Teaching students to read is one of the hardest jobs in education and teachers don't receive enough support to ensure students are on-track to reading proficiency. STEP changes this reality.

What is STEP?

Originally developed by a team of researchers and practitioners and led by Tony Bryk and David Kerbow at UChicago’s Urban Education Institute, STEP (Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress) is a research-based formative assessment, data management, and professional development system designed to build teacher capacity for literacy instruction and provide educators with the data necessary to improve student achievement in literacy across grades K-5. Early reading proficiency is a key milestone for all students, but too often students miss that critical marker. When children fall behind in literacy development, it becomes difficult for them to catch up to on grade-level peers. Further, teachers working with students who have missed developmental milestones often have insufficient data to both identify where the student is struggling and how best to intervene. Implementing either or both of STEP's assessment series (“Construct & Stabilize” and “Strengthen & Expand”) increases the odds that teachers will have the data and skills they need to improve student outcomes.


STEP provides districts and networks a meaningful, developmental literacy assessment that offers schools, leaders, and teachers rich, reliable student data. With STEP data, educators are equipped to increase the number of students on track to reading proficiency. In addition, STEP's team of Managers of Professional Learning empower teachers to interpret and act on STEP data to improve and/or modify literacy practices in order to boost student achievement.

STEP Features

The STEP Assessment: Teachers assess students at multiple points across the year to determine current achievement and instructional needs as they progress across 19 distinct developmental levels in reading proficiency equivalent to Kindergarten through 5th grades. STEP offers two distinct assessment series: “Construct & Stabilize” and “Strengthen & Expand”.

STEP’s Online Assessment and Data Management System: Offers Teachers real-time access to rich, actionable student data. This includes historical, longitudinal, and descriptive student data that can be used to better inform literacy placement and instructional needs for both incoming students, as well as those struggling to read proficiently.

STEP Professional Learning: Teachers are trained in the administration and interpretation of the STEP assessment and resulting data. Teachers also receive small-group professional development, model lessons, and classroom coaching on effective literacy practices that help enhance and improve their overall literacy instruction.

STEP's Impact

STEP is currently present in over 35 states and 60 cities across the United States. Students who are administered STEP have a greater likelihood of outperforming peers in third grade literacy state standards. 86% of students who reach STEP 12 by the end of third grade meet or exceed state standards.

Schools implementing STEP outperformed peers by 11 percentage points in New York City, 22 percentage points in New Haven, 44 percentage points in New Orleans, and 33 percentage points in Newark on standardized tests.

STEP professional development is a required component of any implementation. Release time is well-guarded and precious resource in almost all US schools. The STEP team of Professional Learning Managers is encouraged by the feedback and impact of its support on teacher, coach and leadership practices and mindsets.

94% of school leadership teams reported a positive change in literacy systems and structures after engaging in STEP Professional Learning.

85% of school leadership teams reported a positive change in teacher practice related to literacy instruction after engaging in STEP Professional Learning.