Disclaimer & Standards

The International Dyslexia Association supports efforts to provide individuals with dyslexia with appropriate instruction and to identify these individuals at an early age.

The Association believes that multisensory structured language teaching is the best approach currently available for those affected by dyslexia. The Association, however, does not endorse any specific program, speaker or instructional materials, noting that there are a number that present the critical components of instruction as defined by current standards of research-based evidence on reading as specified by the Department of Education 2003 and the National Reading Panel (NRP) 2003.


Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading International Dyslexia Association

Executive Summary

Reading Difficulties, Including Dyslexia, Are Very Common
Reading difficulties are the most common cause of academic failure and underachievement. Learning to read and write is not natural or easy for many—if not most—students, especially those with dyslexia and related language problems. The National Assessment of Educational Progress consistently finds that about 36% of all fourth graders read at a level described as “below basic.” Between 15 and 20% of young students are doomed to academic failure because of reading and language processing weaknesses, unless those weaknesses are recognized early and treated skillfully. Another 20–30% are at risk for inadequate reading and writing development, depending on how—and how well—they are taught. Most of these at‐risk students are ineligible for special education services and are dependent on the instruction given in the regular classroom or other supplementary services. However, of those students who are referred to special education services in public schools, approximately 85% are having severe difficulties with language, reading, and writing. Clearly, responsibility for teaching reading and writing must be shared by classroom teachers, reading specialists, and special education personnel.

Effective Instruction Is Key
Although dyslexia and related reading and language problems may originate with neurobiological differences, they are mainly treated with skilled teaching. Informed and effective classroom instruction, especially in the early grades, can prevent  or at least effectively address and limit the severity of reading and writing problems. Potential reading failure can be recognized as early as preschool and kindergarten, if not sooner. A large body of research evidence shows that with appropriate, intensive instruction, all but the most severe reading disabilities can be ameliorated in the early grades and students can get on track toward academic success. For those students with persistent dyslexia who need specialized instruction outside of the regular class, competent intervention from a specialist can lessen the impact of the disorder and help the student overcome and manage the most debilitating symptoms. What is the nature of effective instruction for students at risk? The methods supported by research are those that are explicit, systematic, cumulative, and multisensory, in that they integrate listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The content of effective instruction emphasizes the structure of language, including the speech sound system (phonology), the writing system (orthography), the structure of sentences (syntax), the meaningful parts of words (morphology), meaning relationships among words and their referents (semantics), and the organization of spoken and written discourse. The strategies emphasize planning, organization, attention to task, critical thinking, and self‐management. While all such aspects of teaching are essential for students with dyslexia, these strategies also enhance the potential of all students.

Are Teachers Prepared?
Teaching language, reading, and writing effectively, especially to students experiencing difficulty, requires considerable knowledge and skill. Regrettably, the licensing and professional development practices currently endorsed by many states are insufficient for the preparation and support of teachers and specialists. Researchers are finding that those with reading specialist and special education licenses often know no more about research‐based, effective practices than those with general education teaching licenses. The majority of practitioners at all levels have not been prepared in sufficient depth to prevent reading problems, to recognize early signs of risk, or to teach students with dyslexia and related learning disabilities successfully. Inquiries into teacher preparation in reading have revealed a pervasive absence of rich content and academic rigor in many courses that lead to certification of teachers and specialists. Analyses of teacher licensing tests show that typically, very few are aligned with current research on effective instruction for students at risk. When tests are aligned with scientific research, far too many teacher candidates are unable to pass them. To address these gaps and promote more rigorous, meaningful, and effective teacher preparation and professional development, IDA has adopted this set of knowledge and practice standards.

