Category Archives: National Rdg Panel

The National Reading Panel: Still Misrepresented After All These Years


Jay Matthews is a long-time education writer for the Washington Post. Matthews has written about education for years though he has no training or experience in education other than as a student (BA in government, Harvard University, MA in East Asian regional studies). To be sure, he has studied and written about education extensively as a journalist, but that isn’t enough to replace actual classroom experience.

In the following article, Matthews mentions the National Reading Panel report. He implies that the low test scores of poor children is because their schools and teachers ignore the “proven” science of systematic phonics, which we will see, is not proven science after all.

The reading wars flare in Virginia. ‘I am sick to my stomach,’ one parent says.

It is one more sign of rising concern over failure to give all children the intensive phonics lessons proven many years ago to be essential to mastering reading.

Reading is becoming a lively issue in many parts of the country. California recently agreed in a lawsuit settlement to spend $53 million over three years in 75 low-performing elementary schools to improve reading instruction. Only about half of third-graders have met that state’s reading standards, part of a national failure to teach the vital skill to impoverished children.

It has hit hard in Virginia. Walker and two other leaders of the Arlington branch of the NAACP pointed to bad news for children in a January letter to state delegates.

There has been a persistent drop in scores on Virginia’s reading tests, according to federal data, the letter said. “Black and Hispanic students fare the worse in these results and are disproportionately impacted,” it stated.

They point to conclusions from the 2000 National Reading Panel that students need direct instruction in phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. But they said “educational institutions are failing to implement the Reading Panel’s findings.”

The comments following Matthews’ article illustrate the intensity of the “reading wars.” If you’re able (the article is behind a paywall), read those and you’ll get a feel for how difficult it is to break through the literacy-based tribalism of “systematic phonics” [How does one define “systematic phonics instruction” anyway?]. What you’ll find is, if a school is not teaching phonics in a certain way, it’s not teaching phonics at all. There are also claims that “everyone” knows that intense, “systematic phonics” is important for everyone.

All this…despite the fact that the National Reading Panel called for a balanced approach to reading instruction.


Twenty years ago Education Week and other news sources claimed that the National Reading Panel (NRP), declared “systematic phonics” as “scientific truth” in reading instruction.

The only thing is…that’s not what the National Reading Panel declared. Despite what was reported, the Panel didn’t label “systematic phonics instruction” as scientific truth. Instead, it called for a balanced approach to reading instruction.

The problem began with the NRP Summary document which stated…

The meta-analysis revealed that systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through 6th grade and for children having difficulty learning to read.

It’s true, that students were better able to read words, but the summary neglected to state that the full report (p.2-116) referred only to studies of poor readers above first grade. Systematic phonics didn’t really help them with reading actual texts and there was no discernible benefit of systematic phonics over other forms of instruction when it came to reading comprehension. Furthermore, there wasn’t enough data in the studies the Panel reviewed to make conclusions for what they termed, “normally developing readers.” The full report stated…

…phonics instruction appears to contribute only weakly, if at all, in helping poor readers apply these skills to read text and to spell words. There were insufficient data to draw any conclusions about the effects of phonics instruction with normally developing readers above 1st grade.

and systematic phonics didn’t help much with spelling, either…

In contrast to strong positive effects of phonics instruction on measures of word reading, these programs were not more effective than other forms of instruction in producing growth in spelling (d = 0.09).

Several critiques of the National Reading Panel disagreed with the conclusions and drew attention to the conflicts between the full report and the summary. See ColesGaranAllingtonKrashen, and the Minority View by Joan Yatvin, the only practicing educator on the panel, included at the end of the full report. The critiques, unfortunately, were less well-publicized than the summary report.

In other words, the summary booklet, which was written by “the same public relations firm that had been hired by McGraw-Hill/Open Court,” misrepresented the findings of the panel.

The full report supports a balanced approach to reading instruction (p. 2-136).

Finally, it is important to emphasize that systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program. Phonics instruction is never a total reading program…Phonics should not become the dominant component in a reading program, neither in the amount of time devoted to it nor in the significance attached.

So here we are, twenty years later, and the National Reading Panel is still being misrepresented.


There’s No “Science of Reading” Without School Libraries and Librarians, A Predictor of Student Success

The NRP included five essential elements of balanced reading instruction.

