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Taking Reading Instruction Beyond the Primary Grades

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Two reports have been released in the last few days that stress the need for states to have a statewide focus on adolescent literacy. Both reports challenge the traditional assumption that reading instruction in schools should end at grade 3. They emphasize that quite a lot of research is available on teaching strategies for reaching struggling readers in middle or high schools.

A report by the Southern Regional Education Board released on Friday at the Education Writers Association annual meeting calls on states to enact policies to support adolescent reading. See my article, "Southern States Urged to Tackle Adolescent Literacy," about the report over at edweek.org.

And when I got back this morning after attending the EWA meeting, a message in my e-mail in-box said the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education has released a report of five case studies of states that deliberately focus on adolescent literacy.

The IES report, "Five States' Efforts to Improve Adolescent Literacy," doesn't compare the merits of the different approaches to adolescent literacy used in the five states (Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.) Rather, it discusses how the states have overcome common challenges.

For example, one challenge is aligning resources to support literacy goals of adolescents. States have tried to meet this challenge by designating at least one person in the state's education agency to oversee adolescent literacy, the report says. In addition, each state requires schools to provide reading interventions to struggling readers.

Another challenge is to measure students' progress and use data for making decisions and monitoring. States said they were using assessments for making decisions, but none was satisfied with the quality of the assessments available.

Alabama and Florida, by the way, show up in both reports as examples of states that are further ahead than others in trying to address adolescent-literacy issues.

1 Comment

Reading instruction usually doesn't end until 6th grade, the primary grades are usually phonics and basic reading skills. While ESOL students whenever they enter may need these skills and many kids may need refreshers, struggling readers don't need the same stratgies that didn't work in the first place to repeated over and over again. Many studies have found this happens repeatedly. Struggling readers are being taught phonics forever even when the children haven't learned from prior instruction. While some may be appropriate, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is not a good idea. That said I do think reading of some kind stops too early and that may be why most Americans read about at a 8th grade level.

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