Standards for Practice
IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading provide a content framework for courses and course sequences. In addition, they delineate proficiency requirements for practical application of this content (e.g., interpretation of assessments, delivery of differentiated instruction, and successful intervention with a child or adult with a reading disability). The first section specifies what all teachers of reading should know and be able to do, as well as ethical standards for the profession. The second section offers guidelines for the additional practical teaching skills necessary for teaching students with dyslexia and related difficulties. The standards are organized and presented in the following order:

SECTION I: Knowledge and Practice Standards
1. Foundation Concepts about Oral and Written Language Learning
2. Knowledge of the Structure of Language
3. Knowledge of Dyslexia and Other Learning Disorders
4. Interpretation and Administration of Assessments for Planning Instruction
5. Structured Language Teaching:
1. Phonology
2. Phonics and Word Study
3. Fluent, Automatic Reading of Text
4. Vocabulary
5. Text Comprehension
6. Handwriting, Spelling, Written Expression
6. Ethical Standards for the Profession

SECTION II: Guidelines Pertaining to Supervised Practice of Teachers of Students with Documented Reading Disabilities or Dyslexia Who Work in School, Clinical, or Private Practice Settings
A. Level I expectations for teachers.
B. Level II expectations for specialists.

Guidance and Support for Teachers
In summary, learning to teach reading, language, and writing is a complex undertaking. The competence and expertise of teachers can be nourished with training that emphasizes the study of reading development, language, and individual differences. In addition, teachers need supervised practice opportunities to be successful, especially if they are responsible for students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. If teachers are better prepared, the impact of reading difficulties, including dyslexia, will be lessened and many more students will receive the instruction and support that they require to reach their potential. We owe them no less.


Knowledge and Practice Standards for  Teachers of Reading

International Dyslexia Association, Professional Standards and Practices Committee


Louisa Moats, Committee Chair

Suzanne Carreker

Rosalie Davis

Phyllis Meisel

Louise Spear‐Swerling

Barbara Wilson



Purpose of These Standards
The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) offers these standards to guide the preparation, certification, and professional development of those who teach reading and related literacy skills in classroom, remedial, and clinical settings. The term teacher is used throughout this document to refer to any person whose responsibilities include reading instruction. The standards aim to specify what any individual responsible for teaching reading should know and be able to do so that reading difficulties, including dyslexia, may be prevented, alleviated, or remediated. In addition, the standards seek to differentiate classroom teachers from therapists or specialists who are qualified to work with the most challenging students. Although programs that certify or support teachers, clinicians, or specialists differ in their preparation methodologies, teaching approaches, and organizational purposes, they should ascribe to a common set of professional standards for the benefit of the students they serve. Compliance with these standards should assure the public that individuals who teach in public and private schools, as well as those who teach in clinics, are prepared to implement scientifically based and clinically proven practices.

Background: Why These Standards Are Necessary
Reading difficulties are the most common cause of academic failure and underachievement. The National Assessment of Educational Progress consistently finds that about 36% of all fourth graders read at a level described as “below basic.” Between 15 and 20% of young students demonstrate significant weaknesses with language processes, including but not limited to phonological processing, that are the root cause of dyslexia and related learning difficulties. Of those who are referred to special education services in public schools, approximately 85% are referred because of their problems with language, reading, and/or writing. Informed and effective classroom instruction, especially in the early grades, can prevent and relieve the severity of many of these problems. For those students with dyslexia who need specialized instruction outside of the regular class, competent intervention from a specialist can lessen the impact of the disorder and help the student overcome the most debilitating symptoms.

Teaching reading effectively, especially to students experiencing difficulty, requires considerable knowledge and skill. Regrettably, current licensing and professional development practices endorsed by many states are insufficient for the preparation and support of teachers and specialists. Researchers are finding that those with reading specialist and special education licenses often know no more about research‐based, effective practices than those with a general education teaching license. The majority of practitioners at all levels have not been prepared in sufficient depth to recognize early signs of risk, to prevent reading problems, or to teach students with dyslexia and related learning disabilities successfully. Inquiries into teacher preparation in reading have a revealed a pervasive absence of substantive content and academic rigor in many courses that lead to certification of teachers and specialists. Analyses of teacher licensing tests show that typically, very few are aligned with current research on effective instruction for students at risk. To address these gaps, IDA has adopted these standards for knowledge, practice, and ethical conduct.

