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Ranking Member Cassidy Releases Troubling Report on Child Literacy

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a report outlining the severity of declining child literacy in the United States and its long-term effects. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results show that the average reading score for fourth graders is lower than it has been in over 20 years. For eighth and twelfth graders, average scores are near a 30-year low. 

Cassidy expressed concerns over the devastating impacts of declining literacy, including increasing rates of high school dropouts and incarceration. The potential negative effect of illiteracy on our nation’s ability to fill STEM jobs also raises serious concerns about our global economic competitiveness, and worse, our military’s preparedness.  

Additionally, Cassidy discussed proven methods that provide students explicit instruction in the five key pillars of literacy. These methods are based on a body of evidence-based research, called the “science of reading.” This is opposed to widely used methods, like “three-cueing,” which evidence has shown to be insufficient and fails to provide students the reading skills needed to succeed in the future.  

Cassidy is requesting feedback from stakeholders on how to improve reading instruction and how to best support teachers, parents, and schools in their efforts to enhance children’s reading performance. Cassidy hopes to use the feedback to develop potential legislative solutions to improve child literacy nationwide. 

“Literacy – the basic ability to read – is at the heart of all other learning. If students do not learn to read, they cannot read to learn in other subjects,” wrote Dr. Cassidy. “We are at risk of having an entire generation of children, those who were in their prime learning years during the COVID-19 pandemic, fail to become productive adults if reading proficiency does not improve.” 

“If we do not act, the long-term implications will be dire,” continued Dr. Cassidy. “While states continue taking meaningful steps in the right direction to improve literacy instruction, more must be done to ensure that students are reading proficiently.” 

Cassidy requests that all feedback be submitted by April 5th, 2024. 

Read the full report here.


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