top of page

The Research Roundup 

Always in process and subject to change


It is often difficult to find the kind of evidence about curricular programs and tools that would provide easy answers about what to use, when, how and for whom in order to ensure positive, powerful, equitable outcomes. And yet, these are the most important questions to ask when evaluating current tools and considering alternatives. Though there are many online resources that rate products and programs, no single resource has ratings for all programs, and many programs do not have enough available evidence to rate efficacy.


For cases with limited evidence to rate or synthesize, a “Research Roundup” collects what is available, names patterns, and demonstrates what is known and not yet known.  The goal is not to summarize and give advice because there isn’t enough evidence to do that responsibly.  The goal is to collect and display what is known so far.  


A Research Roundup summarizes and links to all available empirical evidence (that which included some measurement), summarizes the variables that were measured, and shares annotated abstracts to highlight key findings.  They are always works in progress as additional evidence is generated and shared.  Therefore, the date of the latest update is shared as well. 


Research Roundup: LETRS



Language Essentials for Teaching Reading and Spelling (LETRS) is an IDA-accredited professional development program, which has been adopted by several states as required professional development for teachers in early grades, and recommended as such in many more.  Many educators across the country have already experienced the training and developed their own informed perspectives on its value and utility.  


This Research Roundup summarizes currently available research evidence on the impact of LETRS training.  


Total studies found: 5

Measured variables: teacher knowledge, instructional strategies, classroom management, teacher’s instructional reading practice, student engagement, student achievement, teacher impressions of training


Nature of evidence:  3 dissertations, 2 reports, 1 review, 0 peer-reviewed studies


Dissertations (3):  2 found no evidence of a positive impact on teachers or student achievement found, 1 had no reportable results related to the program. 


Houser, A. (2021) Effects of the LETRS® Reading Professional Development on Teachers’ Self-Efficacy and Reading Instruction


The study was conducted with a convenience sample comprised of 174 teachers who completed the Teachers’ Sense of Efficacy Scale and the Framework for Teaching. Four research questions asked about differences between the compared groups in terms of four dependent variables. The results of nonparametric Mann-Whitney U tests found statistically nonsignificant differences between the compared groups in terms of student engagement subscale (U = 3270.5, p = 0.12), instructional strategies (U = 3520, p = 0.42), classroom management (U = 3581.5, p = 0.54), and teachers’ instructional reading practice (U = 3539, p = 0.46). The results found no evidence of the effectiveness of the LETRS® professional development in terms of the four dependent measures.


Tillman, T. (2018) Improving Reading Achievement at Greenleaf Upper Elementary School: A Mixed Methods Study


Professional development was used to determine if student achievement in reading would increase at the assigned school. Third-grade teachers completed face-to-face as well as online training in the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS). Third-grade teachers implemented the LETRS strategy to the students who performed in the bottom quartile in an effort to increase student achievement in reading. Due to the implementation of a new core reading program at the assigned school during LETRS implementation, a determination could not be made if the LETRS strategy or the new core reading program (Collaborative Classroom) attributed to the increase in students’ yielded growth upon analysis of the students’ STAR reading cut scale scores.


Vogelsang, Danielle C., "A First Year Program Evaluation of Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling: The Effect on Student Achievement and Teacher Perception" (2009). Dissertations. 626.


The study also focused on the perceived effectiveness of the LETRS professional development opportunities provided to teachers as determined by surveys and roundtable discussions. Data from the Lincoln County R-III and Warren County R-III School District MAP tests, survey questionnaires, and roundtable discussions were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The data were analyzed together in order to combine the results and interpret them. Triangulation was achieved by utilizing survey results and the roundtable discussions in order to determine future outcomes for integrating LETRS into reading instruction. No statistically significant difference was found between the student achievement of the LETRS school district, Lincoln County R-III, and the non-LETRS school district, Warren County R-III. Qualitative data revealed that teachers in the LETRS school district believed that barriers to the implementation of professional development existed. These barriers included time out of the teacher’s classroom, the presentation of the material by the LETRS facilitators, and the lack of real-world application with the LETRS strategies.


Research reviews: (1) WWC based on a single randomized control trial: no effect on student achievement

ERIC - ED503728 - WWC Quick Review of the Report "The Impact of Two Professional Development Interventions on Early Reading Instruction and Achievement", What Works Clearinghouse, 2008-Dec

The authors examined data on more than 5,000 second graders from ninety elementary schools in four states during the 2005-06 school year. Study schools were randomly assigned to one of three groups: one in which teachers received training following the "LETRS" curriculum, another where they received the "LETRS" training as well as ongoing instructional coaching, and a third where the teachers received the standard professional development available in their district. Thirty schools were assigned to each research group. The study measured effects by comparing the standardized reading test scores of students from each of the three groups of schools. Study authors reported that providing second-grade teachers reading instruction training using the "LETRS" curriculum (with or without the instructional coaches) did not increase the reading test scores of their students.


Research reports (2): 1 found no effect on student achievement, 1 found an impact on teacher knowledge and ratings of instructional practice (compared to no PD), but not student achievement

  1. The Impact of Two Professional Development Interventions on Early Reading Instruction and Achievement 


  1. Educator Outcomes Associated with Implementation of Mississippi's K-3 Early Literacy Professional Development Initiative. REL 2017-270, Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast, 2017-Apr


Written by Dr. Rachael Gabriel

Last Edited: 2022-04-28

bottom of page