SIPPS: Scientific Basis

The program’s authors, John Shefelbine and Katherine K. Newman, developed the SIPPS program based on their own research as well as that of others—and reports from the National Reading Panel.

Here’s what the experts say about decoding and fluency:

Beginning Readers Need a Comprehensive Approach

Snow, Burns, and Griffin say that beginning readers need four things: “explicit instruction and practice that leads to an appreciation that spoken words are made up of smaller units of sounds; familiarity with spelling-sound correspondences and common spelling conventions and their use in identifying printed words; ‘sight’ recognition of frequent words; and independent reading, including reading aloud.”1

Specific Methods Improve Phonemic Awareness

According to the National Reading Panel, “Instruction that taught phoneme manipulation with letters helped normally developing readers and at-risk readers acquire phonemic awareness better than phonemic awareness instruction without letters. When children were taught phonemic awareness in small groups, their learning was greater than when they were taught individually or in classrooms.”2

A Systematic Phonics Approach Is Key

The National Reading Panel says, “Findings provide solid support for the conclusion that systematic phonics instruction makes a bigger contribution to children’s growth in reading than alternative programs providing unsystematic or no phonics instruction.”3

Reading Instruction too Often Skips Polysyllabic Decoding

Cunningham points out, “The widely held belief that phonics instruction should be completed by the end of the second grade is partly responsible for children getting so little help developing the decoding strategies necessary to unlock the pronunciation and meanings for those 10,000 new words they encounter each year.”4

Training for Fluency Is Essential

According to the National Reading Panel, “Fluency, the ability to read a text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression, has been described as the ‘most neglected’ reading skill.”5

Regular Assessment Informs Instruction

Snow, Burns, and Griffin say, “Because the ability to obtain meaning from print depends so strongly on the development of word-recognition accuracy and reading fluency, both of the latter should be regularly assessed in the classroom, permitting timely and effective instructional response when difficulty and delay is apparent.”6

Beginners Need Better Reading Materials

Elfreda Hiebert says, “The ideal situation would be to use texts that have more engaging content and language than many of the phonetically regular texts of the past and that provide more opportunities to apply phonics strategies than most, if not all, of the little [sight-word] books and literature-based programs of the present.”7


  1. Snow, Catherine E., M. Susan Burns, and Peg Griffen, eds. Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1998, p. 7.
  2. 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. Reports of the Subgroups. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, pp. 2-4.
  3. National Reading Panel, p. 2-92.
  4. Cunningham, C. (1998). “The Multisyllabic Word Dilemma: Helping students build meaning, spell, and read ‘big’ words.” Reading and Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, Vol. 13, No.2, pp. 189-218.
  5. National Reading Panel, p. 2-92.
  6. Snow, Burns, and Griffen, p. 7.
  7. Hiebert, E.H. (1999). “Text matters in learning to read.” The Reading Teacher, Vol. 52, pp. 552-566.