The most recent results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveal a sad fact: about two-thirds of students in the United States are not proficient readers. NAEP has been measuring student progress in the country for decades, and despite wave after wave of educational reform and increased funding in recent years, the needle has barely moved.
The intractability of this problem has many root causes. One data point, however, is abundantly clear: the greatest common denominator is poverty. Not always, but all too often, children from low-income households come to school with language challenges, a lack of early educational opportunities, and limited exposure to language and books. And they frequently have additional obstacles to success in school emitting from a fragile family structure—hunger, health issues, overworked single parents, and unstable living environments. These conditions have a negative impact on school attendance and learning.
But it’s not just poverty that is contributing to low achievement levels. Our education system has not cracked the code or identified the resources to consistently deliver world-class instruction and curriculum for ALL students. Many students need smartly delivered differentiated reading instruction to close their gaps.
Unfortunately, without intensive intervention—the research is clear—kids do not just “get better.” In fact, they slip further and further behind. “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” couldn’t be truer when it comes to reading, as explained in a landmark paper by Keith Stanovich. For example, we see children who are struggling fall further behind as texts get more difficult and their self-efficacy tumbles. Too many of these children become experts in reading avoidance, rather than in reading itself—and, ultimately, in learning avoidance, choosing to drop out of school altogether down the line.
With two-thirds of students reading below proficient, they are the majority . . . not the challenged few. What will make a difference?
We need a comprehensive plan for intervention. The plan should include differentiated instruction in core reading/ELA classrooms coupled with best intervention practices for students who need support, AND intensive reading intervention programs for students who are two or more years below grade level.
This means offering students the life-changing opportunity of entering an effective, research-based program for a focused period of time in addition to their core program. The truth is that differentiated core instruction combined with intensive intervention is the only proven path to ensuring that ALL students reach their potential. It is also the right moral choice for us to make as educators.
At HMH, we wish to be no less than powerful change agents in the lives of students, their teachers, and their families. We believe in the unbounded potential of every child and we understand there is no quick fix for raising achievement. Scaling measurable improvements requires time, dedication, and a commitment to do whatever it takes to ensure every child is prepared for his or her future. At HMH, we know what it takes and we stand ready to be a partner to educators everywhere.
We share this belief—reading is a universal right for ALL.
Margery Mayer is Executive Vice President, Intervention Solutions, and leads HMH’s efforts to offer an unparalleled set of proven-effective intensive intervention programs. HMH’s holistic solutions, which include the company’s leading core programs and unique professional learning offerings, which build educators’ comfort with student-centered learning, data-driven teaching strategies, and adaptive digital technology, enable children and their teachers with a powerful set of learning tools and a proven path to success.
As part of the Company’s commitment to literacy, HMH will donate a book to a child in need for every tweet of #Right2Read.*
*Eligible tweets must use #Right2Read. HMH will donate up to 10,000 books to schools and/or nonprofit organizations; both the books and recipients will be selected at HMH’s sole discretion.
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