  • phonological awareness
  • phonics
  • fluency
  • vocabulary
  • comprehension

Reading researcher Richard Allington went beyond the NRP and wrote the five missing pillars of scientific reading instruction. They are…

  • access to interesting texts and choice of texts
  • matching kids with appropriate texts
  • the inclusion of writing instruction as a reciprocal to reading
  • a mixture of whole-class and small group instruction
  • the availability of expert tutoring for students who need it.

If we don’t include Allington’s five additional pillars of reading instruction as part of a balanced reading instruction program, we risk failing to include vital components of reading.

Schools with libraries and librarians are one of the additional “scientifically proven” benefits to increased reading achievement and help fulfill Allington’s first two pillars.

The loss of libraries and qualified librarians in the poorest schools has reached a critical mass. Yet those who promote a Science of Reading (SoR), often supporting online reading programs, never mention the loss of school libraries or qualified librarians.

Ignoring the importance of school libraries and certified librarians delegitimizes any SoR. Children need books, reading material, and real librarians in public schools. If reading instruction doesn’t lead to reading and learning from books, what’s the point? Why should children care about decoding words if there’s no school library where they can browse and choose reading material that matters?

How do school districts prioritize reading when they shutter the only access some students have to books? Who will assist students when qualified school librarians are dismissed?

Across the country, as noted below, public school districts have chaotically closed school libraries and fired librarians. They have done this despite the fact that school libraries and qualified librarians are proven positive factors in raising reading scores in children.

See also Beginning Reading: the (huge) role of stories and the (limited) role of phonics, by Stephen Krashen

Responding to the Reading Wars: Everyone’s Job

I’m a retired Reading Recovery teacher. I know the amount of phonics and phonemic awareness that goes into a Reading Recovery lesson, yet critics continue to label Reading Recovery as “whole language” instead of the balanced approach that Reading Recovery actually uses.

The Reading Wars have a long, long history. Over the past 100 years, adversaries have argued for and against numerous approaches: whole word, literature-based reading, look-say method, sight words, Initial Teaching Alphabet, balanced literacy, decodable texts, whole language, and phonics first. The wars have recently taken a new twist: the “Science of Reading.” This notion appears to be new when, in fact, literacy acquisition has been the subject of scholarship by many researchers with varying perspectives for many, many years. Reading blogs, tweets, and articles promoting the “science of reading” argue that only one type of study (experimental on phonics and phonemic awareness) qualifies as science and this science has been ignored by educators and scholars conducting other types of research. This is simply wrong. No one approach can claim “science” as theirs and only theirs. A range of research is, in fact, scientific, and we need all of it to inform our practice. Some research questions can be answered through random assignment; others must be answered through close observation, interview, and documentation. It’s up to educators to read widely and make decisions based on the evidence available.

I would add, “…and the needs of their students…” to the last sentence above.

Beginning readers need instruction in phonics, but phonics alone — or even with the other four NRP pillars — does not constitute the “science of reading.”


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2014 Medley #21

American Teachers, SSR, School Prayer, Duncan, Poverty, Charters, Closing Schools


A series of articles about America’s teachers.

We find that experienced teachers are leaving the profession. They’re leaving not because the job is difficult…it’s always been difficult…but because the federal and state governments are doing what they can to destroy public education and the profession of teaching in America. The plan is…

  • tell teachers what to teach.
  • tell teachers when and how to teach it.
  • blame teachers when it doesn’t work.

The results of the study quoted below aren’t surprising.

High-stakes testing, lack of voice driving teachers out

Contrary to popular opinion, unruly students are not driving out teachers in droves from America’s urban school districts. Instead, teachers are quitting due to frustration with standardized testing, declining pay and benefits and lack of voice in what they teach.

So finds a Michigan State University education scholar — and former high school teacher — in her latest research on teacher turnover, which costs the nation an estimated $2.2 billion a year.

Alyssa Hadley Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education, conducted in-depth interviews with urban secondary teachers before they quit successful careers in teaching. In a pair of studies, Dunn found that despite working in a profession they love, the teachers became demoralized by a culture of high-stakes testing in which their evaluations are tied to student scores and teachers have little say in the curriculum.