Research‐based Assumptions about Dyslexia and Other Reading Difficulties
These standards are broadly constructed to address the knowledge and skill base for teaching reading in preventive, intervention, and remedial settings. Underlying the standards are assumptions about the nature, prevalence, manifestations, and treatments for dyslexia that are supported by research and by accepted diagnostic guidelines. These assumptions characterize dyslexia in relation to other reading problems and

learning difficulties, as follows:

  •  Dyslexia is a language‐based disorder of learning to read and write originating from a core or basic

problem with phonological processing intrinsic to the individual. Its primary symptoms are inaccurate

and/or slow printed word recognition and poor spelling – problems that in turn affect reading fluency

and comprehension and written expression. Other types of reading disabilities include specific

difficulties with reading comprehension and/or speed of processing (reading fluency). These problems

may exist in relative isolation or may overlap extensively in individuals with reading difficulties.

  • Dyslexia often exists in individuals with aptitudes, talents, and abilities that enable them to be

successful in many domains.

  • Dyslexia often coexists with other developmental difficulties and disabilities, including problems with

attention, memory, and executive function.

  • Dyslexia exists on a continuum. Many students with milder forms of dyslexia are never officially

diagnosed and are not eligible for special education services. They deserve appropriate instruction in

the regular classroom and through other intervention programs.

  • Appropriate recognition and treatment of dyslexia is the responsibility of all educators and support

personnel in a school system, not just the reading or special education teacher.

  • Although early intervention is the most effective approach, individuals with dyslexia and other reading

difficulties can be helped at any age.

How to Use These Standards
The standards outline the 1) content knowledge necessary to teach reading and writing to students with dyslexia or related disorders or who are at risk for reading difficulty; 2) practices of effective instruction; and 3) ethical conduct expected of professional educators and clinicians. Regular classroom teachers should also havethe foundational knowledge of language, literacy development, and individual differences because they share responsibility for preventing and ameliorating reading problems.

The standards may be used for several purposes, including but not limited to:  

 course design within teacher certification programs;

 practicum requirements within certification programs;

 criteria for membership in IDA’s coalition of organizations that provide training and supervision of teachers, tutors, and specialists (note that additional requirements for membership are to be determined);

 criteria for the preparation of those professionals receiving referrals through IDA offices; and

 a content framework for the development of licensing or certification examinations.

How to Read the Standards
The Standards include two major sections. Section I addresses foundation concepts, knowledge of language structure, knowledge of dyslexia and other learning disorders, administration and interpretation of assessments, the principles of structured language teaching, and ethical standards for the profession. Section II addresses skills to be demonstrated in supervised practice. In Section I, Standards A, B, C, and E are presented in two columns. The column on the left refers to content knowledge that can be learned and tested independent of observed teaching competency. The column on the right delineates the practical skills of teaching that depend on or that are driven by content knowledge. The exception to this format is Standard D. It includes a third column on the right that specifies in greater detail what the teacher or specialist should be able to do.Many of the standards are followed by the designation of (Level1) or (Level 2). These designations indicate whether the standard should be met by novice teachers in training (Level 1) or by specialists with more experience and greater expertise (Level 2). In Section II, the recommended standards for preparation of teachers and specialists are distinguished by these two levels.


