Reading is the fundamental skill upon which all formal education depends. Research clearly shows that children who are poor readers at the end of first grade are never likely to acquire the reading skills they need to successfully complete elementary school—unless these students are identified early in their school career and given the intensive, systematic intervention they require. Any child who doesn't learn to read early and well will not easily master other skills and knowledge, and is unlikely to ever flourish in school or in life.
Low reading achievement, more than any other factor, is the root cause of chronically low-performing schools, which harm students and contribute to the loss of public confidence in our school system. When many children don't learn to read, the public schools cannot and will not be regarded as successful—and efforts to dismantle them will proceed.
Thanks to new scientific research—plus a long-awaited scientific and political consensus around this research—the knowledge exists to teach all but a handful of severely disabled children to read well. It is estimated that over 90 percent of students—including many now classified as learning disabled—could increase their reading skills to roughly average levels with intensive, early instruction delivered by skilled teachers.
Therefore, the AFT advocates that states and districts ensure that all K-3 teachers have the knowledge, resources and supports they need to implement high-quality early reading instruction for their students. To do so requires that the following elements of an effective reading program be in place:
- Strong, core reading curriculum;
- Instructional materials aligned with research;
- Appropriate reading assessments;
- Timely, intensive intervention for struggling students; and
- High-quality professional development