Jun 5, 2020

Successful Readers: Who shares the responsibility?

Chris Dwyer
Capacity building Team
Report cover

What images come to mind when thinking about teaching young children to read? Perhaps a parent helping a child sound out the letters in an unrecognized word or a teacher talking with a small group of children about the characters in the story they’ve just read aloud. Chances are the average person doesn’t immediately summon an image of policymakers, state leaders, or researchers when thinking about young children’s reading. Yet it is the work of researchers and policymakers to set the conditions that may portend success or struggle for young learners.

The work of researchers over the past several decades has yielded converging results about the essentials for ensuring Grade 3 reading success.  State administrators and policymakers may intentionally facilitate or inadvertently impede the implementation of those “non-negotiables” in schools and classrooms. Those essentials include accelerating language development for preschoolers; implementing evidence-based practices in classroom reading instruction; providing opportunities to practice reading in many settings; and assessing risk, growth and outcomes and using that data to influence instruction.

In State Policy Levers for Improving Literacy, noted researcher Barbara Foorman describes those “non-negotiables” and offers advice about policies that can guide and support actions at district and school levels. Foorman urges state education agency staff to be proactive and avoid using local control as an excuse not to implement evidence-based literacy plans. For example, she encourages practices such as incentivizing local adoption of evidence-based curricula and instructional practices; statewide coordination of professional development for coaches and teachers; and active oversight of teacher preparation programs.

The paper is a quick read with a deep bibliography for the reader who wants to go further with the essential steps and state actions.

- Chris Dwyer works on the Capacity Building Team for the National Center