Reading & Literacy

Reading Problems

By Anthony Rebora — October 27, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Results from a closely watched national test released this month have heightened concerns about adolescents’ reading skills. While overall scores on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress—which tests a sampling of 4th and 8th graders in math and reading—showed at least modest improvement since 2003, the average reading score for 8th graders declined by a point. Just 31 percent of the 8th graders scored at or above the proficient level in reading—a figure that has barely budged since the first NAEP scores were issued in 1992.

The NAEP results add to a growing body of research and commentary suggesting that many young people today are not learning—or at least not using—advanced reading skills. In a recent review of results from a range of reading assessments, for example, researchers from the RAND Corp. concluded that while schools’ focus on reading in the primary grades has generated some gains, “many children are not moving beyond basic decoding skills to fluency and comprehension.”

Over the long term, that breakdown may be contributing to other worrying trends identified recently. Fifty-three percent of all college students must take remedial courses, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. And in the past 20 years, the National Endowment for the Arts found in a widely publicized 2004 survey, young adults (ages 18-34) have gone from being the group most likely to read literature to the least likely.

Such patterns have created a surge of interest among educators in penetrating the unique reading problems of today’s adolescents and teens. In a 2004 report titled “Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy,” a panel of education researchers assembled by the Carnegie Corporation and the Alliance for Excellent Education identified 15 key elements to help adolescents move beyond word recognition to more purposeful reading. The items strictly related to classroom instruction include intensively teaching comprehension strategies; making texts available that encompass a wide range of topics and reading levels; holding small-group student discussions of texts; allowing for independent reading and student-selected materials; and focusing on writing.

If the Reading Next panel’s recommendations suggest the importance of students’ personal engagement with texts, the lead article in a recent issue of the magazine Educational Leadership devoted to reading comprehension is more explicit. Titled “Learning From What Doesn’t Work,” the article criticizes standard school practices that discourage adolescent students’ individual inclinations in reading. Authors Gay Ivey and Douglas Fisher instead encourage sustained silent-reading periods, giving kids a wide range of books to choose from, and injecting personal reflections into discussions of books. “Students need instruction,” they write, “but mostly they need opportunities to negotiate real texts for real purposes.”

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Teachers Are Told to 'Activate Prior Knowledge.' Here's How That Works in Reading
New research pinpoints steps teachers can take to help students transfer knowledge to new texts.
5 min read
Illustration of an open book with light blue lines of text flying off the pages.
iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy What Is Background Knowledge, and How Does It Fit Into the Science of Reading?
What a greater focus on content could mean for reading instruction.
12 min read
Open book with space theme complete with hand drawn astronaut and planets coming alive off the pages.
iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Download How to Integrate Writing Throughout Your Elementary Reading Program (Download)
Our resource can help orient your classroom, building, or district's approach to elementary-level writing instruction.
1 min read
Close crop of an elementary school, black girl in class focused on writing in a book.
iStock/Getty