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Reading Research Quarterly


The demand for evidence-based instructional practices has driven a large

supply of research on adolescent literacy. Documenting this supply, Baye,

Inns, Lake, and Slavin’s 2019 article in Reading Research Quarterly synthesized

far more studies, with far more rigorous methodology, than had ever

been collected before. What does this mean for practice? Inspired by this article,

I investigated how this synthesis compared with the 2008 U.S. Institute of

Education Sciences practice guide for adolescent literacy. I also include two

contemporary documents for context: Herrera, Truckenmiller, and Foorman’s

(2016) review and the U.K. Education Endowment Foundation’s 2019 practice

guide for secondary schools. I first examine how these documents define

adolescent, reading, and evidence, and propose more inclusive definitions. I

then compare their respective evidence bases, finding that the quality and

quantity of evidence have dramatically changed. Only one of the 34 studies in

the 2008 U.S. practice guide met Baye et al.’s inclusion criteria in 2019, and

the average sample size in Baye et al.’s studies was 22 times as large as those

in the 2008 U.S. practice guide. I also examine the potential implications for

a new practice guide’s instructional recommendations and comment on the

expansion of research in technology, disciplinary literacy, and writing—topics

scarcely covered in the 2008 U.S. practice guide but which have been extensively

researched since then. Finally, I call for revision of the U.S. practice

guide and the establishment of standing committees on adolescent literacy to

help educators translate the latest research findings into updated practices.

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