Reading Reform Across America: A Survey of State Legislation
Learn about the goals and findings of the Reading Reform Across America report.
In recent years, a scientific approach to reading education has gained traction due to the joint efforts of educators, parents, and state leaders. This movement for better reading instruction has helped to fuel a wave of legislation to address widespread and persistent reading deficits of American students. While reading difficulties cut across socioeconomic lines, they disproportionately affect students living in poverty as well as those from black, brown, and indigenous communities.
Reading Reform Across America documents how state legislatures nationwide have responded to these challenges. Specifically, the report examines reading-related legislation enacted between 2019 and 2022. We analyzed a total of 223 bills enacted in 45 states and the District of Columbia, examining over 40 features, such as teacher preparation, professional development, and curriculum, to name a few.
Our objective is to provide a robust and granular description of states’ efforts to enhance reading instruction, with the following goals:
First, the good news about our findings:
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Our analysis also revealed limitations that could affect the success of these laws:
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We have featured nine states for their legislation’s leadership in specific domains:
The report's companion website features an outline of our policy recommendations, a succinct factsheet, and tools to download and explore the legislative data.
Collectively this legislation represents the boldest, broadest and most scientifically grounded effort our nation has put forward to strengthen reading instruction for all children. Still, our report identifies opportunities for states to pursue more systemic and coherent laws that lay a solid foundation for literacy improvement. Specifically, what raises concern is the unequal focus on different student groups by states, paired with an emphasis on screening and assessment that isn't balanced with a corresponding commitment to comprehensive student supports. Similarly, teachers’ knowledge about scientifically based reading instruction isn’t enough; additional supports like effective school leadership and high quality curriculum are indispensable for educators to apply their knowledge and achieve results with students.
The voices of educators and families should be integral to the legislative process shaping reading instruction. A collaborative approach is more likely to result in stronger policies, and to garner support from those who are closest to students and who will lead the way in putting these policies into action. By contrast, excessive rigidity, such as banning specific practices or curricula — a feature that appears to be increasingly common — can undermine this collaboration and prove impractical. Positive interactions rooted in respect for educators and families will be pivotal to the success of reading policy. Mississippi, a state that championed reading reform well ahead of the legislative wave analyzed in this report, has seen significant improvements in reading. These gains are tied not only to the technical aspects of the reforms, but especially to the collective endeavor of teachers, leaders, and communities in implementing them. Mississippi's experience illustrates that the path to improvement is a continuous, collaborative journey.
Finally, we hope that this report does more than just provide an update on state initiatives. Our analysis and recommendations are intended to be a catalyst for a more unified approach to reading reform, one that enhances our capacity to support every student.
Reading Reform Across America: A Survey of State Legislation offers a comprehensive examination of reading legislation from 2019 to 2022 on over 40 areas including teacher preparation, professional development, assessment, family engagement, and student supports.