Evidence of Effectiveness
The evidence is in, and it is clear: The Wilson Reading System® (WRS), published for more than two decades, has been successfully implemented in public school districts, private clinics, and adult education settings across the country. Other Wilson programs, Fundations® for K-3, Just Words® for grades 4-12 and adult, and Wilson Fluency®/Basic, are based on these same proven WRS principles.
The following publications, citations, and studies provide Evidence of Effectiveness of Wilson® programs’ direct, explicit, and multisensory instruction. For more study results for each program, also visit the Fundations®, Just Words®, or Wilson Reading System® pages.
- Scientifically Based Research Studies
- State Reading Initiatives
- Evidence from Schools
Bursuck, W., & Dickson, S. (1999).
Implementing a model for preventing reading failure: A report from the field. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 14(4), 191-202. The Wilson Reading System® was selected for use in this study, which looked at models for improving reading instruction for at-risk students. Positive results were reported.
Clark, D., & Uhry, J. (1995).
Dyslexia: Theory and practice of remedial instruction. (Rev. ed.). Baltimore, MD: York Press. Chapter 23 describes the Wilson Reading System® in detail.
Mather, N., & Goldstein, S. (2001).
Learning disabilities and challenging behaviors – A guide to intervention and classroom management. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing Co. The Wilson Reading System® is referenced as an effective structured phonics program.
Mather, N., & Wendling, B. J. (2011).
Essentials of dyslexia assessment and intervention (Essentials of psychological assessment series). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. The authors include lengthy descriptions of all Wilson® programs as examples of “systematic programs for phonics, structural analysis, fluency, and spelling accuracy.”
McPeak, L., & Trygg, L. (2007).
The secondary literacy instruction and intervention guide. Mill Valley, CA: Stupski Foundation. The guide is intended to provide a replicable, district-level model that incorporates evidence-based and research-validated resources to meet the differentiated needs of struggling adolescents. It is designed around the context of the University of Kansas’ Content Literacy Continuum (CLC) model. Only programs that have met scientifically validated criteria are included in the matrix. The Wilson Reading System® is designated as part of the National Secondary Literacy Intervention Program Inventory.
Moats, L. (1998).
Reading, spelling and writing disabilities in the middle grades. In B. Wong (Ed.), Learning about learning disabilities (pp. 367-390). Orlando, FL: Academic Press. In this chapter, the Wilson Reading System® is highlighted as one of three exemplary programs for adolescent students.
National Literacy Project. (2006).
A resource guide for adolescent literacy: Prepared for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This guide outlines promising programs for struggling adolescent readers. The programs suggested in this guide are categorized by the competencies that they address and are described by criteria that can assist schools in selecting programs most beneficial for their students. The Wilson Reading System® (WRS) is included in the guide for phonics, fluency, and comprehension. In fact, WRS is the only program that the authors felt comfortable recommending for adolescent students with deficiencies in phonemic awareness and phonics.
Savage, J. F. (2004).
Sound it out! Phonics in a comprehensive reading program. New York: McGraw-Hill. The Wilson Reading System® and Fundations® are included as structured language programs that provide direct, explicit, systematic instruction.
Schwartz, R. (1998).
Using phonemic awareness with ESL students. Linkages. Washington, DC: National ALLD Center. This article discusses the benefits of teaching phonology to at-risk ESL students and uses Wilson Reading System® instruction.
Shanahan, C. (2005).
Adolescent literacy intervention programs: Chart and program review guide. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates. The Wilson Reading System® is identified as a comprehensive adolescent literacy intervention program.
Shaywitz, S. (2003).
Overcoming dyslexia: The new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Fundations® and the Wilson Reading System® are named as appropriate reading programs for students and adults with dyslexia.
Wilson, B. A. (1998).
Matching student needs to instruction. In S. Reder & S. Vogel (Eds.), Learning disabilities, literacy and adult education. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing Co. This book focuses on adults with severe learning disabilities and the educators who work with them.
