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Advocacy Statement

We are at a critical time in the U.S. with literacy in the middle grades and beyond. Often,

reading development is a primary goal in elementary grades when the development of literacy is

at the forefront. Once a student is able to read and write, they are no longer monitored as closely

when they leave elementary school.

However, we are seeing a growing problem with literacy rates across the board with our

older students. “Over the last several years, a strong coalition of educators, researchers,

policymakers, professional associations, and advocacy groups has worked to focus the attention

of policymakers and the public on the plight of millions of America's students in grades four

through twelve who are unable to read and write well enough to achieve even basic academic

success” (Heller, R., & Greenleaf, C. L. (2007). However, middle school education has remained

basically the same. Middle schools often do not have as many testing resources for reading

difficulties as elementary schools. Most elementary schools have PALS, Running Records, and

other forms of assessments which give a specific reading level, fluency rate, and level of word

knowledge. Teachers in the primary grades are also better trained and equipped to diagnose

reading difficulties, and have numerous resources provided to them for the specific difficulties

they uncover. Middle school teachers, on the other hand, often lack the training and resources

necessary to identify the reading difficulties of their students. This lack of training and resources

means “the federal government has a major role to play--as it does in early grades--to help

improve adolescent literacy instruction, but it will require the same sort of commitment and

resources that have been directed toward the teaching of early reading skills, an investment that

has shown results” (Alliance for Excellent Education. (2006).


There are many studies and researchers proving that this is a national crisis, however,

“Congress has demonstrated [only] a real commitment to improve reading instruction in grades

K-3, [and] has made relatively trivial investments (mainly through the new Striving Readers

program) in the literacy skills of students in grades 4-12” (Alliance for Excellent Education.

(2006). While early intervention in the elementary grades is still needed for our young students,

our older students are suffering from this lack of resources.

Not only do middle school teachers have difficulty with a lack of resources and formal

assessments, but the middle grades become even more difficult due to a lack of student

motivation. It is well researched and known that as reading motivation continually decreases as

age increases (Kelley, M. J., & Decker, E. O. (2009). This “diminished motivation for literacy

learning may be due to many factors, including differences in school structures, classroom

climate, and culture” (Oldfather, P. 1995). Knowing that literacy becomes more difficult as

students get older, our governments and schools need to work to change their culture of literacy

in the middle grades. If our schools and government start valuing literacy by devoting resources

and changing the face of middle school literacy, our students will become more motivated, value

reading, and hopefully stop the middle school literacy crisis.


References:

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2006). Why the Crisis in Adolescent Literacy Demands a

National Response. Policy Brief. Alliance for Excellent Education. Alliance for Excellent

Education. Retrieved from

http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.longwood.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=

ED510935&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Heller, R., & Greenleaf, C. L. (2007). Literacy instruction in the content areas: Getting to the

core of middle and high school improvement. Alliance for Excellent Education.

Kelley, M. J., & Decker, E. O. (2009). The Current State of Motivation to Read Among Middle

School Students. Reading Psychology, 30(5), 466-485. doi:10.1080/02702710902733535

Oldfather, P. (1995). Commentary: What's Needed to Maintain and Extend Motivation for

Literacy in the Middle Grades. 38(6), 420-22.