Next we learn that the nation’s teacher bashers…those who complain that teachers are overpaid and lazy…are wrong. American teachers don’t get paid more than others with similar training and background. American teachers spend more time teaching than other teachers around the world.

The constant whine from the anti-public education crowd is to get rid of the bad teachers. Where are all the “great teachers” going to come from when teaching is a job from which you can be fired at will, a job where you are told what and when to teach by people who don’t have any experience, and a job where requirements are based on the assumption that “anyone can do it?”

American Teachers Spend More Time In The Classroom Than World Peers, Says Report

A study from the Center for American Progress in July found that slow teacher salary growth contributes to high turnover. Research shows that 13 percent of teachers each year move schools or leave the profession.

“The bottom line is that mid- and late-career teachers are not earning what they deserve, nor are they able to gain the salaries that support a middle-class existence,” says the report.

It continues: “As a nation, we need to do far more to attract — and keep — mid- and late-career teachers. In the end, if we truly want to retain top talent in our classrooms, we need to offer top-talent salaries.”

Teachers, when was the last time a politician spent a week shadowing you in your classroom? Those who complain about how weak the teaching profession is…and how lazy teachers are…are not willing to experience what teachers experience every day. For the most part, they’re looking at public education from the point of view of the child they were when last they set foot in a public school.

Now that a teaching shortage has hit how many of those complainers are going to move into the “easy” world of public education with its 180 day work year and short school days.

The Cruel Myths about Teachers

Often, those who complain the most are those who were average or below-average students who blame teachers, not themselves, for their mediocrity. Although most claim to be strong free-market capitalists, they believe teachers should not have much higher wages and benefits than they do, a philosophy bordering on socialism.

Why aren’t there more men in teaching? Public school teaching is still a “mostly-female” profession. Think about what that might mean in a nation which still has a serious gender wage gap and a general disrespect for women.

Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?

…men can earn much more, on average, outside of teaching, while women’s teaching salaries more closely match the average pay for women outside of education.

…Teachers unions argue that the swift adoption of new academic standards, the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers’ job performance and efforts to overhaul tenure all make teaching a less attractive career for anyone.

“The reality of teaching right now is that it’s always been a hard job,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union. It’s “harder now than ever before, with less and less respect,” she said.

The internationally high ranking Finns have found that having plenty of collaboration time for teachers to talk to each other, to compare teaching and experiences, and for planning lessons, has contributed to higher achieving students. Are we in the U.S. just beginning to discover that?

Do students learn more when their teachers work well together?

…researchers found that “the structure and content of relationships among teachers (teachers’ social capital) significantly predicted school-level student achievement [as measured by their test scores in both reading and math].”

Importantly, these effects were consistent across grades, and were sustained over multiple years…


Sustained Silent Reading after the National Reading Panel: Alive and Well

The failure of the National Reading Panel (NRP) was well documented by Gerald Coles in Reading, The Naked Truth and Elaine Garan in Resisting Reading Mandates. Among other things the NRP foolishly rejected research about sustained silent reading (SSR). I have written about SSR before, but it’s nice to see Stephen Krashen write in support of it, too.

The public schools of America have been obsessively focused on the five aspects of reading instruction named by the panel since the NRP report was released in 2000 — phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. No one denies that those are important, but it’s clear that the NRP only reported on those aspects of reading instruction because those are the easiest to measure via testing (see DIBELS), and indeed, the five were specifically included in No Child Left Behind.

Something was missing, though, which reading teachers understood…purpose, motivation and opportunity for reading. Richard Allington wrote The Five Missing Pillars of Scientific Reading Instruction soon after the NRP report was released. It’s a two page addition which includes important aspects of good reading instruction.

  1. Access to interesting texts and choice.
  2. Matching kids with appropriate texts.
  3. Writing and reading have reciprocal positive effects.
  4. Classroom organization: Balance whole class teaching with small group and side- by-side instruction.
  5. Availability of expert tutoring.

All the phonics, vocabulary and comprehension instruction in the world isn’t going to be as effective if students aren’t given opportunities to read texts of their choice and at an appropriate difficulty level. That’s what SSR does. It gives students the opportunity to choose their own books and read them at their own rate.

