Science of Reading: Where Rhetoric Meets Reality
More than half the states have passed laws or policies mandating a “science of reading” approach to early literacy.
In a sense, these mandates mark the end of one story—that of the activists and educators who have pushed forcefully for an evidence-backed approach to reading. But they’re only the beginning of another story—the monumental challenge of shifting teaching practices on the ground, classroom by classroom.
Are states providing enough coaching for teachers to feel comfortable with an approach still unfamiliar to many of them? Have they provided curriculum and teaching models in time? Are they selecting trainings and materials backed by science? Where is teaching truly changing, and where are old habits still holding on?
This incisive project, the brainchild of reporter Sarah Schwartz, aims to tell that story through the lens of North Carolina, whose challenges mirror those of many states. With reading scores in the middle of the pack, the Tar Heel state passed reading legislation in 2021—alongside nearly a dozen other states. Now it’s wrestling with dueling goals: wanting to move quickly, but also wanting the changes to stick.
We hope the series will give you new insights about the challenge of shaping teaching at scale—and how these educators’ experience can inform your own journey, whether as a teacher, administrator, or policymaker.
—Stephen Sawchuk, Assistant Managing Editor, Education Week
- Why Putting the 'Science of Reading' Into Practice Is So ChallengingPhilosophical disagreements, a rushed rollout, and a lack of ready-to-use materials have complicated one state's journey.
- Reading & Literacy Tracker Which States Have Passed 'Science of Reading' Laws? What's in Them?Education Week tracks which states mandate that schools use evidence-based methods to teach young students how to read.Reading & Literacy Series Getting Reading RightIn this 2019 collection, Education Week interrogates the cognitive science behind how young students gain foundational reading skills.
Lead image: The state of North Carolina is taking measures to improve reading rates in elementary schools, including in this first grade classroom at Eastern Elementary in Washington, N.C.
—Kate Medley for Education Week