Five or eight years ago, after Reading First (and NCLB ) had been the law of the land, districts were implementing scientifically based reading research, and publishers were revising their curricular materials to meet the new rigor of RF, we started to see an uptick in student reading performance. Test scores were on the rise, and they were on the rise for all students.
At the time, RF haters declared that any bump in student achievement was the result of kinder, gentler instructional policies implemented in the mid-1990s. There simply was no way we could see the results of Reading First in a matter of years.
A few years after that, we again saw modest upticks in student reading performance for all demographics. This time, the haters declared that it was further proof that RF was a failure, as it hadn’t closed the achievement gaps yet. Forget that we saw increases for Black, Latino, and white students. RF was about closing the gaps, not boosting the performance.
So what is going to be the argument this week? The latest NAEP scores are out, and what do we see? Reading performance for both 9 and 13 year olds is up. For those students who have only been taught reading in the public schools since RF has been the law of the land, we are seeing an improvement in reading scores. And we are seeing the gaps close. The Washington Post and USA Today have the full story in today’s editions.
Without question, there are a lot of people who opposed directing the public schools to teach young children to read through methods that were proven effective. People resisted doing what works when it comes to literacy. But these latest numbers from The Nation’s Report Card don’t lie. Like it or not, Reading First worked. As a result of ensuring that curriculum and PD and instructional materials and assessments and interventions were all tied to proven research and were all based on what was most effective in teaching children to read, we are seeing improvement in student reading performance. And we are seeing it across all demographics, as we actually begin to narrow our horrific achievement gaps.
Do we still have a lot of work to do to eliminate those gaps and get the third of fourth graders unable to read at grade level up to par? Absolutely. But clearly, we are headed in the right direction. Educators across the nation have invested the time and resources to utilizing the proven effective and getting kids reading. And out nation’s middle schoolers are now better for it.
Haters will continue to hate, and point out that RF is essentially dead and classrooms have moved on from it. But we can’t deny that SBRR (until Common Core comes on line) continues to drive the development of instructional materials, the supports offered teachers, and the standards we set for our schools. And that these students — today’s third and seventh graders — are the products of the NCLB environment and an SBRR focus.
Who’da thunk? We actually did put reading first, and we are no seeing the results of all of that hard work.