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Randomized Evaluation of Teacher Professional Development in Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction (EBLI)
Last registered on October 14, 2015


Trial Information
General Information
Randomized Evaluation of Teacher Professional Development in Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction (EBLI)
Initial registration date
October 14, 2015
Last updated
October 14, 2015 9:50 PM EDT
Primary Investigator
University of Michigan
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Developed over 15 years ago, the Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction (EBLI) program aims to provide teachers with instructional strategies to improve reading accuracy, fluency and comprehension. Teachers receive a three-day in-person training prior to the start of the school year, and then periodic support throughout the year. In summer 2014, 63 teachers in grades 2-5 in seven Michigan charter schools were randomly assigned within school-grade blocks to receive EBLI training or a business as usual control condition. Students were tracked during the 2014-15 school year, and student outcomes were measured using a standardized reading assessment called the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), developed by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA).
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Jacob, Brian. 2015. "Randomized Evaluation of Teacher Professional Development in Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction (EBLI)." AEA RCT Registry. October 14. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.900-1.0.
Former Citation
Jacob, Brian. 2015. "Randomized Evaluation of Teacher Professional Development in Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction (EBLI)." AEA RCT Registry. October 14. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/900/history/5594.
Experimental Details
Developed in 2003, EBLI comprises several instructional strategies to improve reading accuracy, fluency and comprehension. EBLI targets teachers and reading specialists at any grade level (K-12) and instructs them on how to implement its literacy strategies in whole class, small group or one-on-one sessions. Since first developing the system, EBLI has trained thousands of teachers across the country and has reached tens of thousands of students. Over 260 schools, mainly located in Michigan, have implemented the EBLI system.
At its core, EBLI is a phonics-based reading program. The program’s theory of change states that mastered reading accuracy has subsequent beneficial effects on students’ reading fluency and comprehension. The emphasis on improving reading accuracy differentiates EBLI from other whole language/balanced literacy systems that focus first on fluency and speed by encouraging word guessing when students are unsure about the correct pronunciation.
To achieve reading accuracy, EBLI uses awareness of sounds (phonetic awareness) and the different ways the same sound can be spelled. The program emphasizes several key concepts. The first concept (“1, 2, 3 or 4 Letters Can Represent a Sound”) highlights the fact that individual sounds in the English language may be comprised of anywhere from one to four letters. For instance, the sound “u” in up is made of one letter – u. The sound “e” in tea is made of two letters – ea. The sound “ur” sound in earn is made of three letters – ear. And, finally, the “ay” sound in weigh is made of four letters – eigh. The second concept (“Same Sound / Different Spelling”) captures the idea that same sound can be spelled with many different combinations of letters. For example, the “ee” sound in feet is spelled with ee; the “ee” sound in treat is spelled with ea; the “ee” sound in brief is spelled with ie. The third concept (“Same Spelling / Different Sound”) is the converse – namely, in the English language the same spelling may create different sounds in words. For instance, the spelling “ea” sounds like the following sounds in different words: sounds like “ee” in beast, “a” in break, and “e” in head.
EBLI teachers also learn how to teach students phonemic awareness skills such as segmenting, blending and phoneme manipulation within the context of single and multi-syllable words as opposed to in isolation. In segmenting, teachers break words into individual syllables and further into sounds within syllables. For example, “brother” is separated into two syllables – bro / ther and each of these syllables is broken into sounds – b r o / th er. This separation helps to reinforce correct spelling. In blending, instruction focuses on pushing individual sounds together to create a word. For the segmented “brother”, the sounds are blended back together to form the full word and reinforce correct pronunciation. Phoneme manipulation activities help reinforce word comprehension and spelling by removing letters from the words and reviewing what remains. For instance, focusing on the word “spot”, the instructor will first ask how many sounds are in the word spot, then will ask what “spot” is without the /s/, what “spot” is without the /p/. The student may segment the individual sounds or may say “pot” or “sot”. Then the instructor repeats the exercise, using dots in the place of letters. Using dots in place of letters forces the student to listen to individual sounds.
According to its developers, EBLI differs in several important ways from other popular phonics-based reading programs such as Orton-Gillingham, Open Court, Saxon Phonics, Wilson, and Lexia (software). First, EBLI is a system of logic rather than a set of phonics rules, exceptions and drills. Second, EBLI developers argue that typical phonics programs focus more heavily on drill and worksheets with less focus on reading in books. Third, EBLI trains teachers to be diagnostic and prescriptive when delivering instruction as opposed to training them to simply deliver pre-fabricated materials to students. For example, the EBLI system of instruction includes guidance for teachers on how to provide error corrections in the moment. Finally, EBLI instruction is multi-sensory, with students saying, seeing, hearing and writing in the course of EBLI activities.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Student achievement scores on the NWEA MAP given at the end of the school year
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The evaluation was designed as a clustered randomized trial in which classrooms were randomly assigned to treatment or control status within school-grade blocks
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Teachers (which is synonymous with classroom in this context) was the unit of randomization.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
about 65 teachers
Sample size: planned number of observations
1000-2000 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
25 T and 35 C teachers
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
University of Michigan
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers