English Learners and the Science of Reading

Dr. Antonio Fierro
Vice President of Professional Learning and Academics for 95 Percent Group
Antonio Fierro
Dr. Antonio Fierro

As VP of Professional Learning and Academics for 95 Percent Group, Dr. Antonio Fierro is able to apply his many years in the classroom and as a literacy expert to helping schools and districts teach reading to every student, regardless of previous experience or native language. His vast experience contributes invaluable insight into their products and services. Dr. Fierro is a former Texas State Teacher of the Year and was a member of the LETRS cohort of literacy consultants led by Dr. Louisa Moats for almost 20 years.

Dr. Fierro has contributed to several literacy curricula for English learners along with Tools 4 Reading President Dr. Mary Dahlgren. He is the co-author of Kid Lips, their curriculum that teaches the articulatory features of English phonemes to young children with additional support for English learners. His areas of interest include early literacy instruction, improving the learning experience of pre-service teaching candidates, and the research and practice that impacts English learners. Dr. Fierro is also dedicated to advancing the knowledge base and understanding of dyslexia and other reading disabilities as his son, Antonio Jr., has dyslexia. Dr. Fierro currently sits on the board of The Reading League.

Learn more about Dr. Antonio Fierro
Dr. Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist and a Certified Academic Language Therapist
Dr. Elsa Cardenas-Hagan
Dr. Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan

Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan, Ed.D, is a Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist, Certified Academic Language Therapist and Qualified Instructor. She is the President of Valley Speech Language and Learning Center in Brownsville, Texas which was established in 1993. She is also a research associate with the Texas Institute for Measurement Evaluation and Statistics at the University of Houston.

Dr. Cárdenas-Hagan is the author of Esperanza (HOPE), a Spanish language program designed to assist students who struggle with learning to read. Her research interests include the development of early reading assessments for Spanish-speaking students and the development of reading interventions for bilingual students. She serves as the Chairperson of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities and is a Past Vice-Chairperson for the International Dyslexia Association.  Elsa has authored curricular programs, book chapters, and journal articles related to oracy and literacy development for English language learners.  Her book, Literacy Foundations for English Learners:  A Comprehensive Guide to Evidence-Based Instruction addresses the Science of Reading and provides strategies for successful implementation among this diverse population of students.

Learn more about Dr. Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan

Release Date: Thursday, August 24, 2023


Today’s educators are teaching the most linguistically diverse student population in United States history. To ensure educational equity for English learners, teachers must be skillfully equipped with instructional practices rooted in the science of reading.

The “science of reading” refers to a vast body of multi-disciplinary research that provides a rationale for what must be taught to ensure that almost all students can learn to read. However, do all reading science practices apply equally when teaching English learners?
Our podcast guests have championed using the science of reading with the English learner as a top priority in everything they do.

Drs. Cardenas-Hagan and Fierro will discuss the opportunities and the challenges educators encounter when teaching reading to English learners. They’ll explore:

  • The importance of structured language teaching, for all kids, but especially English learners
  • The need for teachers of English to understand how language works, which allows instructors to better scaffold the instruction for English learners
  • The specifics of that scaffolding of instruction, and tips on what educators can and should do to help English learners achieve reading success
  • Specifics of teaching reading, including assessment and MTSS, through the lens of the English learner
  • Why it’s critical that classroom instruction includes pedagogy and approaches that take into consideration the anthology of bilingualism—a pedagogy that reflects the understanding of how two languages interact.
  • The need to preserve heritage languages and cultures, while providing encouraging biliteracy or multiliteracy skills for all students
  • Resources and guidance available from The U.S. Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), which provides national leadership to help ensure that English Learners and immigrant students attain English proficiency and achieve academic success.