A Generation of
Read 518/CI 510
The need for literacy education movements have begun to take center stage in
education’s focus in the United States. It is devastating to live in a country where we are each
entitled to an equal education, yet see so manysuffer because illiteracy is plaguing our nation.
This has become a national problem that is unquestionably fixable when each child goes to the
same place five days a week. One in four children in America grows up without knowing how to
read. Shockingly, as of 2011, America was the only free-market Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development country where the current generation was less well educated than
the previous (Huffington Post).
The act of illiteracy is often gernational and sociological. In past generations it has been
associated with one’s places in society, their race, even their sex. But this has changed. Boys and
girls are now allocated equal education and economic opportunity in our country. The first
president to move America into the current age of education that we prosper from, was Lyndon
B. Johnson. He passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as part of his “War on
Poverty”. To date this has been the most far reaching federal legislation affecting education ever
passed by Congress (Wikipedia). Amongst the many things it highlights, the bill was created to
help shorten the achievement gaps between students by providing each student with an equal
education. This has maintained as the current Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act, by president Obama, renewed every five years. Previously this was highlighted as
the No Child Left Behind Actby former President Bush, signed by the Obama Administration of
September 2011, adopted into place originally by President Clinton as the predecessor known as
Goals 2000. Every five years when this act is reauthorized it undergoes a series of installments
based on the current politics of education and one piece of that pie is the federalizing of literacy
policy development that advises how to make children read better, bringing together the many
minds of politicians, scholars, communities, teachers, and students.
The current Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child
Left Behind Act) was adopted from former President George W. Bush. His push for literacy
development began prior to his presidency, when he was governor of Texas, when one in four
school children were failing on state reading tests. He called for an education overhaul and
mandated an emphasis on accountability and testing throughout the state. The proof was in the
pudding, 91 percent of third grade students passed the state reading test in 2004, compared
with 76 percent in 1994. At the same time former governor and President Clinton also took
literacy education reform very seriously and to a political level as well. During his second
presidential campaign in 1996, and in his State of the Union message of 1997, Clinton advocated
the America Reads Initiative. He pushed national standards and assessment in all subjects and
sought federal assistance for literacy efforts. His was the first attempt to enact federal legislation
aimed specifically at literacy for children (Davenport, D, Jones, J., 2005).President Clinton was
met with resistance by both parties as being too liberal in his actions. His literacy movement
called for state testing requirements by fourth grade and Bush took this a step further, pushing
for third grade. Through the movements of President and Mrs. Bush, who spent over 5 billion
dollars in five years on reading initiatives, we are currently using a newly improved version that
focuses on having all children reading by third grade at state level, which is now known as the
Common Core Standard. Without passing, the student will not advance to the fourth grade,
which is why it was named the No Child Left Behind Act/Reauthorization of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act. Collectively taken from former president Johnson’s act and combined
with former president Bush and Clinton’s new initiatives.
The Obama administration has added to the Reauthorization of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act. Because this is a reform process to switch to new standards and new
testing and practices, they have allowed states some flexibility with the mandates, as well as
offering Race to the Top competitive federally funded grants. The government wants to allow
states and districts greater control over their education process. While this is a whole unit model,
state and district flexibility will allow for greater individual school improvement based on
specific needs (U.S. Department of Education, 2011).
In conjunction with the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
the work of the last three Presidents, Obama, Bush and Clinton, have collectively built a stronger
education literacy movement in our country by also supporting the implementation of the
Common Core Standards.The Common Core State Standard Initiative is an education initiative
in the United States born out of the 90’s accountability movement. It details what K-12 students
should know in Language Arts (reading, writing, speaking) and Math at the end of each grade.
All states are members of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, except
Texas, Virginia, Alaska, and Nebraska. The Common Core Standards Initiative is specifically
Literacy and Math based currently with work to advance forward in other areas of education. As
a literacy movement there is specific focus on the progressive development of student reading
and writing comprehension. In Oregon, the Common Core Standards Initiative was adopted
October 29, 2010 and will be fully implemented the 2014-2015 school year (Common Core State
Standards Initiative, 2012).
