The Federal Role in Confronting the Crisis in Adolescent Literacy

Posted on October 04, 2010

A literacy crisis

A new policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education describes how over the last 37 years, the performance of thirteen- and seventeen-year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reveals that nearly six million of 22 million American secondary students struggle to read and write. Research demonstrates that around grade four, students must move from learning to read to reading to learn, contending with increasingly complex material each year. Without consistent content-area literacy support, many lose ground due to limited background knowledge and lack of reading strategies to comprehend concepts introduced in textbooks. When faced with students who struggle to read, teachers often lack sufficient training in integrating literacy into content areas, and tend to water down the curriculum and reduce task demands on students. As a remedy, the brief strongly recommends that subject-area teachers become more skilled in the kinds of reading and writing that are essential to their own academic content areas, and foster students’ abilities to read technical text, subject-matter material, and digital content independently. It also proposes that the Common Core State Standards, along with aligned assessments, can serve as a first step to raise the level of literacy achievement for all students in the United States.

See the brief:

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