Reading & Literacy Tracker

Which States Have Passed ‘Science of Reading’ Laws? What’s in Them?

By Sarah Schwartz — July 20, 2022 | Updated: July 21, 2023 1 min read
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The “science of reading” movement is sweeping through state legislatures.

Over the past several years, more states have passed laws or implemented other policies requiring schools to use evidence-based methods for teaching young students how to read. These mandates touch on many different components of instruction, including teacher training, curriculum, and how students are identified for extra support.

The legislative movement gained steam after Mississippi passed a series of laws, starting in 2013, that overhauled the state’s approach to teaching reading and preparing future reading teachers. In 2019, Mississippi saw its students’ reading scores improve on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Many states have since copied key components of the Magnolia State’s legislation, seeking to replicate the “Mississippi model.”

As of July 21, 2023, 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws or implemented new policies related to evidence-based reading instruction since 2013, according to an Education Week analysis.

State officials hope that these mandates will shift classroom practice, which will in turn help more students become proficient readers. But reading researchers and practitioners say that the process is rarely that simple.

What Is the 'Science of Reading'?

The goal with all of these trainings, new materials, and new approaches is to align instruction to what’s now known as the “science of reading.” ...

In a science of reading framework, teachers start by teaching beginning readers the foundations of language in a structured progression—like how individual letters represent sounds, and how those sounds combine to make words. At the same time, teachers are helping students build their vocabulary and their knowledge about the world through read-alouds and conversations. Eventually, teachers help students weave these skills together like strands in a rope, allowing them to read more and more complex texts.

Most teachers in the United States weren’t trained in this framework. Instead, the majority say that they practice balanced literacy, a less structured approach that relies heavily on teacher choice and professional judgment. While the majority of students in balanced literacy classrooms receive some phonics instruction, it may not be taught in the explicit, systematic way that researchers have found to be most effective for developing foundational reading skills.

Students are generally “reading” short books of their choice very early on, even if they can’t sound out all the words. Teachers encourage kids to use multiple sources of information—including pictures and context clues—to guess at what the text might say.

Even if states are promoting practices with a strong evidence base, initiatives of this scale require careful implementation to be successful. It’s still unclear whether many of these legislative actions will move the needle on student achievement, experts say.

See below for the requirements of each state’s legislation or policy. Hover over the category names below for details on these requirements.

Glossary of Terms

We've compiled some quick definitions for each category.

Teacher preparation: Requires institutes of higher education and/or teacher preparation programs to review their course offerings or instructional approaches; requires changes that would bring instructional approaches in line with evidence-based practices; requires courses to cover certain topics related to early reading.

Teacher certification or license renewal: Requires preservice teachers to pass a test demonstrating their knowledge of how to teach reading in order to receive a teaching certificate or requires in-service teachers to earn a credential or pass a test to renew their teaching license.

Professional development or coaching: Requires teachers and/or other educators to undergo professional development in evidence-based reading instruction and/or institutes a program of instructional coaching.

Assessment: Puts forth requirements for the type of assessments that schools can use to identify reading difficulties or measure reading progress, or mandates that schools undergo a review process when selecting these assessments.

Materials: Puts forth requirements for the type of curricula and other materials that schools can use to identify reading difficulties or measure reading progress, or mandates that schools undergo a review process when selecting these materials.

Instruction and/or intervention: Requires teachers to use specific instructional methods or provide a specific type or frequency of intervention for struggling readers.

When Did States Pass These Laws?

2021 saw a record number of states pass a reading law.

Search for a state below to learn more about its legislation or policy. This table also shows which states allow or require 3rd grade retention for students who are behind in reading.

Download the Data

Contact Information

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How to Cite This Page

Schwartz, Sarah. (2022, July 20). Which States Have Passed ‘Science of Reading’ Laws? What’s in Them? Education Week. Retrieved Month Day, Year from

Design & Visualization: Laura Baker, Maya Riser-Kositsky, and Hyon-Young Kim


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