Science of Reading

CISE Supported Schools Leading the Way in Improving Literacy

Recently, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has been advocating for the Science of Reading curriculum. Last October, House Bill 33 was passed, marking a significant shift in school curriculum, teacher training, and reading intervention programs. Governor DeWine stated, “I truly believe there’s nothing more important than the science of reading, and making sure that every single child in the state of Ohio, as they are learning to read, has the benefit of the science.”

Driven by a strong commitment to early literacy and numeracy, CISE has been ahead of the curve in embracing this reading initiative, assuring that our students receive the support they need to succeed in reading, math, and language arts.

In early 2020, educators at Holy Family School faced the challenge of improving reading outcomes for their students. Principal Katie Puthoff recalls, “Despite lots of care and hard work by our teachers, we were not seeing the reading growth that we knew our students were capable of. When we first started the work in kindergarten through third grade, only about 25 to 30% of our students reached their key reading benchmarks. That was simply not acceptable to us.”

As Holy Family recognized the need for change, Dr. Amy Murdoch from Mount St. Joseph University offered an opportunity for the school to participate in a State of Ohio Grant. This grant aimed to transform Holy Family into a model demonstration school for literacy instruction for early learners using the Science of Reading. After extensive training, the school staff and administration began implementing these practices in preschool through third grade. The school quickly experienced significant success in teaching literacy through this approach.

Larissa Phillips, Assistant Director at the Center for Reading Science, spends two days a week at Holy Family working with educators to improve reading assessment, curriculum, and instruction. She observes, “Teachers work really hard, and when they are working hard and not seeing the results, it’s genuinely discouraging. Now they’re working really hard and it’s paying off. When they start to see the students make great gains in reading, it’s so exciting!”

Kyslenia, a third-grade student at Holy Family, has been showing remarkable improvement in her reading skills through weekly sessions with Mrs. Phillips. When asked about her experience, Kyslenia expressed her pride, “I feel like I’m becoming a better reader now, and whenever I struggle with words, she always helps me.”

Now in the fourth year of the curriculum, Holy Family has seen remarkable progress with an impressive 70% of PK-3rd graders reaching key benchmark reading standards. Principal Katie Puthoff notes that the most noticeable change they’ve observed in students is their increasing self-confidence.

For Reading Specialist, Michelle Frey, the impact of the program has been palpable. “One of my second graders approached me and said, ‘Mrs. Frey, learning to read has changed my life,'” she recalls with a tear in her eye. “You know, that’s powerful words from a second grader.”

With the success of Holy Family, two other CISE-supported schools, Corryville Catholic and St. Lawrence, formed partnerships with Mount St. Joseph University and eagerly embraced the Science of Reading program. Though early in the implementation, both Corryville and St. Lawrence have observed a major shift in how students are developing their early literacy skills.

The Science of Reading is helping ensure that every student can learn to read, no matter their prior learning experiences. According to St. Lawrence Principal Jen Long, “This partnership is valuable because it addresses the needs that our students specifically have – learning in a language that is not their native language – through programming to expand upon our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.”

At Corryville Catholic, Principal Lauren Clements reflects on the school’s ongoing struggle to achieve academic gains in reading despite tireless efforts of the teachers and students. After trying various approaches and curricula, they found themselves applying temporary fixes that failed to address the root skill gaps of their students. Regarding the Science of Reading program, Mrs. Clements expresses, “This program has revolutionized our approach to literacy instruction. We’ve witnessed a remarkable improvement in student engagement and achievement since its implementation.”

Principal Jen Long is thrilled that St. Lawrence teachers are now learning research based strategies to help students be successful. Mrs. Long emphasizes the broader implications of literacy success. “Strong reading skills open doors to endless possibilities for our students,” she observes. “By investing in literacy excellence, we’re not just teaching children to read; we’re empowering them to shape their futures and fulfill their potential.”

Through the transformative power of collaboration, innovation, and a shared commitment to excellence, these three CISE supported schools are rewriting the narrative of education, one child at a time.

CISE supports 10 inner-city Catholic schools in Cincinnati. Learn more at