Different Factions Come Together on New Literacy Standards

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — June 02, 1999 2 min read

Some of the nation’s top education researchers--including scholars long thought to be in opposing camps in the so-called reading wars--have come together to create new guidelines for K-3 literacy programs.

The Primary Literacy Standards, unveiled here last week by the project known as New Standards, provide detailed benchmarks for what children should master in reading and writing.

New Standards, a reform initiative run by the Washington-based National Center on Education and the Economy, convened a panel of 19 experts. They represented various positions along the spectrum of thinking on literacy instruction, from whole language to phonics.

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The Primary Literacy Standards guide and CD-ROM will be available within the next month for $45 from the National Center on Education and Economy. Call (888) 361-6233 or visit the center’s World Wide Web site at
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“There are some differences of opinion” on how reading should be taught, acknowledged Lucy Calkins, a researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University. “But in terms of [the goals] we are aiming for, our views are remarkably consistent.”

Local Companion

Lauren B. Resnick, a New Standards co-director and director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, said the recommended standards should be used as a companion to the official ones created by states and districts.

Several contributors to an influential National Research Council report on reading also worked on the New Standards document, which is closely aligned with the NRC report, “Preventing Reading Difficulty in Young Children,” released last year.

The newly issued standards do not prescribe how students should be taught. A corresponding CD-ROM offers videotaped clips of students at various stages of proficiency in reading and writing to help teachers gauge whether students meet the standards.

The document outlines three standards each in reading and writing. In reading, it says, students must learn the “print-sound code,” or letters and their sounds. They must also understand what they are reading and acquire good reading habits.

In writing, students must practice daily, demonstrate grade-level proficiency in various types of writing, and use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling, as well as appropriate vocabulary.

“This carries the NRC report to the classroom by providing concrete examples of the benchmarks” students should reach, said Barbara Foorman, a researcher at the University of Houston who was on the panel.

A version of this article appeared in the June 02, 1999 edition of Education Week as Different Factions Come Together on New Literacy Standards


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