Trying to keep up with all that’s going on with the science of reading? Here are some news stories that have caught our eye!
A federally funded study conducted by the University of Delaware brings into question the effectiveness of Reading Recovery, a one-on-one reading intervention program. The study found that by upper elementary, students that had received the intervention had lower scores on state reading tests than a comparison group that did not receive the intervention. Schools across the country have been reevaluating their use of Reading Recovery based on the program’s lack of alignment with the science of reading.
In this widely shared article from Time magazine, you can learn more about the science of reading shift that is happening nationwide. If you are looking to share more about the science of reading with administrators, school board members, parents, or other stakeholders, this is a great article to pass along!
What Babies and Toddlers Need to Become Good Readers (Time Magazine)
Research shows that major brain circuits and networks develop by age 2. Without intentional investments in early childhood education and support for families to nurture early literacy development, it will be difficult to make significant gains in overall literacy levels. This article highlights policies that could help in creating a strong literacy foundation for children, including paid parental leave after childbirth, tax credits for families with young children, and affordable, high-quality childcare.
While much attention has been placed on foundational reading, students also need to develop the ability to critically read and evaluate sources. Most faculty do not have the training to help students improve their reading, but this article offers strategies they can use to help students develop their reading skills, along with a list of resources faculty can consult to learn more.
A growing number of states are passing legislation requiring school districts to adopt reading curriculum that is backed by scientific evidence. Currently, six states have general guidance about evidence-based programs, fourteen states offer advisory lists of curricula that meet state requirements, and twelve states maintain state-mandated lists. Additionally, at least twenty-six states have passed laws intended to help teachers learn about the science of reading.
If you’ve taken any of our professional development, you’ve heard us talk about cognitive load and its importance in reading instruction. When applied to literacy development, cognitive load theory explains why being able to decode effortlessly and automatically are essential to comprehension. When the brain is trying to take in new information, it does so through working memory. Without automatic decoding skills, the brain has minimal cognitive capacity to comprehend the meaning of a text. Natalie Wexler breaks this down further in this Forbes article.
A genome-wide association study has identified 42 genes that are responsible for dyslexia. Previous family-based studies have suggested dyslexia heritability of up to 70%, without much information regarding genetics. While most of the genetic variation underlying dyslexia remain undiscovered, researchers are hopeful that findings will “expand diagnostic capabilities, facilitating earlier identification of individuals prone to dyslexia and co-occurring disorders for specific support.”
An analysis of fall 2022 test scores of seven million elementary and middle school children across the nation revealed that the 2022-2023 cohort of third grade students are suffering the largest pandemic related literacy deficits when compared to older students. While this cohort has resumed a typical learning pace, their progress towards pre-pandemic grade level expectations is the smallest among students in 3rd-8th grade. Without appropriate response, this cohort will continue to struggle as a whole.
Ensuring the most effective instruction by implementing reading research is critical as schools across the nation respond to a drop in reading scores, as compared to pre-pandemic proficiency. The science of reading is able to provide educators with the most up-to-date information regarding how to support the development of foundational literacy skills, and make progress towards skilled reading. Professional development is needed to guide educators in understanding brain processes involved in reading, effective instructional practices, and how to utilize data to inform decision making.
Though nationwide graduation rates have risen in recent decades, the number of adults who struggle to read remains around 48 million, or 23%. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson developed an adult education system to address illiteracy nearly 60 years ago, however access and funding to programming varies widely from state to state. An additional barrier to the success of federally funded programming is the use of high school credentials as a success metric, diminishing the opportunity for adults that struggle with basic reading skills. The consequences of such high illiteracy rates are evident nationwide.
Keep scrolling for state-specific news!
How Can Schools Help Students With Dyslexia? In California, Responses Are Far From Consistent (LAist)
Public schools in California address the needs of students with dyslexia in varied ways. While some schools are implementing systemic changes to support struggling readers, families at other schools are needing to fight for in-school services or find expensive outside tutoring.