Bos, C., Mather, N., Dickson, S., Podhajski, B., & Chard, D. (2001). Perceptions and knowledge of preservice and inservice educators about early reading instruction. Annals of Dyslexia, 51, 97–120. Cunningham, A. E., Perry, K. E., Stanovich, K. E., & Stanovich, P. J. (2004). Disciplinary knowledge of K‐3 teachers and their knowledge calibration in the domain of early literacy. Annals of Dyslexia, 54, 139–167. Joshi, R. M., Binks, E., Hougen, M., Ocker‐Dean, E., Graham, L., & Smith, D. (2009). Teachers’ knowledge of basic linguistic skills: Where does it come from? In S. Rosenfield & V. Berninger (Eds.), Handbook on implementing evidence based academic interventions (pp. 851–877). New York: Oxford University Press. McCutchen, D., Harry, D. R., Cunningham, A. E., Cox, S., Sidman, S., & Covill, A. E. (2002). Reading teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature and English phonology. Annals of Dyslexia, 52, 207–228. Moats, L. C. (1994). The missing foundation in teacher education: Knowledge of the structure of spoken and written language.  Annals of Dyslexia, 44, 81–102. Moats, L. C., & Foorman, B. R. (2003). Measuring teachers’ content knowledge of language and reading. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 23–45. Piasta, S. B., Connor, C. M., Fishman, B. J., & Morrison, F. J. (2009). Teachers’ knowledge of literacy concepts, classroom practices, and student reading growth. Scientific Studies of Reading, 13(3), 224–248. Smartt, S. M., & Reschly, D. J. (2007). Barriers to the preparation of highly qualified teachers in reading. Washington, DC: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Spear‐Swerling, L. (2008). Response to intervention and teacher preparation. In E. Grigorenko (Ed.), Educating individuals with disabilities: IDEA 2004 and beyond (pp. 273–293). New York: Springer. Spear‐Swerling, L., Brucker, P., & Alfano, M. (2005). Teachers’ literacy‐related knowledge and self‐perceptions in relation to preparation and experience. Annals of Dyslexia, 55, 266–293. Walsh, K., Glaser, D., & Wilcox, D. D. (2006). What education schools aren’t teaching about reading and what elementary teachers aren’t learning. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality


A. Foundation Concepts about Oral and Written Learning

Content Knowledge

1. Understand and explain the language processing requirements of proficient reading and writing
 Phonological (speech sound) processing
 Orthographic (print) processing
 Semantic (meaning) processing
 Syntactic (sentence level) processing
 Discourse (connected text level) processing

2. Understand and explain other aspects of cognition and behavior that affect reading and writing
 Attention
 Executive function
 Memory
 Processing speed
 Graphomotor control

3. Define and identify environmental, cultural, and social factors that contribute to literacy development (e.g., language spoken at home, language and literacy experiences, cultural values).

4. Know and identify phases in the typical developmental progression of
 Oral language (semantic, syntactic,
 Phonological skill
 Printed word recognition
 Spelling
 Reading fluency
 Reading comprehension
 Written expression

5. Understand and explain the known causal relationships among phonological skill, phonic decoding, spelling, accurate and automatic word recognition, text reading fluency, background knowledge, verbal reasoning skill, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and writing.

6. Know and explain how the relationships among the major components of literacy development change with reading development (i.e., changes in oral language, including phonological awareness; phonics and word recognition; spelling; reading and writing fluency; vocabulary; reading comprehension skills and strategies; written expression).

7. Know reasonable goals and expectations for learners at various stages of reading and writing development.


1. a.  Explain the domains of language and their importance to proficient reading and writing
(Level 1).
b.  Explain a scientifically valid model of the language processes underlying reading and writing (Level 2).

2. a.  Recognize that reading difficulties coexist with other cognitive and behavioral problems (Level 1).
b.  Explain a scientifically valid model of other cognitive influences on reading and writing, and explain major research findings regarding the contribution of linguistic and cognitive factors to the prediction of literacy outcomes (Level 2).

3. Identify (Level 1) or explain (Level 2) major research findings regarding the contribution of environmental factors to literacy outcomes.

4. Match examples of student responses and learning behavior to phases in language and literacy development (Level 1).

5. Explain how a weakness in each component skill of oral language, reading, and writing may affect other related skills and processes across time (Level 2).

6. Identify the most salient instructional needs of students who are at different points of reading and writing development (Level 2).

7. Given case study material, explain why a student is/is not meeting goals and expectations in reading or writing for his or her age/grade (Level 1).

