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Urgent Call for Improved Reading and Literacy Instruction for America’s Students Issued by National Organizations

Faltering Reading Results from Latest NAEP Release Spur Action

WASHINGTON (November 12, 2019) – Today, the Collaborative for Student Success announced a collective effort with 11 organizations representing the education and civil rights communities, including the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), to address the alarming reading results released in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card.

The October 30th NAEP release showed a decrease across 17 states in 4th grade reading and 31 states in 8th grade reading as well as a widening of the achievement gap over the last decade between the highest performing and lowest performing students. While the results show that high performers continue to grow, they also highlight the fact that not every student has access to a high-quality education.

“While there are some bright spots in these results, there is no doubt that there is an urgent need for action across states, districts and schools” said Jim Cowen, Executive Director of Collaborative for Student Success. “Along with our partners in this field, the Collaborative knows that states committed to keeping high academic standards, and to embracing the actual science of reading instruction, are the ones who saw success.  Collectively, we must champion the widespread use of those policies and practices to ensure that learning conditions are improved for all students, especially for our students who have been historically underserved.”

It is worth noting the states that saw improvements. Mississippi and the District of Columbia both saw increases in reading scores. Mississippi’s 4th grade scores increased by four points and the District of Columbia’s 8th grade scores increased by three points. These examples illustrate what’s possible when students are held to high expectations and effective strategies are implemented patiently and effectively.

Today, the 12 organizations are jointly urging an agenda that focuses our collective efforts on those effective approaches in five critical areas for action:

“The persistent gaps in reading achievement for students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities on the NAEP require urgent action,” said John B. King Jr., 10th U.S. Secretary of Education and President and CEO of The Education Trust. “Among the important steps needed is much greater attention to the science of reading. Research on how students learn and the evidence base on effective reading instruction and interventions should inform investments in strengthening teacher preparation; adopting high-quality, content-rich curricula; improving professional development; and targeting supports to the students with the greatest needs. Effective participation in civic life – from writing a letter to the editor to testifying at a city council hearing to casting a well-informed vote in a presidential election – is immeasurably strengthened by students’ literacy skills. As a nation, if we fail to honor students’ right to literacy, we threaten the long-term health and well-being not just of our economy, but of our democracy.”

“Literacy is absolutely critical, and the Nation’s Report Card clearly demonstrates we are falling short, with double-digit gaps between Black and Latino students and their White peers,” said Deb Delisle, president and CEO of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

“The highest performing Black, Latino, and Low-income students are doing better and that’s good news, but we can’t afford to let opportunity and achievement gaps continue to persist. In an economy where strong reading and writing skills are paramount and higher levels of education are required than ever before, we must provide focused and research-based instruction to ensure all students gain essential literacy skills,” she adds.

“While some of the decline in reading scores might be attributable to the lingering, devastating effects of the Great Recession, states like Mississippi demonstrate what’s possible with a careful, evidence-based, long-term focus on improving the teaching and learning of reading skills” said Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Schools cannot do it all, and they cannot do it alone, but there’s no excuse for any school in America to be failing to teach reading in line with the science. We can and must do better.”

It is encouraging that movement is already underway to focus attention in this area. For example, the Council of Chief State School Officers has announced that a Literacy Summit will be held in early 2020. It is critical that states and districts implement changes to ensure that every child has access to a high-quality education.

About the Collaborative for Student Success

The Collaborative for Student Success is a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to defend high standards, high-quality assessments, and strong systems of accountability to ensure that all kids are prepared for college or career. Through capacity-building efforts with in-state organizations and collaboration with national partners, we promote fact-based public discourse and fight to advance policies that promote best practices and ensure equitable outcomes for all students.