Contrary to the conclusions of the National Reading Panel, study after study supports the practice of sustained silent reading in school. Some of my responses to the panel were published in Education Week, and others appeared in the Phi Delta Kappan and Reading Today (International Reading Association). I also discussed the panel’s errors in The Power of Reading (2004).

In short, the panel missed many many studies, and misreported several others. In my first response to the panel (Kappan, 2001), I reported that sustained silent reading (SSR) was as effective or more effective than comparison groups in 50 out of 53 published comparisons, and in long-term studies, SSR was a consistent winner (Phi Delta Kappan, 2001).


Right-Wing Firebrand Rick Santorum on His New God Doc

From an interview with Rick Santorum…

The movie argues that the observant are being forced to practice in private, for few hours in church on Sundays. But on a personal level, can’t you observe your religion wherever you want?
Not necessarily. You can’t pray in school, but it’s good to have prayer. Are people offended by prayer? Sure. But the constitution gives us the right to offend. There are a lot of things today in America that offend me.

Right, but isn’t school different? There are lots of rules in school that don’t apply to the rest of society.
This is a fallacy. By making such a judgment, you’re communicating what’s good and bad. Not having the Bible taught in school is a mistake. The Bible is the basis upon which Western civilization was built. It is the most influential book of all. And yet it’s not taught. In school, they can’t talk about the impact of this book. This is, in fact, putting forth a view of history that is ahistorical. It’s hard to not look at the history of Western civilization and not see faith.

Rick Santorum is absolutely wrong and he probably knows it. It’s completely legal to pray in public schools as long as 1) the government (in the form of the teachers or administration) doesn’t choose, mandate, or lead the prayers and, 2) as long as students who are praying are not disrupting the education of others or themselves.

In 1995, thirty-five organizations, ranging from Americans United for Separation of Church and State to the National Association of Evangelicals to the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (Sikh), joined as signatories to a Joint Statement of Current Law on Religion in the Public Schools. In the statement they agreed that,

Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive. Because the Establishment Clause does not apply to purely private speech, students enjoy the right to read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray before tests, and discuss religion with other willing student listeners. In the classroom students have the right to pray quietly except when required to be actively engaged in school activities (e.g., students may not decide to pray just as a teacher calls on them). In informal settings, such as the cafeteria or in the halls, students may pray either audibly or silently, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other speech in these locations. However, the right to engage in voluntary prayer does not include, for example, the right to have a captive audience listen or to compel other students to participate. [emphasis added]

Santorum is also wrong about the Bible being taught in school. Again, the Joint Statement…

The history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature (either as a separate course or within some other existing course), are all permissible public school subjects. It is both permissible and desirable to teach objectively about the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries. One can teach that the Pilgrims came to this country with a particular religious vision, that Catholics and others have been subject to persecution or that many of those participating in the abolitionist, women’s suffrage and civil rights movements had religious motivations. [emphasis added]

As is common with some politicians, Santorum misrepresents the truth. What he really meant to say was that schools can’t lead children in the prayers he wants, and can’t teach his religion using the Bible.

Now where was it that I read about “not bearing false witness?”


Duncan Threatens to Withdraw Florida’s NCLB Waiver over ELLs

Arne Duncan needs to be fired. President Obama’s education plan needs to be overhauled…

Duncan took away Washington State’s waiver because the legislature refused to tie teacher evaluations to student test score…Duncan took away Oklahoma’s waiver because the Legislature repealed the state’s participation in the Common Core, and the governor signed the law.

Editorial: Federal education enforcers out of line

Duncan’s staff has put Florida on notice that the state is at risk of violating NCLB standards that require all children to be counted equally in accountability formulas. Earlier this year, with the support of educators and advocates, the Legislature agreed to give non-English-speaking students two years in a U.S. school before including their standardized test scores in school grading formulas. The change was an acknowledgement of the huge learning curve such children face and that schools should not be penalized if those students can’t read, comprehend and write English at grade level within a year.

Yet to the federal bureaucrats enforcing the unpopular NCLB law, such common sense doesn’t matter. They have given Florida a year to make changes or risk losing its NCLB waiver, which has allowed the state to substitute its own accountability efforts for some of the most unworkable federal mandates. Those include the idealistic but unreasonable federal standard for 2014 that each child at a school must be working at grade level for the school not to be deemed “failing.”


