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California’s approach to reading education isn’t working

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For most people, reading is second nature — it’s almost muscle memory. As you read the words on this page right now, you likely are not thinking about how you read or the mechanisms our brains use to decipher jumbled letters and words into cohesive concepts and sentences. We learned how to do this and, like many skills, teachers helped us along the way.

The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (often called the National Report Card) showed the largest drop in reading scores in 30 years. While the pandemic exacerbated learning losses, America’s literacy skills have been in decline for decades.

Investing in more effective strategies such as structured literacy and abandoning the failing approaches that don’t work for students is more important than ever. “Structured literacy” is a proven model that takes a systematic approach to phonics instruction. When paired with intentional vocabulary and oral language instruction, it helps children understand letters and the sounds they make, blend those sounds into words and connect those words to meaning.

California’s test results this year made it clear that our current approach to literacy education is not working effectively, with more than half of students failing to meet English and language arts requirements. The truth is, we haven’t been equipping our teachers with effective tools and practices, yet we’ve been expecting improved outcomes for generations.



For most people, reading is second nature — it’s almost muscle memory. As you read the words on this page right now, you likely are not thinking about how you read or the mechanisms our brains use to decipher jumbled letters and words into cohesive concepts and sentences. We learned how to do this and, like many skills, teachers helped us along the way.

The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (often called the National Report Card) showed the largest drop in reading scores in 30 years. While the pandemic exacerbated learning losses, America’s literacy skills have been in decline for decades.

Investing in more effective strategies such as structured literacy and abandoning the failing approaches that don’t work for students is more important than ever. “Structured literacy” is a proven model that takes a systematic approach to phonics instruction. When paired with intentional vocabulary and oral language instruction, it helps children understand letters and the sounds they make, blend those sounds into words and connect those words to meaning.

California’s test results this year made it clear that our current approach to literacy education is not working effectively, with more than half of students failing to meet English and language arts requirements. The truth is, we haven’t been equipping our teachers with effective tools and practices, yet we’ve been expecting improved outcomes for generations.

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