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Missouri has a dismal record of successfully teaching our students to read at grade level.
In 2019 (the last year with full data), only 48.7 percent of Missouri students scored at or above grade level in reading.
Why are only half of our students reading on grade-level, a skill that is key to all other successful learning?
A recent study by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), reveals that a big part of the problem may be how we teach teachers to teach reading in Missouri.
In fact, the study ranked Missouri 41st in the country for our ability to prepare our teachers to teach reading using scientifically proven methods for success.
According to the study, 59 percent of Missouri’s teacher prep programs “continue to ignore the reading methods most likely to be effective with the highest number of students, in contrast to significant progress being made in most other states.”
“Each year, well over 25,000 public school students in the fourth grade are added to Missouri’s ranks of nonreaders,” NCTQ said in a press release early this year. “The lion’s share are black and Hispanic children struggling in the face of an inequitable education system, with their schools unwilling or unable to provide the reading instruction that decades of research has found to be highly effective. Reading ability is a key predictor of future educational gains and life success, making successful reading instruction essential to achieving educational equity.”
The need to fix Missouri’s reading instruction problem is more important this year than ever before as learning gaps are exasperated by the disruptions the pandemic is causing in our schools and the inequities in the system are being revealed.
“Where, when, and how we teach reading says more about us, than it does the students,” shared Kareem Weaver, member of the Oakland NAACP Education Committee. “Explicitly teaching and leveraging the science allows us to overcome our blind spots, assumptions, and biases which impact every aspect of instruction. In other words, the quest to fortify our society and its institutions begins with preparing our teachers to apply the science of reading and reach all students. That’s the way to save us from ourselves and avoid a permanent underclass filling our correctional institutions as prisoners of the ‘reading wars.’”
NCTQ identifies five key elements of reading instruction that have been proven to lead to reading success among students:
NCTQ further recommends that states adopt a four-pillar approach to ensuring reading success for their students. Those pillars include:
Thankfully, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) announced earlier this month that it had been awarded an $18 million grant to improve reading in the state over five years.
According to DESE the grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education for its Comprehensive Literacy State Development program, will address many of the issues raised by NCTQ.
According to DESE’s website, “The goal of the project is to support educators’ working knowledge of evidence-based literacy strategies to effectively teach reading and writing to all students. This includes providing professional development to pre-service teachers in institutions of higher education, early childhood education teachers and K-12 educators to enable them to provide effective instruction. This grant will additionally support districts with developing evidenced-based literacy plans to implement in their local schools and provide support for families.”
While the new grant and the changes it plans to implement are a wonderful move in the right direction, the Missouri legislature can do even more to ensure that our students have the foundation in reading that they need to succeed.
Check out our next blog to see how the state legislature can improve reading instruction in Missouri!
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