Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Key points:

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia now require science-based literacy instruction to be used in public schools. As educators and parents learn more about the science of reading, two recent polls reveal the alignment and the differences between their perspectives. A survey of parents and educators across the country reveals differing perspectives on the matter.

Shared focus on teacher training

Nationwide interest in the science of reading is relatively new, even though the science is decades old. However, most teachers were not taught to teach reading this way in their undergraduate and graduate programs. Reliance on other instructional methods, such as balanced literacy or whole language have been the norm. Because the Nation’s Report Card data released in the spring revealed that roughly two-thirds of fourth- and eighth-grade students cannot read proficiently, the efficacy of reading instruction once again became national news. And although this has been a trend over the last 20 years, in this post-pandemic timeframe, we see that parents and the general public have a much higher degree of familiarity with the issue and in fact, have become more acutely aware of students’ reading performances.

In the Harris Poll, 48 percent of parents said they are familiar with the science of reading, and just over half (54 percent) believe it’s important for schools to implement the science of reading and the principles of Structured Literacy. However, one of the starkest contrasts in the survey data is that 51 percent of parents strongly agree their children’s teachers are properly trained in the science of reading while only 27 percent of educators feel the same.

Teachers understand the importance of the science of reading, but almost half (46 percent) of them want more professional learning opportunities for applying this research to help them feel more successful. Both parents (88 percent) and educators (69 percent) agree educators should use educational technology to support literacy instruction. This alignment between what teachers and parents want for their students is relatively new. In the shift to technology-enabled remote instruction during the pandemic, there was some pushback against screen time and technology from parents. However, these results show that both parents and teachers do see the value and benefits of instructional technology to personalize learning, provide student practice, and monitor student progress.

Where do we go from here?

Although their perceptions sometimes differ, the good news is that both parents and educators see science-based reading instruction as the road forward. There are more educators and parents to inform, but the momentum for science-based instruction is growing across the country. Every student deserves to know how to read, and every educator deserves the training to facilitate reading development. Parents are already invested in effective instruction and learning for their students. As they learn more about the efficacy of science of reading-based instruction, educators have asked for the training they need to become successful literacy teachers.

If we begin with the premise that literacy is a civil right, then we must do everything we can to ensure that our students learn to read proficiently. The benefits of knowing how to read and write extend beyond academic success. Literacy is the gateway to personal empowerment and increased economic opportunities throughout life.

We need to focus on two opportunities we have to provide support for schools’ literacy programs: high-quality curriculum programs based on the science of reading and access to highly trained teachers. Evidence-based programs for curriculum and professional learning for educators are top priorities. It is most important for teachers to understand the science of how a student learns to read, as it is not an intuitive process. However, there are other factors that are important for reading success, such as leadership, systemic support, and professional learning so educators have the appropriate tools and are set up for success.

Teaching students to read, involving parents to provide support at home, and ensuring teachers have ongoing and comprehensive training will help equalize opportunity for all students, no matter who or where they are. District leaders have an obligation to find and use literacy programs that have been rigorously studied for efficacy. Research tells us that 95 percent of children are cognitively capable of learning how to read if taught using evidence-based instruction.

This is the future our students deserve. It’s up to all of us to work together to make this happen.

Liz Brooke, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Chief Learning Officer, Lexia

Dr. Liz Brooke is a former educator who currently serves as the Chief Learning Officer at Lexia.

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