Almost a third of children in kindergarten, first and second grades were reading below grade level at the start of the 20-21 school year, according to research reported on earlier this month.
When first grade students were tested at the beginning of this school year, about twice as many as before the pandemic (school year 2019-20) showed kindergarten level or lower scores.
The federal government is spending billions to try to close the gap in student reading achievement. But the US lacks enough qualified reading teachers to do so. Nearly half of the public schools have teacher openings, many in the lower grades. These openings are due to resignations and retirement.
“Nearly half (44 percent) of public schools currently report full- or part-time teaching vacancies,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a part of the US Department of Education. Schools report that the Covid-19 virus prompted many of these vacancies.
Some of the federal money is funding a new phonics-centered curriculum called Fundations. Fundations is part of Wilson Language Training, a well-known program for teaching reading.
Government funded research more than 20 years ago shows that a reading program focusing on phonemes (sounds as represented by letters of the alphabet) and phonics (combining sounds and letters to form words) is a superior way to teach young children how to read.