The Nation’s Reading Problem

Teachers trying new approaches to reach students hit hardest by pandemic-era learning disruptions

(EWA Radio Episode 283)

When it comes to reading, America’s students are struggling. And the pandemic has only made a tough situation harder for those kids who were already most at risk of falling behind. Jill Barshay of The Hechinger Report – who coordinated a reporting project with five other newsrooms – explains how the pandemic shutdown exacerbated the nation’s literacy crisis. She also probes the mystery behind a pre-COVID slide in reading achievement, and discusses new research that found one of the most widely used methods of literacy instruction was largely ineffective. Barshay is joined by Rebecca Griesbach of the new Alabama Education Lab at, who shares insights from her local reporting for the project, including why the state is investing heavily in adding instructional aides to support high-need readers. Plus: what are some red flags reporters should watch for when it comes to district programs intended to boost reading scores? And what are smart questions to ask teachers and families to get underneath the challenge to improve literacy?

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