Some states are taking effective actions to improve literacy instruction through "science of reading" approaches while other states lag, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
For example, NCTQ categorized Maine, Montana and South Dakota as "unacceptable" because they have few or no policies in place to strengthen teachers' reading instruction. In total, the council said 19 states lack strong policies to support effective reading lessons.
On the other hand, the council identified 12 states, including Florida, Virginia and Colorado, with "strong" policies that build teacher capacity to implement scientifically-based reading instruction.
"Helping all children learn to read is possible when you have teachers who’ve been prepared in the science of reading,” said Heather Peske, president of NCTQ, in a statement.
The council estimated that more than 90% of students would learn to read if they had effective reading instruction. By prioritizing teacher effectiveness, states can have a teaching workforce to support student literacy, the council said.
NCTQ is basing its analysis on states' efforts in five policy areas:
Specific and detailed reading standards for teacher prep programs.
Reviews of those teacher prep programs to hold them accountable for implementing science of reading strategies.
Adoption of a strong elementary-level reading licensure test.
Requirements for districts to select a high-quality reading curriculum.
Ongoing professional development to support and sustain science of reading approaches.
Improving literacy was the focus of 12 enacted bills in state legislatures in 2023, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Specifically, several states including New York, California and Illinois, are targeting investments toward science of reading initiatives that include instruction on identifying individual sounds in words and how letters and groups of letters fit together to make words.
The NCTQ report highlights state programs that are making strides in the five policy areas. For example, the council said Utah has very specific reading competencies for teacher prep programs, including examples of what instruction in these skills would look like. Mississippi, the report said, has a curriculum assessment tool that includes guidance on vetting curricula, including determining how well the curriculum supports teachers of English learners.
NCTQ said that while research shows states spend about $1 billion on reading curricula, only nine states require districts to use high-quality reading curricula, while the remaining states give autonomy to their districts to purchase reading curricula even if it isn't research-based.