By the Numbers: US Poverty

An update for your information…

Children in poverty: 16.4 million, 23 percent of all children, including 39.6 percent of African-American children and 33.7 percent of Latino children. Children are the poorest age group in the US


CPS outpaces charter schools in improvements, especially in reading

Mayor Emanuel’s rubber stamp school board closed 50 schools last year because they were underutilized. Then they opened dozens of charter schools to dump public money into the pockets of political supporters. Now we find, unsurprisingly, that the charter schools did no better than public schools.

Chicago’s public neighborhood elementary schools improved greatly in reading and slightly in math, outpacing average charter school growth last year, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of recently released testing data.


Mayor Emanuel, and Arne Duncan before him, closed dozens and dozens of neighborhood schools in Chicago. Here we read about the pain and stress that closing schools has on families and children.

Closed charter schools have a ripple effect

“It is a painful, really agonizing process to close a school,” Harris said. “The people who are there are choosing to be there. No one wants to see it happen.”

…“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

…it still created upheaval for families.
“It’s a significant disruption of their life,” Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth said.

…For those children, catching up academically will be as difficult as grappling with the loss of their school and adapting to a new environment.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

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Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, Duncan, National Rdg Panel, poverty, reading, School Prayer, SSR, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

I Learned to Read on the #82 Bus


After I got married (beginning 3 days after, as a matter of fact) I rode the #82 bus every day from Bryn Mawr and Kimball to the Ravenswood “El” (now the Brown Line) station at Lawrence Avenue. From there it was a 40 minute ride downtown to the Loop and my job at Carl Fischer Music at 312 South Wabash Avenue in Chicago. The full trip was about an hour…and it was during the 2 years I worked at Carl Fischer and made that trip daily that I finally “learned to read.”

I could read before that. I had an Arts and Sciences degree from Indiana University (IU) and had been reading books, novels, short stories, and non-fiction for most of my life. I don’t remember when I learned to read in elementary school, but I was never a very good student. There were other things getting in the way of my learning, and reading was a chore. I could do it, but I always had trouble focusing on what I had to read. I had trouble remembering what I read…characters, plot…it all went in as I read, but dissipated almost immediately. So I didn’t really “learn to read” until I started riding public transportation, the CTA, to downtown Chicago every day.

One of my co-workers was a voracious reader and he got me in the habit of writing down the name of a book and its author in a little date book whenever I finished reading it. The first few months I only read a couple of books, but after a while, with two hours a day devoted to reading I made quick progress.

I read more, faster, and with greater comprehension and clarity than I ever had before. I also started reading books which had been more difficult for me…books by people like Dickens, Hesse, Proust, and Thomas Mann. I remember the latter especially. I had tried reading Buddenbrooks when I was in college, but found it to be too long and drawn out…too boring. In other words, too hard. But after a few months reading for two hours on the CTA I picked up a copy of Mann’s Magic Mountain and thoroughly enjoyed it. I followed that with Joseph and His Brothers. Years later I was amazed when I picked up my copy of Joseph and found that the first paragraph in the introduction ran for several pages, and the language was once again, too hard for me to handle.

But during those two years I read and enjoyed so many great novels…like The Lord of the Rings and Pickwick Papers. Some of the books (like the Tolkien) I had read before, but not deeply. I hadn’t retained what I had read…I missed a lot. I hadn’t really enjoyed them. By the end of the two years I had read dozens of classics and popular novels and had understood them and actually had fun reading.

What was different? I hadn’t gotten smarter in the two years since I graduated college. What I had done, though, was to practice reading every day for two hours a day.


That lesson stuck with me and when I started my post graduate work in pursuit of my teaching certificate I pounced on Sustained Silent Reading.

Earlier this month I wrote about how important it was to read aloud to children…at home and at school. In Reading Aloud: Still the Most Important Part of Reading Instruction I mentioned how Dr. Madden introduced me to reading aloud and it became the basis of my reading program from my first day in the classroom. He also introduced me to Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), and with the reinforcement I got from my own experience on the CTA in Chicago, as well as Jim Trelease, I used both reading aloud and sustained silent reading every day.

