A report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education is urging Congress to focus on the development of literacy in students from early childhood through the twelfth grade in its rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) after finding that 60% of fourth and eighth graders in the US are struggling to learn to read.
The report, The Next Chapter: Supporting Literacy Within ESEA, focuses on why students are having trouble learning to read and looks into the success behind federal efforts to improve literacy in the country, including Reading First and the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program. The report also notes that while the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does provide protection for students who have a number of disabilities, including those pertaining to reading, it was not meant to cover issues stemming from poor instruction in reading or give help to students who are enrolled in schools with poor literacy achievement.
“Teaching students to read when they are young is an important booster shot, but not a lifelong inoculation, against further reading problems,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Instead, students need continued reading and writing support throughout their educational career—especially as they encounter more challenging reading material in middle and high school. Unfortunately, few states provide this continued support, and as a result, the majority of today’s students leave high school without the reading and writing skills necessary for success in an information-age economy.”
The report maintains that the majority of the issue at hand affect students of color as well as students from low-income families, almost 50% of whom enter the fifth grade lacking basic reading skills. The 2013 results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, show 50% of African American students, 47% of Latino students and 47% of low-income students having reading skills below a basic level.
“Without essential literacy skills to master academic course work, students lose the motivation and confidence vital to maintaining their investment in learning,” the report notes. “Furthermore, students who do not read well are more likely to be retained in school, drop out of high school, become teen parents, or enter the juvenile justice system.”
Solutions suggested within the report include new federal legislation, the Literacy Education for All, Results for a Nation (LEARN) Act, which would push for research-based strategies to be used by teachers and educators in their reading and writing lessons across all subject areas and grade levels. In addition, schools would be supported to offer high-quality literacy instruction, as well as interventions and support for students deemed at risk of reading failure.