The pandemic put learning gaps in the spotlight, as teachers, families and policymakers debated whether the disruption of the last two years will set kids back long term and widen gaps.

But even before Covid, our schools were in crisis over how to teach kids to read.

Seven newsrooms joined together to report on the problem and find solutions for America’s reading problem.

Credit: Camilla Forte

The Problem: A devastating slide in reading

Key takeaways

Even before the pandemic, reading achievement for American students was in a slump. Students made even more sluggish progress in reading during the pandemic. Students in low-income districts, already lagging, fell further behind, and racial and ethnic gaps worsened too. 

Solution: The role of state policy

Key takeaways

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have said they’ll use federal Covid funds to train teachers or change the way they teach reading. Four states, Connecticut, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Delaware wrote the “science of reading” into state law this year. 

Solution: The role of teacher preparation programs

Key takeaways

A law in North Carolina will require every elementary teacher in the state to be trained — or retrained — in how to teach reading with scientifically based methods.

Solution: A focus on English learners

Key takeaways

A small school in central California has made big gains in reading after making universal a program originally designed to help English language learning students.

Solution: The role of classroom aides

Key takeaways

Many states and schools have long relied on classroom aides and tutoring to assist in reading instruction, but it can be tough to measure effectiveness of those interventions. One school in Alabama says its increased training and integration of Title I aides into instructional teams has helped them weather the pandemic.

Solution: The role of tutoring for struggling readers

Key takeaways

A new Texas law requires districts to intervene quickly for students who are behind in reading, including focused tutoring or being matched with a highly-rated educator.  Yet some worry about the feasibility of the mandate.

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