Trelease wrote,

The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
The more you read, the more you know; the more you know, the smarter you grow.

Sustained Silent Reading is, according to Jim Trelease, “read aloud’s silent partner.”

Among the many purposes of reading aloud, a primary one is to motivate the child to read independently for pleasure. In academic terms, such reading is called SSR— sustained silent reading. Take a book, a newspaper, a magazine, and enjoy it! No interruptions for questions, assessments, or reports; just read for pleasure.

The best thing about it is that SSR works, too.

“Wait,” you say, trying to remember the staff inservice you went to 12 years ago, “didn’t the National Reading Panel report that SSR didn’t work?”

No. They didn’t. For a complete treatment of the National Reading Panel’s coverage of SSR read the following…then come back. I’ll wait.

The Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading: Scientific Research and Common Sense Converge

At first SSR programs were designed to show students that reading could be fun…and didn’t have to be connected to school, a test, or a goal of some sort. Reading was good in and of itself. Writing in Educational Leadership, Steve Gardiner wrote,

The primary goal of silent reading programs has always been to increase students’ enjoyment of reading. Researcher Janise Arthur (1995) investigated the connection between sustained silent reading programs and attitudes toward reading, with special attention to aliterates— those who can read but choose not to. She found several studies that correlated daily reading opportunities with improved attitudes, which in turn produced other benefits.

Studies of children in kindergarten, primary, and middle grades who have demonstrated a voluntary interest in books were not only rated to have better work habits, social and emotional development, language structure, and overall school performance, but also these children scored significantly higher on standardized reading tests. (p. 2)

Sustained silent reading programs do more than improve students’ attitudes toward reading. Studies show that students who enjoy reading also read more books and develop better skills in reading comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary.

Trelease goes a step further. He talks about “summer setback.”

…the at-risk child’s summer includes a home without books, magazines, or newspapers, and without adults who read avidly; no car by which to leave a dangerous neighborhood; no bookstores or convenient library; a daily routine in which the child seldom encounters new people, new experiences, or new vocabulary, thus there is no growth in background knowledge; and little likelihood that educational or informational TV or radio will be seen or heard.

So it’s important to build that habit of reading “for fun” during the school year.

Jimmy Kim’s study of 1,600 sixth-graders in eighteen schools showed that the reading of four to six books during the summer was enough to alleviate summer loss. He further noted that when schools required either a report or essay to be written about a book read during the summer or that parents verify the student had read one summer book, this greatly increased the chances of its being read.

[See: Jimmy Kim, “Summer Reading and the Ethnic Achievement Gap,” Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk ( JESPAR) 9, no. 2 (2004): 169– 88. See also Debra Viadero, “Reading Books Is Found to Ward Off ‘Summer Slump,’ ” Education Week, May 5, 2004.]

The results from the latest NAEP progress report (The Nation’s Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress) are also clear. Reading for fun helps.

Results from previous NAEP reading assessments show students who read for fun more frequently had higher average scores. Results from the 2012 long-term trend assessment also reflect this pattern. At all three ages, students who reported reading for fun almost daily or once or twice a week scored higher than did students who reported reading for fun a few times a year or less…

The NAEP data reported a decline in the number of students who read for fun. In NAEP’s Solution to Flat Reading Scores: “Read for Fun” Educator’s Room author, Colette Bennett tries to figure out why — technology, television, whole language vs. phonics debate — whatever the reason, she says,

The sad truth is that there was plenty of research by 1995 to support a focus on independent “reading for fun” in a balanced literacy program…Yet seventeen years later, as detailed in the NAEP report of 2012, the scores for 17-year-old students who read independently for fun dropped to the lowest level of 19%.

Ironically, these authors are assessment experts, data collectors, who have INCLUDED a strategy that is largely anecdotal, a strategy that can only be measured by students volunteering information about how often they read.


Now you know. Reading aloud to children helps improve their vocabulary, introduces them to language they wouldn’t normally hear in their daily lives, and increases their interest in books. Sustained silent reading gives them an outlet for that interest…and an increase of reading “for fun” improves students’ reading achievement.

Reading aloud and SSR are much more effective learning tools than test prep or drill and kill…and they’re more fun.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!

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Filed under NAEP, National Rdg Panel, Personal History, read-alouds, SSR