Wilson, B. A. (1998).
The Wilson reading method, Part 1. Learning Disabilities Journal, 8(1), 12-13. (Please note that the Learning Disabilities Journal is now called Insights on Learning Disabilities: From Prevailing Theories to Validated Practices.) This article focuses on directly teaching sounds and the blending of sounds using multisensory, structured instruction.
Wilson, B. A. (1998).
The Wilson reading method, Part 2. Learning Disabilities Journal, 8(2), 21-22. (Please note that the Learning Disabilities Journal is now called Insights on Learning Disabilities: From Prevailing Theories to Validated Practices.) This article addresses directly, gradually, and cumulatively teaching word construction using the six syllable types once the student knows how to blend sounds and segment them.
Wilson, B. A. (1998).
The Wilson reading method, Part 3. Learning Disabilities Journal, 8(3), 15-16. (Please note that the Learning Disabilities Journal is now called Insights on Learning Disabilities: From Prevailing Theories to Validated Practices.) This article centers on how to teach students with language learning disabilities—not through memorizing rules but through multisensory instruction and practice until internalization is achieved.
Wilson, B. A. (1998).
The Wilson reading method, Part 4. Learning Disabilities Journal, 8(4), 19-20. Please note that the Learning Disabilities Journal is now called Insights on Learning Disabilities: From Prevailing Theories to Validated Practices.) This article describes a case study of a student who, “even with years of remedial assistance … still could not read and write sufficiently for success,” until he was instructed using MSL principles.
Wilson, B. A. (2011).
Instruction for older students with a word-level reading disability. In J. Birsh (Ed.), Multisensory teaching of basic language skills (3rd ed., pp. 487-516). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing Co. Provides a step-by-step guide for intensive instruction for older students that includes how to teach accuracy and automaticity of single-word reading; application of skills and fluency with controlled and decodable text; and development of vocabulary, background knowledge, and comprehension.
Wilson, B. A., & O’Connor, J. (1995).
Effectiveness of the Wilson Reading System® used in public school training. In C. McIntyre & J. Pickering (Eds.), Clinical studies of multisensory structured language education. Salem, OR: International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council. Results of study: After 62 lessons, 220 students in grades 3-12 had an average growth of 4.6 grade levels in Word Attack and 1.9 grade levels in Total Reading on the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test.
Wilson, B. A., & Schupack, H. (1997).
Reading, writing and spelling: The multisensory structured language approach. Baltimore, MD. International Dyslexia Association (IDA). This booklet is published by IDA as a part of The Orton Emeritus Series.
Education Commission of the States. (2002).
Reading/literacy—Programs and practices. Denver, CO: Author. The ECS reviewed the Wilson Reading System® and provided a description of the program. Please note, the review is not an endorsement by the Education Commission of the States. It is one of several reviews compiled to show the diversity of approaches schools are using to accomplish comprehensive reform.
Florida Center for Reading Research. (2003, 2004, 2007).
Tallahassee, FL: Author. The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) evaluated how reading curricula and materials align with current reading research. The Wilson Reading System®, Fundations®, and Wilson Fluency®/Basic were reviewed by the FCRR research committee. The reports outline how the Wilson® programs are aligned with research and list their strengths and weaknesses. No weaknesses were noted for any of these programs. Because the FCRR research committee no longer performs reviews, a report is not available for the most recent Wilson® program, Just Words®.
National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center. (1999).
Bridges to practice. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy (NIFL). A National ALLD Report Card for Instruction Materials for the Wilson Reading System® cites that the program meets the recommended standards.
National Institute for Literacy (NIFL).
The following National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) resources [now posted on the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) website] identify Wilson® as an appropriate program to use with adult learners with limited decoding skills.
Assessment strategies & reading profiles: Three reading profiles. (2007, November). After reviewing profiles of three adult learners, it was determined that for the individual with word-level deficits her “best hope for progress is with an individualized, sequential phonics program such as Lindamood or Wilson® along with continued independent reading.”