The history behind the Common Core Standards and the education accountability
movement started almost a generation prior. In 1992, the year before Clinton took office, test
scores across the country were failing and only 14 states had standards in core subjects.In 1990,
only 38 percent of graduating high schools seniors had taken a core curriculum of four years of
English and three years each of Math, Science and Social Studies. Fewer than 80 percent of the
nation’s highest-poverty schools received Title I funds, which are intended to aid the most
disadvantaged schools. Former President Clinton launched an era of education reform based on
setting high standards for all schools and students and providing the support to meet
them. During Clinton’s eight year presidency reading and math scores on the National
Assessment of Educational Progress increased for 4th, 8th, and 12th graders, including those
students in the highest poverty schools. Math SAT scores were at a 30-year high (The White
According to the White House’s Clinton-Gore Administration,a Record of Progress,
“President Clinton and Vice President Gore enacted Goals 2000 which has helped States
establish standards of excellence for all children, and implement steps to meet those standards
and to raise educational achievement. Under the Clinton-Gore Administration, 49 states have
implemented standards in core subjects and the proportion of graduating high schools seniors
completing a core curriculum has risen to 55 percent.The President enacted legislation targeting
Title I funds to high-poverty schools and requiring States and school districts to turn around lowperforming schools. Today, nearly all of the nation’s highest-poverty schools receive Title I
funds. In 1999, the President enacted a new $134 million Accountability Fund, which is helping
school districts improve low-performing schools by investing in proven reforms. Next year’s
budget increases this fund to $225 million.The Clinton-Gore Administration has worked
to expand public school choice and to support the growth of public charter schools. In 1993,
there was one charter school in the nation; today, there are more than 2,000.President Clinton
fought for and won a new initiative to repair America’s schools, providing $1.2 billion for urgent
school renovation. The 2001 budget also provides much-needed repair funds to Native American
schools” (The White House).
Each education reform has been met with praise and criticisms. The Goals 2000 made
measurable progress, yet still fell short of fulfilling its practically unattainable goals. The No
Child Left Behind Act has been met by many with hesitation because of its lack of inclusion for
students with any IEP supports in place. And complaints of the Common Core are that we are
teaching to the test. All are viable concerns, but one has to way the positives against the
negatives. The negatives being the impact of illiteracy on our nation (Washington County
23% of the adult population (40 - 44 million people) is functionally illiterate, cannot read
beyond a fourth-grade level.
Illiteracy transcended SES
Adult illiteracy costs society an estimated $240 billion each year in lost industrial
productivity, unrealized tax revenues, welfare, crime, poverty, and related social ills.
Adults with low-level reading skills frequently suffer from health problems because the
lack the ability to read medical directions, health-related literature or prescription labels.
Chronic health conditions may go improperly monitored by patients who are functionally
illiterate and the overall well-being of these individuals may worsen overtime causing
frequent doctor or emergency room visits, hospitalization, or even death.
According to the NALS, 40% of the labor force in the United States has limited skills.
American businesses lose more than $60 billion in productivity each year to employee’s
lack of basic skills.
The rate of illiteracy in America’s correctional systems is over 60%.
The saddest casualty of the illiteracy in America are the children who are affected by
Children of disadvantaged parents begin their school life behind their peers. Parents with
minimal or no reading skills often cannot provide the kind of support their children need
to do well in school.
Analysis has shown a direct correlation between young people’s test scores and the grade
level attained by their parents.
Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up
in jail or on welfare.
1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
75 percent of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of
literacy, and 90 percent of high school dropouts are on welfare.
We are a nation at odds as a result of our illiteracy. This is inexcusable when we mandate by
law that each child attend school. President Jonson took education reform seriously, and
Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have shown the same support for educational accountability
and literacy development necessity. It is no longer someone else’s problem. It has become our
problem as a country, and we are playing catch-up in a time of economic recession and recovery
that leaves our schools needing more than ever, and unable to receive less than before.
Currently as we look at the new school year next year, we will be looking at Oregon fully
adopting the Common Core State Standards. This will mean looking at how to develop and
implement these standards. The best example I found of this was from the Massachusetts
Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy Department of Elementary and
Secondary Education. Effective language arts and literacy development curriculum
recommendations outlined are:
“An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum develops thinking and language
together through interactive learning.
