Consider the eighth-grade NAEP results from Massachusetts, which are a stunning exception to the nationwide pattern of stagnation and decline. Since 1998, the state has improved significantly in the number of eighth-graders reading at the "proficient" or "advanced" levels: Massachusetts now has the largest percentage of students reading at that higher level, and it is No. 1 in average scores for the eighth grade. That is because Massachusetts decided in 1997 that students (and teachers) should learn certain explicit, substantive things about history, science and literature, and that students should be tested on such knowledge.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Strong reading depends on strong background knowledge--on vocabulary and concepts and overall ability to sort out what a given text is about. I shared E.D. Hirsch's core argument here. In a more recent op-ed, Hirsch offered a key data argument that steady attention to content builds reading ability for the long-haul: