components of reading that are proven to increase the reading achievement of adult learners" (Reading Excellence Act, 1999). The four essential components of reading are1:

  • Alphabetics, including phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding, is the process readers use to identify words. Readers must rely on alphabetic knowledge and decoding skills to read unfamiliar words.
  • Fluency is the ability to read accurately, at an appropriate rate, and with prosody. Without fluency, readers attend more to decoding than to understanding the meaning of what they are reading. When word and sentence reading are automatic and fluent, readers can concentrate more fully on understanding and connecting sentences and paragraphs, enabling them to create meaning from the text. Reading fluency includes oral reading skills.
  • Vocabulary is the body of words whose meanings a person knows and understands. Vocabulary knowledge-specifically, the depth, breadth, and flexibility of a person's knowledge about words-is a primary predictor of reading success.
  • Reading comprehension is the process and product of understanding text, and requires a high level of metacognitive engagement with text.

"The success of these [EBRI] practices is demonstrated in two ways: by research-study data collected according to rigorous design, and also by consensus among expert practitioners who monitor outcomes as part of their practice. These results-whether scientific data or expert consensus-must be valid and reliable and come from a variety of sources." (Reading Excellence Act, 1999).

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) requires that "the essential components of reading" be incorporated into instruction. The Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education's (OCTAE) WIOA Brief on the Essential Components of Reading further states that "it is important to understand that none of the essential components of reading alone is sufficient. The learner must also be assessed and provided with appropriate instruction based on the results of their individual diagnostic and formative assessment. Reading components are the foundation of the ultimate goal of helping students learn from challenging, complex texts in postsecondary education and training and for lifelong learning."

Research has also identified the following EBRI best practices when teaching the essential components of reading:

  • Use of diagnostic reading assessments to determine and prioritize individual learners' areas of strengths and needs in the four components, as stated in the WIOA Brief;
  • Provision of direct and explicit instruction, using the most relevant EBRI techniques suited to the specific levels of instruction for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students;
  • Instruction and materials that are engaging and relevant to learners' needs; and
  • Instruction that is formatively assessed and continuously monitored by teacher and learners to gauge its effectiveness.

WIOA requires that ABE curriculum and instruction provide explicit and systematic instruction on the essential components of reading to adult learners at all levels, GLE 0-12.

Download MS WORD Document
Provision of Instruction in the Essential Components of Reading: Guidance to Prepare for FY18
Download MS WORD Document
Evidence-based Reading Instruction Q&A
View External Link
WIOA Brief Essential Components of Reading
Download PowerPoint Presentation
Strengthening Reading Instruction Using EBRI: 2017 Directors' Meeting PowerPoint

Massachusetts' STAR Initiative

The STAR (Student Achievement in Reading) initiative is a national professional development (PD) program focused on building the reading skills of intermediate level (GLE 4-8) adult learners. The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) of the U.S. Department of Education developed STAR in 2006 and continues to promote its use. Programs opting to use the STAR model must participate in the STAR training and complete all training components in order to maintain fidelity to the evidence base.

STAR is based on years of research in reading methodology which found that intermediate level adult learners struggle with one or more reading components, or skill areas: alphabetics, fluency, vocabulary, and/or comprehension. An EBRI approach requires teachers to use diagnostic assessments to identify their students' individual strengths and weaknesses and target reading instruction accordingly.

The STAR (STudent Achievement in Reading)* vision is to establish structures and practices at the classroom, program, and state levels to support evidence-based reading instruction that result in increased learner outcomes. STAR structures and practices include:

  • Providing evidence-based reading instruction for intermediate level learners;
  • Conducting diagnostic assessments;
  • Grouping students according to instructional needs and organizing an instructional reading routine; and
  • Planning and delivering instruction in fluency, alphabetics, vocabulary, and comprehension that is:
    • Responsive to student needs identified through diagnostic assessment;
    • Delivered through explicit instruction;
    • Based on evidence-based instructional practices; and
    • Monitored and adjusted as students' needs change.

* This vision statement was developed by national STAR.

For more information on the STAR initiative, see the SABES PD Center for ELA's STAR page, the LINCS Student Achievement in Reading website, funded by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) of the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Student Achievement in Reading website.

Questions? Please contact Jane Schwerdtfeger, Curriculum Specialist in Adult and Community Learning Services, at




Last Updated: October 18, 2017
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