Explanatory Notes
An extensive research base exists on the abilities that are important in learning to read and write, including how these abilities interact with each other, how they are influenced by experience, and how they change across development. Teachers’ knowledge of this research base is an essential foundation for the competencies and
skills described in subsequent sections of this document.
Level 1
Adams, M. (1990). Beginning to read: Learning and thinking about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Bickart, T. (1998). Summary report of preventing reading difficulties in young children (National Academy of
Sciences). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children.
Baltimore: Brookes.
National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence‐based assessment of the scientific
research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC: National
Institutes of Health.
Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia: A new and complete science‐based program for reading problems at
any level. New York: Knopf.
Snow, C., Griffin, P., & Burns, S. (2006). Knowledge to support the teaching of reading. San Francisco: Jossey‐
Spear‐Swerling, L., & Sternberg, R. J. (2001). What science offers teachers of reading. Learning Disabilities
Research & Practice, 16, 51‐57.
Level 2
Adams, M. J. (1998). The three‐cueing system. In F. Lehr & J. Osborn (Eds.), Literacy for all: Issues in teaching and
learning (pp. 73–99). New York: Guilford Press.
Crawford, E. C., & Torgesen, J. K. (2006, July). Teaching all children to read: Practices from Reading First schools
with strong intervention outcomes. Presented at the Florida Principal’s Leadership Conference, Orlando.
Retrievable from http://www.fcrr.org/science/sciencePresentationscrawford.ht
Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1997). Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and
ability ten years later. Developmental Psychology, 33, 934–945.
Denton, C. A., Fletcher, J. M., Anthony, J. L., & Francis, D. J. (2006). An evaluation of intensive intervention for
students with persistent reading difficulties. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39, 447–466.
Denton, C., Foorman, B., & Mathes, P. (2003). Schools that “Beat the Odds”: Implications for reading instruction.Remedial and Special Education, 24, 258–261.
Denton, C., Vaughn, S., & Fletcher, J. (2003). Bringing research‐based practice in reading intervention to scale.
Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 18, 201–211.
Fletcher, J. M., Lyon, G. R., Fuchs, L. S., & Barnes, M. A. (2007). Learning disabilities: From identification to
intervention. New York: Guilford Press.
Genesee, F., Paradis, J., & Crago, M. (2004). Dual language development & disorders: A handbook on
bilingualism & second language learning. Baltimore: Brookes.
McCardle, P., & Chhabra, V. (2004). The voice of evidence in reading research. Baltimore: Brookes.
Rayner, K., & Pollatsek, A. (1989) The Psychology of Reading Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Spear‐Swerling, L. (2004). A
road map for understanding reading disability and other reading problems: Origins, intervention, and
prevention. In R. Ruddell & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading: Vol. 5. Newark,
DE: International Reading Association.
Stanovich, K. E. (2000). Progress in understanding reading: Scientific foundations and new frontiers. New York:
Guilford Press.
Stone, A. C., Silliman, E. R., Ehren, B. J., & Apel, K. (Eds.). (2004). Handbook of language and literacy:
Development and disorders. New York: Guilford Press.
Vellutino, F. R., Tunmer, W. E., Jaccard, J. J., & Chen, R. (2007). Components of reading ability: Multivariate
evidence for a convergent skills model of reading development. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11(1), 3–32.


B. Knowledge of the Structure of Language

Content Knowledge

Phonology (The Speech Sound System)
1. Identify, pronounce, classify, and compare the consonant and vowel phonemes of English.

Orthography (The Spelling System)
2. Understand the broad outline of historical
influences on English spelling patterns, especially
Anglo‐Saxon, Latin (Romance), and Greek.

3. Define grapheme as a functional correspondence unit or representation of a phoneme.

4. Recognize and explain common orthographic rules and patterns in English.

5. Know the difference between “high frequency” and “irregular” words.

6. Identify, explain, and categorize six basic syllable types in English spelling.

7. Identify and categorize common morphemes in English, including Anglo‐Saxon compounds, inflectional suffixes, and derivational suffixes; Latin‐based prefixes, roots, and derivational suffixes; and Greek‐based combining forms.

