- Although nearly half of parents polled said their elementary-aged children are struggling to read, few said a nationwide reading crisis exists, according to a survey by Impact Research in conjunction with Public Opinion Strategies and the Walton Family Foundation.
- But after being informed about the low performance of 4th graders on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress' reading proficiency test, 61% of the of the 800 parents of K-5 students polled said reading is going poorly or in a crisis, and 37% called it a full crisis.
- As more states and districts put resources toward the "science of reading," this recent polling finds parents are supportive of those measures with three-fourths or more of parents backing the teaching of phonics instead of cueing in reading instruction.
More states and districts are embracing the science of reading's emphasis on phonics — or the approach of decoding words by understanding the sounds of letters — after years of disappointing reading proficiency results, and as educators help students recover from pandemic-driven learning setbacks.
The cueing approach to reading instruction encourages students to use information they have available, such as illustrations or story context, to learn new words.
According to an Education Commission of the States tracker of states’ K-3 policies on requirements for district reading curricula, 16 states and the District of Columbia have policies as of June that specifically mention the science of reading, evidence or scientifically-based reading, or phonics.
"People know what phonics is, they trust it. Many of them learn to read by it. They believe it is the way that kids should learn to read," said Brian Stryker, a managing partner at Impact Research, a Democratic-leaning campaign strategy consulting company. Stryker spoke during a Nov. 14 briefing about the polling results.
Parents "don't necessarily inherently distrust cueing, but they do have a preference for phonics when pushed to choose," Stryker said.
More parents, it seems, are also more familiar with phonics. Of those polled, 86% knew of phonics, compared to 22% of parents knowing the cueing approach.
Parents in each of the elementary grade levels ranked reading as the most important academic subject, and nearly half — 46% — said their child's teacher is doing an "excellent" job of reading instruction.
Additionally, parents who align with Republicans, Democrats and Independents all gave high marks to teachers.
The lack of political polarization regarding the performance of teachers is a key finding from the polling given the overall political divisiveness in the country, said Robert Blizzard, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, a conservative-leaning public opinion research firm.
Of the parents who are concerned about their child's reading, the poll found they are most worried about their child's difficulty with reading skills, the quality of education, and a lack of individualized supports. Parents were less concerned about the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and school safety.