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Improving Early Literacy Through the Science of Reading at Republic School District

Improving Early Literacy Through the Science of Reading

How Republic School District Partnered with EAB to Develop a Literacy Plan and Improve Kindergarten Phonemic Awareness


Republic School District, a 5,024-student district in southwest Missouri, is known as a leader in student success with a history of student performance in the upper echelon of public schools statewide. The district takes great pride in its strategic approach to achieving its mission, “Preparing each student for a successful future.”

Quick Facts

Republic School District in southwest Missouri

1 early childhood center, 5 elementary schools, 1 middle school, 1 high school

5,024 K-12 students


While Republic School District was ahead of statewide reading proficiency (see chart below), more granular data from the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment, MAP assessment data, and the STAR Early Literacy reports suggested that the district needed to identify concrete steps toward increasing the reading proficiency of early learners.

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Republic turned to EAB’s District Leadership Forum for the tools to develop a teacher training program grounded in evidence-based reading instruction and best practices for teaching phonemic awareness. EAB’s study, Narrowing the Third-Grade Reading Gap: Embracing the Science of Reading, served as the common foundational training material for all teacher participants in the district and provided evidence-based suggestions for new teaching practices in the classroom.

The study demonstrated that most reading instruction fails to align with science. Reading instruction should have an early emphasis on decoding skills and increasingly shift focus to reading comprehension as students demonstrate reading fluency. Teacher training and guidance on the science of reading and how to teach foundational word decoding skills are imperative for improving student reading outcomes.


Kindergarten teachers at Republic began using a new curriculum that aligned with EAB’s research in the first quarter of the 2020 school year. Even throughout the challenges of pandemic virtual instruction, the teachers persisted in teaching phonemic awareness and early literacy skills daily to students. These efforts resulted in incredible strides in students’ proficiency, including a 15-percentage point increase in in rhyme recognition.

As a result of the program’s success with kindergarten students, Republic is expanding their phonemic awareness programming to first-grade classrooms in the 2021-22 school year.

Key Finding from EAB’s Research Study


Of early elementary classrooms spend insufficient time providing direct instructions on English phonemes


Of early elementary teachers have never been trained in strategies for teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.

Research in Action: Building a Data-Informed Curriculum

EAB researchers met with district leaders in Spring 2019 to share evidence-based suggestions for improving teaching methods

The district established a new district-wide phonemic-focused curriculum in the Fall of 2020

Elementary-level teachers attended group trainings using EAB materials to understand the reasoning and data behind the curriculum shift

Outcomes: Improved Reading and Phonemic Awareness

Republic Kindergartener Phonemic Awareness Proficiency Scores

August 2020 – March 2021

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EAB’s research provided scientific insights on how students learn to read and what evidence-based instructions looks like. It helped our teachers find common cause around the challenges of teaching all students to read.

-Alyssa Phillips, Literacy Specialist, Republic School District


Advance all your district initiatives with the District Leadership Forum


District Leadership Forum

EAB’s District Leadership Forum identifies innovative, proven, and replicable solutions to key district challenges, and provides year-round thought partnership and implementation guidance to help district leaders turn research to reality in schools.

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The Science of Reading Implementation Guide

This toolkit offers templates and resources to support districts as they implement science-based reading reform.

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