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It’s Time To Seriously Talk About Reading

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There was somber news released last week on the state of education in America. The independent benchmark called the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “the Nation’s Report card,” released its 2019 results, and the signs of progress we all were seeking simply weren’t there.

In fact, the scores show a decrease in student achievement in 17 states in fourth grade reading, and 31 states in eighth grade reading in the last two years.

If you’re not knee-deep in the education world, you may be unaware about the significance of NAEP, but this data is something we should all pay attention to.

As someone who works for a nonprofit focused on student achievement, I’ve put much thought and reflection into the results. While theories have ranged from a lack of schools having children practice reading fluency to inadequate school funding levels in many states, the bottom line is that no one in the education community knows with certainty what caused the results to drop.

But what is clear is that it’s time for our country to have a serious discussion about reading in America. More importantly, we must take action.

A good starting place is to look at the results in Mississippi and the District of Columbia – the only places to see gains in three out of the four NAEP categories.

Leaders in the two places credit progress to higher academic standards with aligned assessments and investment in teacher talent and programs. Both also have invested in early childhood education.

Mississippi notably made reading a key priority with the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, which placed an emphasis on grade-level reading skills – particularly in grades K-3. The 2013 Act placed a priority on literacy within teacher training and teacher preparation programs.  

These two examples show that with the right investment and the commitment to the betterment of all our students, students will rise to the expectations. Mississippi’s work, particularly, on reading should not go unnoticed.

The groundwork that occurs with our students in their early elementary and middle school years is what ultimately will set them up to succeed once they enter college and the workforce. If we don’t do enough now, we will see the repercussions. We cannot be idle. As we see this rise in urgency, we must make a commitment. This is on all of us.

There is no way to sugarcoat the NAEP reading results. While they are troubling, they allow us to push for an urgent agenda that prioritizes reading strategies that will benefit our communities, schools and our students. It’s time we embrace the science of reading, assist organizations and communities in their efforts to increase daily reading strategies, and focus on teacher training programs. As a nation we must ensure that the materials being used in classrooms are challenging and setting up all students to succeed.

It is smart for educators, policymakers, communities, and businesses to partner up with organizations that are working hard on reading reform and support systems that are working to implement reading strategies that work. Actions like these will make a real commitment to an education that supports literacy for all students.

Source: Forbes – Leadership