The recent National Assessment of Educational Progress test results for 4th- and 8th-graders were released this week, and Alaska students rank near the bottom in both reading and math. This is truly disappointing. Our students have amazing potential and we owe it to them to do better.
There are pockets of success around our state, but one major takeaway from these results is that Alaska’s approach to teaching reading is not working. The state of Alaska needs a comprehensive reading bill to hold us all accountable for our children’s learning.
Literacy is a no-fail mission. It is a cornerstone of our democracy and a foundation for our students’ future. We must ensure our schools across the state incorporate the best practices in reading instruction. These practices begin with quality preschools and lead all the way into adulthood.
Research clearly shows that a successful reading program must include the five key areas: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Each of these areas must be addressed with high-quality teaching and curriculum.
The Anchorage School District has adopted a new elementary reading curriculum and is in the process of implementing a new curriculum for grades 6-8. These programs incorporate clearly defined objectives focused on changing our reading outcomes. I’m confident that over time, this curriculum, implemented with high-quality instruction by our caring teachers, will increase our students’ reading skills and greatly improve our children’s chances for success.
We can do this together as a state if we can all agree to put our personal preferences and political views aside and work together. A comprehensive reading bill is a critical step in the right direction.
Deena Bishop is the superintendent of the Anchorage School District.
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