Abigail Roy: Vermont can’t wait to embrace the science of reading

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This commentary is from Abigail Roy of Essex, a school psychologist and assessor at the Stern Center for Language and Learning in Williston. She is a board member of the International Dyslexia Association’s Northern New England Alliance.

Students who are not proficient third-grade readers face lifelong consequences. Three-quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school, making them four times more likely to drop out without completing high school.

According to data from the Vermont 2019 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, only 50% of third-graders in Vermont achieved a proficiency score or higher in English. Unfortunately, student performance has declined further, to 42.5% in 2021, with the impact of the global pandemic.

Fortunately, there are decades of in-depth studies on how the brain learns to read and write, supplemented by applied research on effective reading instruction. This body of evidence is often called the science of reading.

Policy makers and educators nationwide are increasingly recognizing the importance of evidence-based literacy education to improve student outcomes. Hardly a week goes by without a national news story reporting on the changes in literacy education taking place across the country. In part, thanks to Emily Hanford’s investigative journalism and the publication of her latest podcast, Sold A Story, a movement toward literacy education reform is sweeping the country.

According to Education Week, as of May 9, 31 states had passed laws or implemented new policies related to reading science-based education. Vermont is not one of those states.

Poor reading scores are not the fault of our teachers; they do the best they can with the knowledge and resources they have. They are products of teacher preparation programs across the country that continue to train teachers in literacy methods that are not backed by science.

As a result, we continue to send teachers into classrooms that are woefully underprepared to teach literacy effectively, resulting in more than half of our third-grade students failing to meet proficiency standards.

Additionally, the cost and time associated with reading remediation after third grade is significantly higher than the investment in early intervention. Vermont currently ranks second in the nation in spending per student at $23,299, and the incremental cost per student to provide intensive reading remedial instruction to struggling readers in middle school is estimated to be over $10,000. $.

Vermonters should expect, and our children deserve, better outcomes, and that starts with training our teachers to teach literacy effectively.

The social and economic impact of low reading skills is significant not only for individuals, but for society as a whole. A 2020 Gallup study reported that 54% of American adults are not proficient readers, costing our economy $2.2 trillion a year in lost productivity.

Training our classroom teachers in the science of reading is an investment in both our community and our world. Vermonters can no longer afford to ignore science.

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