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New Issue of the Standard Urges State Boards to Set Policy to Advance Literacy of All Learners

For Immediate release: May 16, 2019
Contact: Renee Rybak Lang,, 703-740-4841

New Issue of NASBE’s Standard Urges State Boards to Set Policy to Advance Literacy of All Learners

Alexandria, VA – Debates over how best to teach children to read and write have been raging for decades and have been rekindled with a recent surge of media attention on teacher preparation and literacy. Against this backdrop, the authors in NASBE’s newest issue of the State Education Standard lay out the complexities inherent to literacy instruction and argue that no single intervention or policy will suffice to close persistent achievement gaps. To move the needle, state policymakers must consider the full spectrum of research and focus on high-quality teacher preparation, continuous professional development, and rich curriculum to meet the needs of all students.

University of Michigan researcher and reading expert Nell K. Duke compares teaching reading to running an E.R. in its complexity, “requiring a broad range of knowledge and skills and the ability to manage and coordinate many ‘cases’ at once.” So high-quality preservice teacher preparation and continued professional development must be priorities for state boards of education, she writes.

Barbara Davidson of StandardsWork and the Knowledge Matters Campaign discusses the tension between two approaches to reading instruction—one that prioritizes attainment of reading skills and another that stresses building content knowledge while learning to read. The latter camp argues that it is a mistake to spend so much time on reading strategies that context is neglected. Davidson warns that “the burden of this lost opportunity falls most heavily on children living in poverty and English learners, who tend to have the biggest knowledge gaps.”

Tim Shanahan and Jana Echevarria of the University of Illinois and California State University at Long Beach respectively look at the stubborn reading gaps that persist among English learners. They point to the outsized impact of vocabulary instruction and the lesser impact of phonics instruction and call for better teacher professional development and more recognition of the value of including parents and maintaining dual language use to encourage literacy achievement.

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy and Dr. Laura Cassidy write about their work in Louisiana on behalf of students with dyslexia. The Cassidys urge schools to screen early for the condition, remove stigma, and employ evidence-based approaches to instruction for dyslexic students.

Two articles based on teacher surveys ask whether college- and career-ready standards have a role in creating proficient readers and writers. The RAND Corporation’s Julia Kaufman and Darleen Opfer suggest that many teachers have only a glancing familiarity with reading standards, nearly a decade after most states adopted the Common Core. They find an exception in Louisiana, which succeeded in helping teachers understand them and directing them to aligned instructional materials.

Michigan State University’s Gary Troia examines teachers’ attitudes about the Common Core. In general, teachers were positive about the standards but did not think they received enough preparation to help students meet the new writing standards in particular.

In the NASBE Interview, longtime literacy duo Meredith and David Liben discuss how state boards of education can use their authority to move the needle on proficiency in reading and writing.

Read the full May 2019 issue of the Standard. Individual articles can be access here.

For 60 years, NASBE has served as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at


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