Yesterday’s release of the NAEP scores revealed that, as a nation, we have made little progress in the past 20 years in helping our 4th graders read on grade level. Now, writing about flat NAEP scores is like writing about the sun rising. There is nothing new or exciting about this news. We can predict the cycles of the sun, plan for it, react to it, but we cannot impact whether the sun will rise every day. We can impact reading outcomes for 4th graders, as a nation, we have so far failed to do so.
Recent research from Don Hernandez shows that for students not reading on grade level by 3rd grade, one in six did not graduate from high school on time. This rate is four times greater than that for proficient readers. If this doesn’t sound an alarm, I don’t know what will. Reading well is a fundamental necessity for learning in all other subjects from math to history, even art. Children who are not reading on grade level simply cannot reach their full potential in any other subject. Economically, this leads to immeasurable loss in untapped potential of our future workforce.
Instead of the “keep on keepin’ on” mentality that has yielded predictably flat results for two decades, it is time to do something dramatically different in reading instruction: Use what works.
There are pockets of success across the country, and four states --Arizona, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania have even made progress in closing gaps between low and high income 4th grade students in the past eight years. It is time we focus intensely on scaling up evidence-based successful practices. Our kids deserve, and our economy needs, a laser focus on changing these sadly predictable outcomes.
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