That a large portion of students in America do not reach proficient levels of reading is among the most stubborn, systemic challenges of our time. This poor performance is tightly mapped to race and a core driver of systemic inequality. The children in our poorest communities are typically black or Latinx, the schools they attend are less well funded, the community resources available are fewer, and they are far more likely to suffer from economic or family instability. It is likely that their parents faced these same challenges, or worse, as did the generations before them. The painful paradox is that these are the exact children who must learn faster than their high performing peers if we are to close the Achievement Gap and reach high levels of reading proficiency.
And yet, no research, pedagogy, curriculum, or program has proven a powerful, scalable, and cost-effective solution to alter the trajectory of our reading scores as a nation. Forty-nine states show flat or declining reading proficiency scores between 2017 and 2019. Programs like Head Start have no significant effect on reading outcomes (Pages, 2020). Technology adoption has no significant effect on reading outcomes (Neitzel et al., 2019). $3.5B in School Improvement Grants were deployed in 2010 and had no significant impact on reading outcomes (Dragoset, 2017). At a macro level, while the debate of Whole Language vs. Phonics rages, no approach or curriculum yields sufficient improvement per dollar spent on intervention to lead to the result we need: a world where every child can learn to read.
It is important to recognize that teachers and administrators have given lifetimes working to address these challenges. Without these thoughtful efforts, the gaps in opportunity to excel would undoubtedly be worse. Literacy rates would undoubtedly be worse.
But the facts remain clear: English is, by definition, too hard for most of our students to learn to read.
That is what we have set out to fix.
The TinyIvy Team