8. Understand and identify examples of meaningful word relationships or semantic organization.

9. Define and distinguish among phrases, dependent clauses, and independent clauses in sentence structure.

10. Identify the parts of speech and the grammatical role of a word in a sentence.

Discourse Organization
11. Explain the major differences between narrative and expository discourse.

12. Identify and construct expository paragraphs of varying logical structures (e.g., classification, reason, sequence).

13. Identify cohesive devices in text and inferential gaps in the surface language of text.


1. a.   Identify similar or contrasting features among phonemes (Level 1).
b.   Reconstruct the consonant and vowel phoneme inventories and identify the feature differences between and among phonemes (Level 2).

2. Recognize typical words from the historical layers of English (Anglo‐Saxon, Latin/Romance, Greek) (Level 1).

3. Accurately map graphemes to phonemes in any English word (Level 1).

4. Sort words by orthographic “choice” pattern; analyze words by suffix ending patterns and apply suffix ending rules.

5. Identify printed words that are the exception to regular patterns and spelling principles; sort high frequency words into regular and exception words (Level 1).

6. Sort, pronounce, and combine regular written syllables and apply the most productive syllable division principles (Level 1).

7. a.  Recognize the most common prefixes, roots, suffixes, and combining forms in English content words, and analyze words at both the syllable and morpheme levels (Level 1).
b.  Recognize advanced morphemes (e.g., chameleon prefixes) (Level 2).

8. Match or identify examples of word associations, antonyms, synonyms, multiple meanings and uses, semantic overlap, and semantic feature analysis (Level 1).

9. Construct and deconstruct simple, complex, and compound sentences (Level 1).

10. a.  Identify the basic parts of speech and classify words by their grammatical role in a sentence (Level 1).
b.  Identify advanced grammatical concepts (e.g., infinitives, gerunds) (Level 2).

11. Classify text by genre; identify features that are characteristic of each genre, and identify graphic organizers that characterize typical structures (Level 1).

12. Identify main idea sentences, connecting words, and topics that fit each type of expository paragraph organization (Level 2).

13. Analyze text for the purpose of identifying the inferences that students must make to comprehend (Level 2).

Explanatory Notes
Formal knowledge about the structure of language—recognizing, for example, whether words are phonetically regular or irregular; common morphemes in words; and common sentence structures in English—is not an automatic consequence of high levels of adult literacy. However, without this kind of knowledge, teachers may
have difficulty interpreting assessments correctly or may provide unintentionally confusing instruction to students. For instance, struggling readers are likely to be confused if they are encouraged to sound out a word that is phonetically irregular (e.g., some), or if irregular words, such as come and have, are used as examples of a
syllable type such as “silent e.” Similarly, to teach spelling and writing effectively, teachers need a knowledge base about language structure, including sentence and discourse structure. Research suggests that acquiring an understanding of language structure often requires explicit teaching of this information and more than superficial coverage in teacher preparation and professional development.

Level 1
Grace, K. (2006). Phonics and spelling through phoneme‐grapheme mapping. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.
Moats, L.C. (2009). Language essentials for teachers of reading and spelling (LETRS). Longmont, CO: Sopris West.
Level 2
Brady, S., Gillis, M., Smith, T., Lavalette, M., Liss‐Bronstein, L., Lowe, E., et al. (2009). First grade teachers’
knowledge of phonological awareness and code concepts: Examining gains from an intensive form of
professional development. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 22, 375–510.
Henry, M. (2003). Unlocking literacy. Baltimore: Brookes.
McCutchen, D., Abbott, R. D., & Green, L. B. (2002).Beginning literacy: Links among teacher knowledge, teacher
practice, and student learning. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 69–86.Moats, L. C. (2000). Speech to print: Language essentials for teachers. Baltimore: Brookes.
Spear‐Swerling, L., & Brucker, P. (2004). Preparing novice teachers to develop basic reading and spelling skills in
children. Annals of Dyslexia, 54, 332–364.
Spear‐Swerling, L., & Brucker, P. (2006). Teacher‐education students’ reading abilities and their knowledge
about word structure. Teacher Education and Special Education, 29, 113–123.


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