Webcasts from assessment to practice, Part 1: Research-based approaches to teaching reading to adults Q & A. (2007, November). Prepared by John Kruidenier, Rosalind Davidson, and Susan McShane for the National Institute for Literacy. The authors identify Wilson® as an exemplary program for teaching decoding with adults and recognize Wilson® as the most widely used such program for adults.
Adult reading components study (ARCS) (NCSALL Research Brief). (2003, November). Cambridge, MA: NCSALL. ARCS researchers J. Strucker and R. Davidson used cluster analysis to identify ten clusters—or profiles—from the 676 ARCS ABE participants. For ARCS Research Profile 9: Beginners and Research Profile 10: Beginners with Rate Impairment, the researchers outlined that “their best chance to progress is with a structured one-on-one phonics program such as Lindamood Bell, Orton Gillingham, or Wilson®, all of which can be adapted for small-group instruction.”
Peterson, C., Caverly, D., Nicholson, S., O’Neal, S., Cusenbary, S., & Southwest Texas State University. (2000).
Building reading proficiency at the secondary level: A guide to resources. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. The Wilson Reading System® is identified as a program that aligns with findings that build reading proficiency at the secondary level.
Southwest Education Development Laboratory and Harvard University. (2007).
Afterschool curriculum choice: Literacy resources. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. Developed by PEAR, the Program in Education, Afterschool and Resiliency at Harvard University, and the SEDL National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning, this online guide identifies resources selected based on proven use in afterschool settings. Fundations® and the Wilson Reading System® were included as high-quality literacy resources for afterschool programs.
Stern Center for Language and Learning. (2001).
TIME for teachers online for K-3 educators. Winooski, VT. Barbara Wilson is shown demonstrating Wilson Reading System® principles of syllable instruction as part of an online course designed to help teachers implement research-based best practices in reading instruction.
University of Georgia. (2000).
Teaching reading and functional writing to adults with learning disabilities—Basic level. (Video). Athens, GA: PBS Adult Learning Service. This two-hour video is the first of two PBS satellite events taking an integrated approach to teaching reading and writing to adults with learning disabilities. Demonstration lesson of the Wilson Reading System® with a group of adults is included.
Wake Forest University. (2002).
Pre- and post-intervention test data was analyzed by Wake Forest University Bowman School of Medicine. Results indicated that there was improvement across all Woodcock Reading Mastery subtests. Students with decoding deficits showed reading growth after 60 hours of direct, multisensory structured language teaching with the Wilson Reading System® (WRS). Word Attack subtests yielded an 11-point average improvement in age-referenced standards scores. WRS students showed a 5.78 standard score gain in the Total Reading Cluster after only 60 lessons. It was also found that the program is effective in urban schools, and that older students benefited from WRS intervention as much as younger students.
Wilson Language Training®. (1989-2011).
Wilson Reading System® (WRS) Level I Certification Reports. Pre-intervention and post-intervention test data is compiled in association with school district implementation. The pre-post test data has consistently demonstrated student improvement in all areas of reading on standardized test measures.
Duff, D., Stebbins, M. S., Stormont, M., Lembke, E. S., & Wilson, D. J. (2016).
Using curriculum-based measurement data to monitor the effectiveness of the Wilson Reading System® for students with disabilities: An exploratory study. International Journal on Disability and Human Development, 15(1), 93-100. This study confirmed the effectiveness of the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) in fostering fluency and comprehension skills among students with disabilities. Key findings demonstrated statistically significant growth in oral reading fluency and reading comprehension among students receiving one year of WRS as measured by AIMSweb curriculum-based measurement (R-CBM and R-MAZE). The study examined 51 students with disabilities in grades 2-7. Approximately 80% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch and 52% were minority students.
Guyer, B. P., Banks, S. R., & Guyer, K. E. (1993).
