Statement on the “Science of Reading” from US Think Tank

The US National Education Policy Center and the Education Deans for Justice and Equity have jointly released a Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading”. It is reprinted here in the interests of promoting rational debate.

For the past few years, a wave of media has reignited the unproductive Reading Wars, which frame early-literacy teaching as a battle between opposing camps. This coverage speaks of an established “science of reading” as the appropriate focus of teacher education programs and as the necessary approach for early-reading instruction. Unfortunately, this media coverage has distorted the research evidence on the teaching of reading, with the result that policymakers are now promoting and implementing policy based on misinformation.

The truth is that there is no settled science of reading. The research on reading and teaching reading is abundant, but it is diverse and always in a state of change. Accordingly, the joint statement highlights the importance of “professionally prepared teachers with expertise in supporting all students with the most beneficial reading instruction, balancing systematic skills instruction with authentic texts and activities.”

This key idea of a “balanced literacy” approach stresses the importance of phonics, authentic reading, and teachers who can teach reading using a full toolbox of instructional approaches and understandings. It is strongly supported in the scholarly community and is grounded in a large research base.

The statement includes guiding principles for what any federal or state legislation should and should not do. At the very least, federal and state legislation should not continue to do the same things over and over while expecting different outcomes. The disheartening era of NCLB [No Child Left Behind legislation] provides an important lesson and overarching guiding principle: Education legislation should address guiding concepts while avoiding prescriptions that will tie the hands of professional educators.

All students deserve equitable access to high-quality literacy and reading instruction and opportunities in their schools. This will only be accomplished when policymakers pay heed to an overall body of high-quality research evidence and then make available the resources as well as the teaching/learning conditions necessary for schools to provide our children with the needed supports and opportunities to learn.

The Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading” can be found on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/fyi-reading-wars

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