Focus on Improving Adolescent Literacy

Fewer than a third of America’s eighth-grade public school students meet the national standard for reading proficiency for their grade level.  This report examines policies to improve adolescent reading skills.  

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Executive Summary

  • Many middle and high school students lack the literacy skills necessary to be successful in their classes and beyond high school. Only 29 percent of America’s eighth-grade public school students meet the National Assessment of Educational Progress standard of reading proficiency for their grade level, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That’s important because poor reading skills are considered a key factor in the decision by many students to drop out of school.
  • Poor literacy skills impact society in many ways. One study reveals that one-third of all juvenile offenders read below the fourth-grade level. Research also concludes that onethird of high school graduates are not ready to succeed in an introductory-level college writing course. Eight percent of entering college students are required to take at least one remedial reading course. According to the Council on Competitiveness, an organization comprised of business, labor and university leaders working to ensure U.S. prosperity, employers believe more than half of recent high school graduates are weak in literacy skills.
  • While America’s fourth grade reading scores are among the best in the world, by the time they reach 10th grade, U.S. students score among the lowest in the world, according to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute for Statistics. A Carnegie Corporation of New York report, Time to Act, concludes adolescents in grades four to 12 are not receiving adequate literacy training in all subject areas and many teachers lack the preparation and skills necessary to teach literacy skills.
  • Although many strategies to improve literacy skills require action at the school or district level, there are several actions state policymakers can take to promote improved adolescent literacy skills. These policies include improved data tracking systems, higher standards for teacher certification and pre-service teacher education programs, and providing local education agencies with resources to identify and assist students who are reading below grade level.

Inside the Report

  • Executive Summary
  • The faces of illiteracy
  • The adolescent literacy crisis in America
  • Keys to improving adolescent literacy
  • Recommended actions for state policymakers
  • Innovative state programs: Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey
  • Conclusion

  Download the Excel Version of the Table: "National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Comparisons - 2007 Eighth Grade Reading Scores"