Can Academic Standards Boost Literacy and Close the Achievement Gap?
In this policy brief from The Future of Children organization, authors Ron Haskins, Richard Murnane, Isabel Sawhill, and Catherine Snow start from the premise that the United States has a two-part “literacy problem”: (1) the current reading skills of U.S. children are “inadequate for the heightened literacy demands of the twenty-first-century economy,” and (2) the widening literacy gap between students from high- and low-income families virtually ensures a permanent impediment to economic mobility for those students left behind.
In Can Academic Standards Boost Literacy and Close the Achievement Gap?, the authors suggest that adoption of the Common Core Standards is an important first step. In fact, they argue “If American children were to master the Common Core, they would fare better in international comparisons, the American economy would receive a boost, and the literacy achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged children might narrow somewhat…giving them a better opportunity to compete.” But standards by themselves, the authors argue, have very little effect on achievement and must be backed up by assessments, comprehensive reporting, curriculum fully aligned with the Common Core, and most importantly high-quality teaching to support all of the above.
The authors are not alone in predicting a precipitous drop in literacy achievement and an even-wider gap in achievement between the haves and the have-nots in the first round of testing on Common Core standards. Discussion at a recent Common Core event in Cincinnati reinforced that educational professionals at all levels – administration, teaching, union leadership – expect the very same (and see Aaron’s piece above, for the data). There is widespread concern that such a drop will lead to a parent/public revolt against the Common Core even before it has been fully implemented. Haskins and his colleagues are adamant that good teachers can and will adjust to the Common Core and can help these higher academic standards raise literacy achievement and all of the attendant good that should come from it.
SOURCE: Ron Haskins, Richard Murnane, Isabel Sawhill, and Catherine Snow, Can Academic Standards Boost Literacy and Close the Achievement Gap? (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, The Future of Children, October 2012).