Effective use of language both requires and extends thinking. As learners listen to a speech, view
a documentary, discuss a poem, or write an essay, they engage in thinking. Students develop
ttheir ability to remember, understand, analyze, evaluate, and apply the ideas they encounter in
English language arts and in all the other disciplines when they read increasingly complex texts
and undertake increasingly challenging assignments that require them to write or speak in
response to what they are learning.
An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum draws on literature in order to
develop students’ understanding of their literary heritage.
American students need to become familiar with works that are part of a literary tradition going
back thousands of years. Students should read literature reflecting the literary and civic heritage
of the English-speaking world. They also should gain broad exposure to works from the many
communities that make up contemporary America as well as from countries and cultures
throughout the world. In order tofoster a love of reading, English language arts teachers
encourage independent reading within and outside of class.
An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum draws on informational texts and
multimedia in order to build academic vocabulary and strong content knowledge.
In all of their classes, including history/social science, science and technology/engineering, arts,
comprehensive health, foreign language, and vocational and technical subjects, students should
encounter many examples of informational and media texts aligned to the grade or course
curriculum. This kind of reading, listening, and viewing is the key to building a rich academic
vocabulary and increasing knowledge about the world. Each kind of print or media text has its
unique characteristics, and proficient students apply the critical techniques learned in the study of
exposition to the evaluation of multimedia, television, radio, film/video, and websites.School
librarians play a key role in finding books and other media to match students’ interests, and in
suggesting further resources in public libraries.
An effective English language arts and literacy curriculum develops students’ oral language
and literacy through appropriately challenging learning.
Reading to and conversing with preschool and primary grade children plays an especially critical
role in developing children’s vocabulary, their knowledge of the natural world, and their
appreciation for the power of the imagination. In the primary grades, systematic phonics
instruction and regular practice in applying decoding skills are essential elements of the school
program. At the middle and high school levels, programs designed to prepare students for college
and careers continue to emphasize the skills of building knowledge through substantive
conversation, collaboration, and making oral presentations that are adapted to task, purpose, and
An effective English language arts curriculum provides explicit skill instruction in reading
In some cases, explicit skill instruction is most effective when it precedes student need.
Systematic phonics lessons, in particular decoding skills, should be taught to students before they
use them in their subsequent reading. Systematic instruction is especially important for those
students who have not developed phonemic awareness—the ability to pay attention to the
component sounds of language. Effective instruction can take place in small groups,
individually, or on a whole class basis. In other cases, explicit skill instruction is most effective
when it responds to specific problems students reveal in their work” (Massachusetts Department
of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2011).
Essentially, effective literacy development acquires multiple sources of input across
many socio-cultural and multi-cultural differences and comes together to help bridge students
literacy needs on an individual and grade level plane, working as a class through multiple
sources of instruction. As we transition through these new educational expectations the
challenges remain great, the expectations remain high, and the hopes even higher for politicians,
educators, and students alike.
10 | P a g e
Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2012). Implementing the Common Core State
Standards. Retrieved December 15, 2013, from http://www.corestandards.org/.
Davenport, D., Jones, J. (2005, April 1). The Politics of Literacy. Hoover Institution Stanford
University. Retrieved December 15, 2013, from
Huffington Post. 11 Facts About Literacy In America. DoSomething.Org. Retrieved December
15, 2013, from http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-literacy-america.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (2011). Massachusetts
Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy, pp. 7-14.
The White House. The Clinton Gore Administration, A Record of Progress. The Clinton
Presidency: Expanding Education Opportunity. Retrieved December 15, 2013, from
U.S. Department of Education. (2011, September 23). Obama Administration Sets High Bar for
Flexibility from No Child Left Behind in Order to Advance Equity and Support Reform.
ED.gov. Taken December 15, 2013, from http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/obamaadministration-sets-high-bar-flexibility-no-child-left-behind-order-advanc.
Wikipedia. Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Retrieved December 15, 2013, from
Washington County Literacy Council. The Impact of Illiteracy. Washington County Literacy
Council. Retrieved December 15, 2013, from