California is currently one of ten states that does not require schools to screen all students for dyslexia. While state legislation in 2015 required the creation of statewide dyslexia guidance, it did not require that schools follow this guidance. Dyslexia advocacy groups are pushing for comprehensive legislation and support.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is working to implement the science of reading within the Los Angeles Unified School District, and is calling on other school districts and teacher preparation programs to do the same. While the California Department of Education has not mandated specific instructional approaches for literacy, a new $250 million initiative has been established to bring reading coaches and specialists to high-needs schools. Advocates assert that more is needed to ensure best practices are implemented throughout the state.
The Colorado legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 19-199 into law in 2019, putting into place a 45-hour science of reading training requirement for K-3 Colorado educators to be completed by August 1, 2022. As of July, many districts across the state were on track to meet the compliance deadline, or reported that K-3 educators have already completed the training.
The Colorado State Board of Education was unable to grant full approval to four majors within the University of Colorado Denver’s teacher preparation program due to a lack of alignment with the science of reading. CU Denver will be required to make appropriate course revisions that align with scientifically-based reading instruction, embed standards across courses and clinical teaching experiences, and ensure the training of reading faculty on Colorado’s reading law.
Around 90% of Colorado’s K-3 educators successfully completed state-required professional development on the science of reading by the August 1st deadline. Mandated training is one of several components of the state’s effort to improve foundational literacy skills. Funding tied to compliance will be released in November to districts whose staff has met training requirements.
Georgia State University’s College of Education & Human Development received a grant from the Georgia Department of Education to help teachers earn their dyslexia endorsement. The funding can be used to cover tuition, fees, and exam costs for educators across the state to receive dyslexia training.
Free Learning Opportunities Available and Volunteers Needed for the South Suburban College Literacy Tutoring Program
South Suburban College’s Office of Adult Education in South Holland, Illinois is offering a tutor training program to build up a network of volunteers that will provide tutoring for area adults in need of basic literacy skills. Free 12-hour training and continuing professional development services are available to participating tutors
The Indiana Department of Education will be partnering with 69 schools across the state to launch programming that will provide coaching to teaching staff in research-based reading instruction, among other subject areas. During the 2020-2021 school year, iRead-3 results showed that nearly one in five students in Indiana were not proficient in reading. In an effort to improve reading proficiency by third grade, reaching coaches will support K-2 teachers at schools across the state.
Local School Officials Welcome Potential of State’s Literacy Investment (News and Tribune)
Indiana’s Governor Eric Holcomb and Education Secretary Katie Jenner announced an investment of $111 million into early literacy development across the state. These monies will fund school-based literacy coaches, professional development stipends for teachers, and will establish a literacy center within the Indiana Department of Education.
Special Needs Advocates Urge Parents to Get Services Their Children Are Entitled To (Western Mass News)
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released statewide guidance that requires dyslexia screening for K-2 students, and the Western Massachusetts special education advocacy community is encouraging families to advocate for their learners this school year to ensure students are getting services they are entitled to receive within the school setting.
Massachusetts Mandates Literacy Screening to Detect Learning Disabilities (The Boston Globe)
The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has unanimously approved mandatory K-3 literacy screening across the state, beginning July 2023, to promote the early identification of students in need of literacy interventions. Districts will be required to create plans to support students who are significantly below grade-level benchmark goals and inform families of screening results within 30 days.
A new bill in Michigan would require all K-3 students and any other student who seems to be struggling academically to be screened for dyslexia. Other proposed dyslexia-related legislation addresses teacher training, improving classroom supports, and creating a state dyslexia resource guide.
The Mitchel Perrizo Jr. Leaders are Readers Fund supports early literacy initiatives with K-3 teachers. This year’s grant recipients received awards to purchase a writing curriculum, a structured literacy curriculum, and a reading intervention curriculum that includes phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
North Carolina has mandated another overhaul of public education literacy practices in an effort to bring instruction into alignment with the science of reading. Although North Carolina passed Read to Achieve legislation in 2012, creating a retention policy for 3rd graders not yet proficient in reading, a North Carolina State University study revealed this policy did not improve reading scores. The state’s latest efforts to address reading proficiency requires school districts to select evidence-based curricula and requires training in the science of reading for K-5 educators
NYC Mayor Eric Adams will launch a pilot program for students with dyslexia at two public schools, as well as implementing universal literacy screenings for all students in the city, starting with 80 elementary and 80 middle schools. NYC schools will also be required to use curricula with a strong emphasis on phonics. Mayor Adams aims to establish schools that specialize in dyslexia by 2023. Mayor Adams, himself, has often discussed his own difficulties as a result of dyslexia.
