Reading to Achieve was published by the National Governors Association (NGA), and the NGA Center for Best Practices, which is the nation’s only dedicated consulting firm for governors and their key policy staff. The Center’s mission is to develop and implement innovative solutions to public policy challenges. (http://www.nga.org/)
The average percentage of all students meeting fourth- and eight-grade NAEP reading proficiency standards is less than 50 percent in every state.
Moreover, nationwide, more than 8 million students in grades four through 12 are struggling readers. Barely half of black and Hispanic ninth-graders complete high school in four years.
Neglecting students’ literacy has serious economic consequences for individuals and states. Today, almost 40 percent of high school graduates lack the reading and writing skills that employers seek, and almost a third of high school graduates who enroll in college require remediation. Deficits in basic skills cost the nations businesses, universities, and under-prepared high school graduates as much as $16 billion annually in lost productivity and remedial costs.
College graduates earn 70 percent more than high school graduate counterparts, while H.S. dropouts are four times as likely to be unemployed. Yet only three out of 10 eighth-graders in the U.S. today meet current standards for reading proficiency.
Two-thirds of new jobs require high literacy and education demands. Preparing more students to be successful in higher education will yield benefits for states. Students with strong literacy skills augment rather than drain state coffers. The state focus on literacy cannot end in third grade. Students must receive explicit literacy instruction throughout their adolescent years, defined in this guide as beginning in the fourth grade and continuing through the end of 12th grade.
To meet the proficiency requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, improve the quality of high schools, and close the achievement gap, governors must help struggling readers catch up, which is the aim of the federal Striving Readers Initiative. They must also help all students reach the higher literacy expectations.
Limited oral language proficiency
Adolescent Literacy refers to the set of skills and abilities that students need in grades 4-12. Grade four is when students experience a shift in emphasis from learning how to read to learning from reading text.
The largest group of struggling adolescent readers experience some problems with fluency and comprehension.
The smallest group – no more than 10 per cent- cannot decode or read the words on a page. These students’ problems usually result from serious learning disabilities, insufficient decoding instruction in earlier grades, or a recent and abrupt transition to reading in English.
Increasingly, middle and high school classrooms are filled with ELLs. Rapid growth at the upper grade levels has meant that foreign-born immigrant children now represent a substantially larger share of the total high school population (5.7 percent) than they do the primary school population (3.5 percent).
The diversity of adolescent readers belies a single response. Students need instruction beyond third grade to learn.
Few states have assessment tools that enable teachers and administrators to quickly determine why a student may not have met a state reading proficiency benchmark.
Teachers and Principals receive limited training in Adolescent Literacy instruction.
* Effective training of middle and high school content-area teachers in literacy instruction must be systemic and sustained and must be more than a one-time workshop.
The panel recommended five strategies that governors and states should purse to improve adolescent literacy.