Erica Keller, Cache County School District

Every memorable recipe requires quality ingredients, patience, and hard work. For the Cache County School District, educators and administrators have worked together over the years to develop a “recipe” of our own, which we consider our “Secret Sauce” for fluent readers: a multi-tiered system of support.

“We know that a research-based program is the best way to approach literacy,” said Sara Krebs, a literacy coordinator for Cache County School District. “What this means is that we will not guess at what will work. Instead, we use instruction that has been tested and proven to be effective over many years of research.”

The system, used in elementary schools throughout Cache County School District, provides three tiers of instruction: first, core instruction, next, supplemental instruction, and finally, intensive instruction. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the program is implemented in the second tier during small group supplemental instruction. That is where the “Secret Sauce” is created. The crucial element?  Direct instruction.

“It’s all about small group instruction that is targeted to the specific abilities of the students,” said Robin Clement, an elementary literacy coordinator for Cache County School District. “These are prescribed lessons taught with fidelity.”

The ingredients for the “Secret Sauce” for fluent readers are: 

1 cup student assessment 

We begin with an assessment of each student’s reading abilities. It is here that teachers and literacy facilitators identify a student’s strengths and challenges.

1 cup data analysis 

Next, reading facilitators analyze the assessment data and form small reading groups. This analysis takes place every four to six weeks, allowing students to interchangeably experience new literacy lessons based on their current academic needs.

1 cup team collaboration 

If it is determined that a student needs a change in their reading instruction, the literacy facilitator and teacher collaborate and, with the support of the principal, decide which program will best meet the student’s needs. Students are then placed in a group which will target the specific reading skills that need improvement.

1 cup student movement 

The interchanging of students within the program is an essential ingredient. Every four to six weeks, as needed, small groups are reconfigured. These reading groups are seamless and do not convey stigmas of high and low reading groups. This allows students to learn what they need to learn with confidence and success, emphasizing individual growth and mastery.

1 cup desire to succeed 

The final ingredient is desire. It is imperative that not only the students have a desire to learn, but also that teachers and aides have a passion to see the “recipe” through. The multi-tiered system produces outstanding fluency results, but it also requires higher levels of commitment from teachers and aides.

Some may disregard this “recipe” because of the effort and time required with each student, but Gary Thomas, executive director of elementary education, understands why each ingredient is essential.

“We believe the key to effective reading instruction is the multi-tiered support system. It is more work, but we do it so our students can succeed,” Gary said.

With 88 percent of Cache County third graders reading at grade level, the “Secret Sauce” has proven its significance in training young readers.

For more information on reading programs and how to help your child succeed, visit