Spelling improvement by college students who are dyslexic. Annals of Dyslexia, 43, 186-193. A study determined Wilson® spelling [block] effective with college students with learning disabilities.
Keller, T. A. & Just, M. A. (2009).
Altering cortical connectivity: Remediation-induced changes in the white matter of poor readers. Neuron, 64, 624-631. In this clinical study, conducted at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University, Timothy A. Keller and Marcel Adam Just examined whether 100 hours of intensive remedial instruction affected the cerebral white matter of 8- to 10-year-old poor readers. The instruction resulted in significantly increased fractional anisotropy (FA) in the cerebral white matter. The FA increase was also correlated with improvement in phonological decoding ability. The Wilson Reading System® was one of the programs used in this study.
Meyler, A., Keller, T. A., Cherkassky, V. L., Gabrieli, J. D. E., & Just, M. A. (2008).
Modifying the brain activation of poor readers during sentence comprehension with extended remedial instruction: A longitudinal study of neuroplasticity. Neuropsychologia, 46, 2580-2592. This study, conducted at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University, used fMRI to gauge the impact of intensive remedial instruction on the brain. The study found that, with remedial instruction, the brain of a poor reader can be permanently rewired to function similarly to the brain of a good reader. The Wilson Reading System® was one of the programs selected to be used for instruction.
Stebbins, M. S., Stormont, M., Lembke, E. S., Wilson, D. J., & Clippard, D. (2012).
Monitoring the effectiveness of the Wilson Reading System® for students with disabilities: One district’s example. Exceptionality: A Special Education Journal, 20(1), 58-70. A school district published the results of their evaluation of the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) for use with 4th and 5th grade students who had an educational disability and who required special reading instruction based on their Individual Education Program (IEP). Prior to receiving WRS, these students had failed to make gains in reading skills in response to a balanced literacy program. This group of students received WRS instruction in addition to their balanced literacy program. During the two years they received WRS, growth in decoding, reading fluency, and reading comprehension was monitored, and appropriate and statistically significant gains in these areas were found. The researchers noted that, “One of the most significant findings in this study was the substantial growth in reading comprehension skills for these struggling readers … Given that these students had never shown average growth before this project began, we were encouraged by their success.” Students also demonstrated statistically significant gains in the rate and accuracy with which they read simple sentences. The school district concluded that WRS is appropriate for meeting the needs of students with an educational disability and who require special reading instruction.
Torgesen, J., Myers, D., Schirm, A., Stuart, E., Vartivarian, S., Mansfield, W., Stancavage, F., Durno, D., Javorsky, R., & Haan, C. (2006).
National assessment of Title I, Interim report. Volume II: Closing the reading gap: First year findings from a randomized trial of four reading interventions for striving readers (NCEE 2006-4002). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. An esteemed scientific advisory board selected the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) to be included in its landmark study that met scientifically rigorous design standards. In order to test a specific hypothesis about the impact of word-level instruction, researchers requested that the comprehension and vocabulary components of the WRS program be excluded. Therefore, WRS instruction in the study focused on word-level skills only, and WRS students in the study showed a significant impact in this domain. Further explanation from the researchers about the partial implementation of WRS can be found in the Interventions section of the online report.
What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). (2007).
WWC intervention report—Wilson Reading System® (WRS). Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. The Wilson Reading System® (WRS) was one of only 28 programs of 171 programs examined by What Works Clearinghouse that met evidence screens. WWC reports on previously completed studies but does not independently evaluate programs. The WRS rating is based solely on the Haan Foundation’s Closing the reading gap study. In this study, a modified version of WRS was implemented that focused only on the word-level components (Torgesen et al., 2006). The investigators reported statistically significant effects in the area of alphabetics. The statistical significance of these findings was confirmed by the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) and considered substantively important according to WWC criteria. It should be noted, however, that comprehension and vocabulary components of the Wilson Reading System® were not taught at the request of Torgesen et al. for the purposes of the study. Further explanation from the researchers about the partial implementation of WRS can be found in the Interventions section of the online report. As a result, the WWC fluency/comprehension rating is based on a modified version of the Wilson Reading System® where comprehension and vocabulary components were excluded. Wilson Language Training® has published a paper on Keys to Understanding the WWC Report.
