Skip to content

Research Evidence


Recognition of Quality

The Nessy Reading and Spelling program has been recommended as a high-quality evidence-based program by AUSPELD and DSF 1, global partner of the International Dyslexia Association. It has been awarded the British Dyslexia Association mark of quality assurance and is winner of the Educational Resources Award.

Strong independent research collected worldwide shows that SSP programs provide the best opportunity to produce significant literacy improvement 2. As a structured synthetic phonics (SSP) program, based upon the principles and findings of extensive research, Nessy Reading and Spelling is evidence-based.



Nessy Reading and Spelling is based upon the Orton-Gillingham and structured literacy methodology which follows the Science of Reading (methods or approaches to reading that have been proved through research). It begins with the foundational skills of phonological awareness and phonemic awareness using explicit instruction with structured, systematic, synthetic phonics. The program progresses to an advanced multi-syllabic level, developing solid literacy skills with fluency, morphology, vocabulary and comprehension strengthening activities. Spelling, including teaching of sight words, is linked to the reading instruction. Game-based learning activities are designed to build correct pathways, providing the student appropriate error correction and feedback.


‘Research has consistently demonstrated that a successful literacy program is most effective when it includes explicit instruction designed to improve a student’s ability to accurately read and spell individual words and their ability to comprehend and utilise a variety of language-based processes.’

– Dyslexia SPELD Foundation (DSF) 3


Our Approach

We are led by scientific research that has been produced at the great institutions of the world including, Yale Centre of Dyslexia and Creativity, Specific Learning Difficulties Association (SPELD), the University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning, Florida Centre of Reading Research (FCRR), and adhere to the directives of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA).  Significant research has been done on systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) and structured literacy methodologies the findings of which have been the theoretical basis of the Nessy Reading and Spelling program. The program is an Orton-Gillingham influenced digital curriculum that automatically guides children through an individualised program of explicit instruction. Resources were piloted and developed though classroom use at the Bristol Dyslexia Centre. The program is accessed by students signing into the platform on computers or tablet. The computer guided work is completed by children independent of teacher assistance however the 1000’s of printable supplemental resources may be used by a teacher where students require more intensive support.


Nessy does NOT use a whole language, guided reading or balanced literacy approach.



Nessy Learning regularly undertakes studies to measure the effectiveness of our programs and direct program development. We welcome outside investigation into our programs and will gladly provide our materials to those wishing conduct independent research.


The Effects of Nessy on Growth Level When Used at Home

Date: Spring 2020

An analysis of student results, after using the Nessy materials for remote learning at home over a period of 6 weeks during the COVID-19 school closures, showed an average gain of one grade/year level in reading. The Nessy program was used with a greater intensity than would be possible during normal school attendance which may account for the accelerated rate of progress. The results were measured using the program’s own assessment tool and without information on levels of parental support.


Nessy Target Assessment and Slosson Oral Reading Test Correlation Case Study

Date: Spring 2019

The purpose of the study was to determine if there was a correlation between the Nessy Reading and Spelling Target Assessment, and The Slosson Oral Reading Test Revision 3 (SORT-R3). A high correlation of .82 was found to exist indicating that the Nessy Target Assessment is an accurate measure of pupil reading level or reading age, and that the assessment can be used to determine initial placement in the literacy curriculum, and to monitor student progress in oral word recognition.


Nessy use at Godley School Data Analysis Case Study

Date: June 2019

An analysis of the fidelity of use of the Nessy Reading and Spelling Program, and the student results of those taking the Nessy Reading Target Assessment pre and post use, was conducted on data collected by Godley Elementary School, in Texas, USA. The assessments were administered by school personnel and overseen by the school RTI specialist, as part of the regular literacy instructional program on this campus. The 152 first grade and kindergarten students used Nessy independently for an average of 60 minutes per week over 6-10 weeks. The average student gain in reading grade level was 0.5 or half of school year in an average of 8 weeks. An 8 week time period is about 0.22 of this school’s academic year. Those using Nessy exceeded the expected growth of 0.22, in fact they more than doubled it.


The students gained on average half of a grade level in reading skills, in just 6-10 weeks.

When used with fidelity, the Nessy Reading and Spelling program is highly effective in raising the reading level attainment of students in a general classroom setting. The program enables large groups of children to be instructed in an Orton-Gillingham influenced curriculum, without the of use of OG trained specialists. It can be monitored by classroom teachers or teacher’s assistants and achieve very good results.


One finding from the study was that students who used the Nessy program for 80 minutes a week, divided into four 20-minute sessions, made the greatest progress.


