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“ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS TO THE NATIONAL CRISIS IN LITERACY”: Alliance Brief Calls for Alignment Between Literacy Plans and Common Core State Standards

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“The Common Core State Standards Initiative took lessons from high-performing countries in developing these standards and set forth clear and ambitious benchmarks in literacy.”

Federal and state leaders have an important role to play in developing comprehensive K–12 literacy plans aligned to the English language arts common core state standards, according to a new policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education. The brief, “Engineering Solutions to the National Crisis in Literacy: How to Make Good on the Promise of the Common Core State Standards,” argues that developing these plans is critical to ensuring that all students develop the necessary competencies to graduate from high school ready for college and the modern workplace.

“The Common Core State Standards Initiative took lessons from high-performing countries in developing these standards and set forth clear and ambitious benchmarks in literacy,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “The standards are well designed to weave reading and writing skills throughout the fabric of other content areas such as history, social studies, and science.”

According to the brief, the adoption and implementation of the English language arts common core state standards establishes a “staircase” of increasing complexity in what students must be able to read and comprehend. The brief stresses that high school students’ ability to read and comprehend challenging text will predict their success in a postsecondary environment.

“Engineering Solutions to the National Crisis in Literacy” calls on state leaders to develop comprehensive, birth through grade twelve literacy plans that provide a systemic approach, equitable resources, and strong teacher training.

At the federal level, the Alliance brief urges policymakers to support the adoption of college- and career-readiness standards in English language arts and aligned assessments and to enhance the role of states in improving literacy instruction. It also calls on federal policymakers to support and invest in increasing the quality of teacher education and professional development and make investments in ongoing research and evaluation to build on the knowledge base about what literacy strategies can produce significant improvement in adolescents’ reading and writing performance.

The brief provides ample evidence on the extent of the literary crises. For example, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, American fifteen-year-olds currently rank fourteenth among developed nations in reading, lagging behind countries such as Poland, Estonia, and Iceland. In addition, it notes that private industries spend an estimated $3.1 billion annually to bolster literacy skills of entry-level workers.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a single set of clear educational standards for K–12 English language arts and mathematics. The standards are designed to be informed by the highest benchmarks from across the country and around the globe, relevant to the real world, and reflect the skills and knowledge that students need for success in college and the modern workplace. Currently, forty-four states and Washington, DC have adopted the standards. (Learn more on the common core state standards at here.)

“Engineering Solutions to the National Crisis in Literacy” is available at here.

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