Troubled readers need help based on the science of reading

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Our life is strongly influenced by our ability to read. Yet millions of children across the country are struggling to learn this vital skill.

Low literacy skills at a young age can have a lifelong impact that includes poor physical and mental health, limited employment opportunities and a lower quality of life.

As students return to class this fall – many for the first time since the onset of the pandemic that disrupted their access to quality in-person learning – we have the opportunity to adopt standards to ensure that teacher education is effective and supported. by science.

In 2019, just over a third of students in the United States achieved the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mastery in fourth grade reading. The rate was worse for children of color: only 18 percent of black students and 23 percent of Hispanic students achieved a master’s degree.

During the pandemic, these challenges were exacerbated. Preliminary research from the nonprofit NWEA evaluation group suggested that students would only retain 70% of last year’s gains in reading when they return to the 2020-21 school year compared to a typical school year. . The results of the fall 2020 assessment showed that students in grades 1 to 8 “lost” 1% more in reading compared to fall 2019, the poorest pupils “lost” any further.

States that have passed legislation on science-aligned approaches to teaching reading have seen significant improvements in reading outcomes.

This is why it is essential that state policy makers and school administrators adopt a standard for reading instruction based on the science of reading – a broad, interdisciplinary body of scientific research on reading and issues related to reading. reading and writing.

Research provides evidence that sheds light on how reading and writing skills develop over time and shows why some students struggle. Its findings can help us assess, teach, and effectively improve student outcomes, both by preventing reading difficulties and by early identifying students who need intervention.

There is a strong coalition of support behind the science of reading, although it has not yet been reflected in conventional wisdom on teaching reading or widely used in classrooms or teacher preparation programs. in the United States – so far.

For the first time since the National Council on Teacher Quality began publishing ratings of teacher preparation programs, the number of programs that embrace the science of reading has come halfway.

Of 1,000 traditional primary teacher preparation programs evaluated across the country in 2020, 51% achieved an A or B grade for their coverage of key components of the science of reading, up from just 35% seven years earlier.

In addition, states that have passed legislation on science-aligned approaches to teaching reading have seen significant improvements in reading outcomes.

Take Mississippi, for example, a state that has been near or at the bottom of most state education rankings for years. In 2013, the state passed the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, which ended the promotion of students beyond the third grade who do not achieve an established reading threshold score or who benefit from an exemption.

After the law was passed, Mississippi aligned itself with the science of reading. The state trained kindergarten to grade 3 teachers and elementary school administrators in teaching basic reading skills and provided support by placing highly qualified reading coaches in its underperforming schools.

Related: Can Literacy Coaches Help Solve Mississippi’s Education Problems?

Years later, these efforts have yielded positive results. In 2019, Mississippi was the only state in the country to post significant gains on NAEP ratings.

Despite severe poverty, Mississippi fourth-graders outperformed the national average in math, equaling the national average in reading and outperforming the nation in reading and math.

Many other states are passing similar legislation. Alabama adopted a comprehensive early literacy policy in 2019. In the legislative session of 2021 alone, the legislatures of Tennessee, North Carolina, Louisiana and Connecticut adopted comprehensive literacy policies early childhood education that include teacher training in reading science, guidance on adopting high-quality instructional materials and interventions for students identified as having reading disabilities.

As school districts, educators, and parents across the United States consider how to compensate for the interrupted learning experienced over the past year, it is critical that we establish a common understanding between administrators and educators. on how to improve reading results.

Ultimately, all children deserve a chance to learn to read, and all teachers can learn to teach them. Adopting consistent, science-based standards for how reading is taught is how we will get there.

Kymyona Burk is the Director of Early Childhood Education Policy at ExcelinEd and a member of the Reading League Board of Directors. Maria Murray is the Founder, President and CEO of the Reading League.

This story on the science of reading was produced by The Hechinger report, an independent, non-profit news organization focused on inequalities and innovation in education. Sign up for The Hechinger newsletter.

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