Across the United States, students are struggling to read and comprehend what’s being taught in their classrooms.  

Before the pandemic, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, showed dwindling literacy rates across the states between 2017 and 2019, the most recent years of data reporting. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. students were unable to read at grade level.

Washington’s fourth- and eighth-grade test scores have changed little over the last 20 years. On the NAEP assessment, only 35% of the state’s fourth graders, and 38% of the state’s eighth graders, scored high enough to be considered proficient readers in 2019.

Numerous pandemic-era studies tell us reading levels have since plummeted for some kids, and that’s frustrating all around. 

So how can we help kids get caught up and back on track? 

New state policies and classroom practices are showing signs of success in helping kids catch up.

The Seattle Times published a series of six stories framing the problem and offering some solutions in K-12 literacy. The stories were produced in partnership with The Christian Science Monitor; The Hechinger Report; the Solutions Journalism Network; and the education labs at, The Dallas Morning News and The Fresno Bee.

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, The Seattle Times hosted a free, live webinar on the topic, featuring a classroom teacher and curriculum specialist from Texas, a Washington state district superintendent, and a key architect of Mississippi’s statewide reading plan. Together, they’ll discuss systemic obstacles and how they might be removed to better reach and teach struggling readers. 

The panelists included: 

  • Kymyona Burk, Ed.D., senior policy fellow at ExcelinEd and former executive director for the Jackson Public School District’s Office of Teaching and Learning in Mississippi 
  • Paul Gordon, Ed.D., superintendent of Wenatchee School District 246, Chelan County, Washington 
  • Becki Krsnak, M.Ed., executive director of curriculum and instruction, Midlothian Integrated School District, Ellis County, Texas 
  • Danielle Moore, first grade teacher at Baxter Elementary School, also from Midlothian ISD