What’s currently happening about children’s literacy in the US?

As part of my ongoing interest in the teaching of literacy to children (yes, the old ‘reading wars’ and the debate about phonics and whole language teaching is still going on, at least for some of us) I am trying to find out more about current policy in the US. Where does Obama stand? Are there any federal policies? No child left behind awaits reauthorization, as far as I understand. Federal funding for the Reading First programme seems to have ended. But do some states carry on with it?  And is phonics, (or synthetic phonics) still the preferred approach?

If anybody knows something about current US policy or can point me towards any sources of information, I would be very grateful. And if you’d like to know more about my work and my interest in policy, please ask.

Uta Papen


6 thoughts on “What’s currently happening about children’s literacy in the US?

  1. Uta,

    The teaching of reading is a real mixed bag in the US. Since schools are locally controlled, it varies school district to school district. You’re correct that NCLB has not yet been reauthorized, but there have been a number of states that have been granted waivers of various kinds. Most states have voluntarily adopted the “Common Core” — a very broadly defined but detailed core curriculum that seeks to create more commonality and predictability in what K-12 students learn. Here is the basic website for it: http://www.corestandards.org.

    Laura Ahearn

  2. Hello Laura
    many thanks for your post. I knew about the waivers and I’ve just come across the common core earlier this morning in my online searches. I also found a few interesting articles discussing the legacy of NCLB in the journal ‘Child Education’ (2010 issue) in case you are interested. And there is another federal programme, Striving Readers (2006-2010), and more recently, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program (2010-2012) which gives grants to state who develop ‘comprehensive literacy programs’.


  3. PS
    Laura, i meant to add a thank you for reminding me of the important role the states play in the US context. Not that I didn’t know. But I got a bit carried away by my interest in Johnson, Bush and Obama and their policies on education.

  4. Hi. In addition to the Common Core, you should probably check out what is happening with the National Council of Teacher Quality. This organization reviews and evaluates schools of education with some very shaky methodology (e.g,. looking at professors’ syllabi to see which components of literacy are noted) in order to promote their own particular view of literacy and literacy instruction. There is much debate going on about how to respond to their press releases and policy papers, ranging from ignoring them to attempting to respond item by item. They would appear to have the ear of some policy makers, so it would be worth getting to know them a bit.

  5. Hello Erik
    many thanks for the information about the National Council of Teacher Quality. I hadn’t come across them and doubt that without your hint I would have found them. I’ll definitely check them out. Uta

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