On May 11th the Knowledge Matters campaign and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute discussed using the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to increase reading achievement in the elementary grades. The key lies in understanding the reading paradox: Focusing on reading to the exclusion of science, social studies, and the arts actually slows growth in reading comprehension.

Reading comprehension largely reflects a child’s general store of academic knowledge and vocabulary. But under NCLB, schools were pressured to seek short-term gains, so they focused on skills, strategies, and test preparation drills. 

ESSA gives states the flexibility to solve this problem by incentivizing districts and schools to patiently invest in building students’ knowledge and vocabulary on day one.
On May 11, from 10:00–11:30, the new Knowledge Matters campaign released a policy brief on improving reading achievement under ESSA and hosted a lively discussion with:

  • Nell K. Duke, professor at the University of Michigan, who focuses on literacy development among children living in poverty;
  • Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers;
  • Corinne Colgan, deputy chief of literacy and humanities at the District of Columbia Public Schools; and
  • Robert Pondiscio, executive director of Knowledge Matters and senior fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

For briefs on incentivizing a knowledge-rich education through ESSA and well-rounded education as a matter of social justice, see "Job One: Build Knowledge" by Lisa Hansel and Robert Pondiscio, and "What School Can Be" by John B. King, Jr.