(FixThisNation.com) – Numerous cities and states across the United States are overhauling their public school reading instruction methods to address learning disparities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, according to recent data.
A significant portion, nearly 40%, of fourth-grade students are not meeting the basic reading proficiency levels as indicated by a nationally recognized assessment, the Nation’s Report Card.
In response, 37 states along with the District of Columbia have adopted new laws or policies to transform reading education, shifting towards strategies supported by research.
Reports suggest that traditional reading teaching methods in U.S. schools have not evolved in line with extensive research into children’s learning processes. For many years, a popular method known as “balanced literacy” was in vogue, which included activities like teachers reading to students and encouraging them to guess words using pictures or memorization.
Contrastingly, a more contemporary method, referred to as “the science of reading,” advocates for a more direct teaching approach, emphasizing critical areas such as vocabulary, comprehension, and phonics.
Experts like Tiffany Hogan, who heads the Speech and Language Literacy Lab at the MGH Institute in Boston, point out that while children naturally develop language and storytelling skills, the intuitive nature of the balanced literacy method does not cater to all students. Research indicates that phonics-based teaching is more universally effective in improving literacy scores.
Hogan emphasizes the importance of blending explicit reading instruction with fostering a passion for reading, rather than adopting a purely functional approach to literacy education.
The shift towards these new teaching methods has been partly driven by parents who, during the pandemic, became acutely aware of their children’s reading difficulties and initiated a movement to advocate for educational reform.
This push for change has already yielded impressive outcomes in some areas, such as Mississippi, which saw its ranking for fourth-grade reading proficiency jump significantly over a relatively short period.
The momentum for change is building, but experts like psychologist Mark Seidenberg from the University of Wisconsin caution that progress may be gradual and face resistance, highlighting the importance of the quality of teacher training and professional development programs in the successful implementation of these new reading instruction methods.
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