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10.30.19My “Hot Take” on NAEP Reading Scores

Mine’s probably a lukewarm take but you get the point

NAEP scores are out today. Reading scores are lower. Especially post-elementary.

This quote is telling: “NAEP Scores: While the 1-point decrease among fourth-grade students is small, the 3-point decline among eighth-graders is substantial, federal officials said.”

I think a “hot take” is what you call it when you use social media to make an instant semi-thought-through response, right? I’m sure this doesn’t count as hot, but at least it’s maybe a ‘take.’

Let’s assume for the moment that the differential between 4th and 8th grade results is significant. This actually seems to have been a persistent trend that’s been growing but has gotten worse. What might account for it?

  • Within Schools: Lack of knowledge-based instruction. Most schools continue to invest time in low-value skills-based instruction on the belief that learning to make inferences or determine the main idea is 1) a transferable skill and 2) reading. Through grades three or four, mastering decoding and basic comprehension are sufficient to allow students to read relatively simple texts, but as knowledge becomes more critical to understanding with more complex texts, the long tail of knowledge-poor instruction comes home to roost. We keep thinking that the response is more skills-based instruction. If I wanted to follow what the research says, I’d go instead with a ton of reading of challenging texts in a knowledge-rich environment with massive emphasis on vocabulary. I rarely see that.

Possible response: Read Natalie Wexler, The Knowledge Gap; Isabel Beck, Bringing Words to Life. Just maybe check out our reading curriculum

  • Within Society: So what changes between 4th and 8th grades that could account for this??? Screen proliferation and addiction: kids become addicted to phones somewhere around 6th or 7th grade. The amount of reading they do goes down precipitously, as does their habit of sustaining concentration, as does their ability to read deeply.

Possible response: spend more energy restricting technology in school than infusing them with it; practice sustained periods of reading; have students read off-screen.

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