A Community of Students, Teachers, Researchers, and Activists
Edited By Nancye E. McCrary and E. Wayne Ross
Chapter Ten: Poverty, Politics, and Reading Education in the United States
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Poverty, Politics, and Reading Education in the United States
“We are behind” is the popular trope driving American school reform for the last three decades. From A Nation at Risk (1983) through America 2000 to No Child Left Behind (2002), Race to the Top (2009), and Common Core (State) Standards (2014), politicians, philanthropists, and pundits have pointed toward international reading tests scores to justify curriculum overhaul, more rigorous graduation standards, standardization of beginning reading instruction, tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, and national standards with national testing. We’re told that American aggregate reading scores hover below those of students from other developed countries and just above those from developing countries. That relative position bodes ill for America, they say, because “whichever country out-educates the other is going to out-compete us in the future. That’s what’s at stake – nothing less than our primacy in the world” (Obama, 2010).
But the trope is only half correct. Some Americans—just over half (Rich, 2015)—could be considered behind or below on international reading test score comparisons. Analyses of international test scores reveal a two-tiered school system in America (Berliner, 2009). In schools serving predominately middle and upper middle class communities, American students score higher than all other nations. But schools servicing poor and low-income communities produce reading test scores among the lowest nations internationally. Despite a century of reading research and billions of dollars invested...
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