Following the Money: How Much Does the Science of Reading Cost?
While research shows that the science of reading works in the classroom, the actual implementation of science-based reading curricula can be complicated - and costly. Today, we consider the financial barriers to incorporating the science of reading in the classroom, and how school districts can finance high-quality literacy curricula.
After declaring phonics as the winner of the “reading war” against whole language education, early literacy advocate Melissa Martin recently wrote on the role of big money and its influence on K-12 education. As much as school districts may want to incorporate new textbooks and make sweeping curriculum changes based on the science of reading, astronomical costs often hold them back. In response, private foundations such as Bill Gates and the Broad Foundation have served as major funders of school districts; while examples abound, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg notably donated $100 million to Newark, NJ public schools in 2010. In an educational system that has not always prioritized the science of reading, these charitable donations are surprisingly common.
Although many schools are eager to introduce the science of reading in early literacy classrooms, even basic actions such as changing textbooks can be incredibly costly. Combine expensive curriculum changes with unpaid teacher training, and elementary classrooms are much more likely to uphold the classic - but, ultimately, ineffective - balanced literacy approach to reading instruction. Predictably, many of our readers ask: what are some lost-cost measures that educators and teachers can take to support the science of reading in schools that have been slow to adopt relevant literacy curricula? As advocates of science-based, structured literacy education, there are tangible steps we can take.
1. Speak out in support of phonics whenever possible.
Phonics is not the only ingredient in a science-based, structured literacy curriculum, but it’s an essential element that draws from the science of how we learn to read: not simply through exposure to words, but by making explicit connections between letters and sounds.
2. Request paid teacher training.
Many teacher training programs still neglect the science of reading, resulting in K-3 teachers who are ill-prepared to teach phonics, decoding, and other tenets of structured literacy. In response, some districts are mandating extra training on the science of reading for K-3 teachers. The currently unpaid - and required - reading teacher training in Texas has prompted backlash among teachers: while many educators believe in the value of the training, they also believe in the importance of appropriately compensating reading teachers for their time.
3. Support science of reading legislation.
In North Carolina, a recently introduced bill seeks to amend the state’s Read to Achieve program. While imperfect, this bill may serve as a model for legislation that supports both the science of reading and the wellbeing of teachers. In addition to funding teacher training in the science of reading, NC schools would select and compensate teachers for reading camps and provide teacher bonuses based on students’ reading proficiency outcomes.
As school districts mobilize to fund reading teacher training, it’s important to consider the low-cost but high-impact reading resources that can empower teachers, students, and familities to prioritize reading. Our program and resource library helps educators support students on their journey toward reading success: which, in many ways, is the all-consuming purpose of elementary academic education today.
- As school districts respond to the enduring impacts of COVID-19 on students’ reading scores, funding literacy curricula based on the science of reading can be difficult and costly.
- To enhance their elementary literacy programming, educators and school districts are encouraged to take 3 lower-cost steps:
- Verbalize the importance of phonics
- Compensate teachers for additional training in the science of reading
- Support statewide legislation and funding for early literacy
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