International Dyslexia Association
The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) focuses on the complex issues of dyslexia, promoting effective teacher preparation and intervention strategies for students with dyslexia as one of their goals. Following an independent review process, Wilson Language Training® and Wilson® Accredited Partners received accreditation by the IDA as an Independent Teacher Training Program, indicating our alignment to IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. This recognition demonstrates that Wilson® certified educators are well-qualified to provide instruction to students with dyslexia based on recognized best practices and standards in the field.
Arizona: Reading Endorsement by Arizona Department of Education: K-8, 6-12, or K-12
In 2013, the Arizona Department of Education endorsed Wilson Reading System® (WRS) Certification as a professional learning program that satisfies Option B of the state’s requirements for the Reading Endorsement for reading or literacy specialists, coaches, and interventionists. WRS Certification satisfies the requirement of a supervised field experience or practicum in reading. It can be applied to Reading Endorsements for grades K-8, 6-12, and K-12.
California State Board of Education: Meeting Social Content Standards
Fundations®, Just Words®, the Wilson Reading System®, and Wilson Fluency®/Basic have been approved by the California State Board of Education as meeting the state’s social content standards.
Colorado: Approved Intervention Programs
The READ Act requires the Colorado Department of Education to identify quality reading instructional programs and professional development programs for optional use by local education agencies. Following the review process, the Wilson Reading System® was approved as an Intervention Program, Fundations® and Wilson Fluency®/Basic were approved as Supplemental Programs, and Wilson Language Training® was approved for Professional Development.
Louisiana: Law for the Education of Dyslexic Students
The Wilson Reading System® (WRS) is one of six multisensory structured language programs identified as an effective program in the remediation of dyslexia. WRS is listed as a suggested program in the implementation guidelines for the Louisiana Law for the Education of Dyslexic Students.
North Carolina: State Improvement Project
The purpose of the North Carolina State Improvement Project is to establish program support services to significantly improve the performance and success of students with disabilities in North Carolina. The Wilson Reading System® is one of the reading programs identified for implementation.
Ohio: Approved List of Research-Based Reading Instruction Programs
As part of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, the Ohio Department of Education reviewed programs to ensure that they aligned with the state’s reading competencies. The Wilson Reading System® was reviewed and added to the list of approved programs.
Pennsylvania: Governor’s Institute for Educator Partnerships on Reading
This Department of Education publication cites the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) as a resource to teach reading with structured phonics. It also includes the WRS Ten Critical Points.
Texas: Phonics Grant/Texas Regional Education Service Centers
The Wilson Reading System® and Fundations® are approved reading programs a school may select to support and enhance the implementation of the state Teacher Reading Academies for Grades K-3.
Profiled by the RTI Action Network, Salisbury Elementary School is a Title I school in the Triton Regional School District (MA) with 575 students from pre-k through grade 6. Students with disabilities make up 12% of the population. Teachers and administrators embarked on a process for organizing student success in literacy by using Fundations® to implement a multi-tiered system of supports.
Public School 380 in Brooklyn, NY, was also profiled by the RTI Action Network for improved student outcomes and a reduction in unnecessary referrals to special education as a result of establishing an RTI framework using Fundations® in Tiers 1 and 2.
Principal Sharon Olken and Reading Specialist Marlies McCallum of Gateway High School in San Francisco, CA, explain how they help struggling readers by identifying their needs and providing interventions with the Wilson Reading System® (WRS). Gateway High School was profiled in the U.S. Department of Education program, Doing What Works, for implementing WRS as a research-based instructional practice.