The Rise and Fall of Vibes-Based Literacy (The New Yorker)
As the use of balanced literacy dwindles in New York City Public Schools and other school systems throughout the county, the “Reading Wars” continue on in schools and public spheres. Among researchers, however, there is no debate that explicitly teaching phonics, phonemic awareness, and spelling in the early grades are foundational to supporting overall literacy development.
While the focus on evidence-based instructional practices is certainly beneficial to large scale literacy improvement, immense systemic barriers such as a chronic lack of school funding and child poverty persist.
Pa.’s state budget includes a big boost for school districts, but officials say more could have been done
Pennsylvania school districts are set to receive a budget increase of $525 million in the 2022-2023 state budget. Among increases in basic education, special education, and higher education funding, funding was also included to support the creation of a structured literacy program to address early literacy skills.
PA Department Of Education Provides New Professional Development, Guidance To Increase Student Literacy
The Pennsylvania Department of Education will provide structured literacy professional development and support to early childhood, elementary-middle level, Special Education, English as a Second Language, and Reading Specialist professionals. Department of Education training opportunities, as well as school training plans and teacher preparation programs, will be aligned with structured literacy competencies adopted by the Department.
Tennessee Trains Thousands of Secondary Teachers in Reading Science (Fordham Institute)
Over the summer, the Tennessee Department of Education provided science of reading training to secondary educators. The science of reading has taken hold in early education, but secondary teachers have often been left out of the picture. This training addressed that issue, emphasizing how literacy can be integrated throughout content areas to ensure that all learners are proficient readers. The training focused on the use of complex texts, building background knowledge, and integrating writing and discussion into the reading process.
The science of reading has extended to the high school level in Memphis, Tennessee. While the focus on structured literacy has centered on early education across most of the nation, the Memphis-Shelby County school district is training secondary teachers across content areas to support literacy development through basic and advanced decoding skills, and explicit and direct vocabulary instruction. This shift is part of an effort to address the nationwide trend that two in three eighth graders are not reading with proficiency, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
While some school districts in North Texas are still committed to a balanced literacy approach, Fort Worth school district has embraced the brain research that informs how children learn to read, in part to remediate a history of chronically low reading scores. In 2019, only one-third of the district’s third graders were reading on grade level. As the Fort Worth school district continues to re-train educators, the district has encouraged a restructuring of instructional time, collected back ineffective curricula, and rolled out replacement materials that are aligned with the science of reading.
Utah lawmakers placed $20 million into efforts to roll out science of reading across the state, in addition to the $12 million in federal COVID funding that was initially invested in revamping teacher preparations programs and retraining teachers in structured literacy. This new wave of funding will continue training efforts, as well as hire literacy coaches and convene a panel of literacy experts to support implementation. Additionally, districts throughout the state will now be required to use curricula aligned with the science of reading. Utah aims to have 70% of third graders reading at grade level by 2027.
Rockingham County has seen promising progress in the reading achievement of students since the instructional shift. Assistant Superintendent Larry Shifflett is hopeful that teacher preparation programs will also make a move toward evidence-based literacy instruction.
West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools David Roach has released a plan to address the decline in foundational literacy and math scores. “This approach is simple: prioritize reading, writing, and math at the elementary level to build a solid foundation for our youngest learners,” Roach said. Literacy is the initial priority of the Department of Education, which will focus on the implementation of the science of reading, phonemic awareness and fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
Regal Elementary in Spokane, Washington moved to structured literacy instruction following the passing of 2018 state legislation requiring schools to screen K-2 students for dyslexia. In addition to fulfilling screening requirements, Regal Elementary proactively implemented science of reading based instruction to support literacy development within the context of brain-based research. The rest of Spokane Public Schools will be implementing structured literacy in the future, through a long-range district plan for “equitable access and student development of elementary foundational literacy skills.”