 The Effects of the Nessy Reading and Spelling Program Used in a General Educational Setting

Date: June 2017

The study documents a longitudinal comparison over 2.5 years from 2014-16, of a digitally delivered phonics program to a paper-based phonics program. 22 children from two different kindergarten classes were followed from the middle of their kindergarten year, until the middle of their second grade year. One class was given the Nessy individualised program guided by the computer, and another class was given Saxon phonics, a paper-based program delivered to the whole class by a certified teacher. The literacy development of all the students was monitored three times per year using the DIBELS 4 measure and compared to students within the same year groups in over 22,000 schools, in records held by the University of Oregon’s Data System.

 Could a digital phonics program (Nessy), delivered individually, ever compare in quality to a whole class teaching approach taught with traditional paper-based books and worksheets?

After instituting Nessy as part of the school’s reading program, called STRIVE, the number of kindergarten children reaching grade level benchmarks increased from 51% to 74% (green). The highest risk group (red), those that were struggling the most, decreased from 22% to 10%.


When 1st grade children were first assessed, 40% of them were meeting minimum grade level benchmarks. After instituting Nessy Reading and Spelling the number of 1st grade children reaching grade level benchmarks increased from 40% to 64% (green).


The students were followed for 2.5 years to see if this progress was maintained. Mid way through their 2nd grade year, 79% of these students were meeting grade level benchmarks.

This represents a growth of 31 percentile points placing these students in the top 10% of the national sample.



The paper-based phonics program used a whole class approach led by certified teachers. At the beginning of the study 24% of students were identified as needing intensive support (red). This number increased to 25% at the end of one year’s teaching. The number of students requiring support and falling below grade level expectations (yellow) grew from 17% to 28%. After 2.5 years, the number of students preforming at grade level (green) dropped from 59% to 47%.




Current Research Studies

Investigate the correlation between the Nessy target assessment with DIBELS and EARS

Date: 2020

The study began in January 2020, with the objective of incorporating the Early Assessment for Reading Success (EARS) into the Nessy target assessment. This would provide both an accurate identification of students at risk and a research based measure of the program effectiveness over time. 40 schools across the world are participating. Teachers administer both the Nessy target assessment and DIBELS subtests to measure oral reading fluency (ORF), nonsense word fluency, correct letter sounds and word reading. The study has been interrupted by the global pandemic of COVID-19 and will have to be restarted.


Initial results indicate a strong correlation between DIBELS reading fluency and Nessy target assessment in grade 2.

 “Both DIBELS and EARS are well aligned with the Nessy tasks. What is really good to see is that the Nessy measures (baseline current and spelling) are all related not only to January DIBELS ORF in G2 but also to end of year predictions of reading comprehension at the end of grades 2 and 3.”

– Dr Yaacov Petsher, FCRR 5


Nessy Reading and Spelling Pilot Case Studies

Date: 2015

Three schools in the South West of England participated in a study to determine the effectiveness of the Nessy Reading and Spelling program. The study included both a test group using the Nessy program and a control group which did not. Both groups were tested in September 2014 and again in June 2015. At Combe Down school, the Test group significantly advanced in Reading Age by an average of 1.35 years; in contrast, the Control group only advanced by 0.40 years in the 12 weeks they were part of the trial. At Henleaze school the program was used with children identified with special educational needs. The children significantly increased their Reading Age by 1.11 years in 12 weeks. At Saltash school, the nine months of Nessy Reading led to a Reading Age advance of 0.87 years, surpassing the 9 months (0.75 years) in which they were using the program.

The study report is available as a PDF.


Results of a Pilot Study Using Nessy Reading and Spelling at Glasgow High School

Date: March 2014

Mr Hanlan, a teacher at the Glasgow High School, undertook an independent study into the effectiveness of the Nessy Reading and Spelling program. Students were aged between 8-10 years. Spelling ability was tested at the beginning and end of the 4 month trial. The average increase was 8 months. Three students who barely used the program made no progress. Several students used the program 3 or 4 times a week in addition to their scheduled time with the teacher. The student who used the program most intensively made 21 months progress. A huge difference in motivation was observed among the pupils.


“In my opinion, the results speak for themselves, particularly when you consider that it was over such a short timescale, and that the ‘sample’ was a group made up completely of pupils who have previously identified difficulties with spelling.”
– I. Hallahan

Glasgow High School Pilot Study Results


  1. Dyslexia SPELD foundation (DSF):
  2. The Clackmannanshire study of the effectiveness of a synthetic phonics program:
    The Rose Report
    The National Reading Panel Report 2000
    International Dyslexia Association, Effective Reading Instruction
  3. ‘Understanding Literacy Difficulties for Parents’ Guide for parents produced by SPELD
  4. The University of Oregon’s DIBELS Data System holds records from over 22,000 schools.
  5. Professor Petscher