Summary and ranking of the basal reading series

    I examined five contemporary basal series using a planned sampling strategy focused mostly on optimal decoding instruction in grade one.  Based on this analysis, McGraw-Hill appears to be the best of the five series.  This series, if well taught, is most likely to induce the decoding strategies leading to early reading independence, rapid acquisition of sight vocabulary, and better reading comprehension.
    The final standings in my analysis are as follows, from first to worst:

1. McGraw-Hill
2. Houghton-Mifflin
3. Scott-Foresman
4. Scholastic
5. Harcourt
However, it should be noted that the collection of Open Court readers (published by SRA) was incomplete and could not be included in this evaluation.  Only the third grade readers had been provided.  Open Court pioneered many of the best techniques for promoting phoneme awareness.  They have long used an excellent program of explicit, systematic, and intensive phonics instruction, and have led children to succeed very early with challenging literature.  I recommend obtaining a complete examination set of the Open Court series and comparing their quality with the McGraw-Hill books before making a final determination on which series to buy for elementary readers.  Given high-quality teachers, an excellent basal reading series is a critical investment in reading achievement.

NEW:  An evaluation of Open Court 2002
 

How I evaluated the reading series
Harcourt
Houghton-Mifflin
McGraw-Hill
Scholastic
Scott-Foresman
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