Reading and writing are foundational skills that are crucial to a student’s academic success. These skills not only facilitate academic success but also serve as vehicles for self-expression, empowering students to navigate information and explore the world outside their classrooms.

Yet, in Massachusetts, many students lack access to high-quality and culturally responsive reading instruction and materials, which has led to a literacy crisis that disproportionately impacts students from underserved communities. The stark reality is that less than half of students in third grade are meeting ELA reading benchmarks, and outcomes are even more alarming for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, multilingual learners, and students with disabilities. These sobering statistics not only reflect a significant hurdle for individual student outcomes but also pose broader societal implications.

As advocates for educational equity and justice, we at EdTrust-MA are committed to addressing the urgent issue of literacy. That is why we are actively working alongside other education advocates, practitioners, partners, and community leaders to raise awareness and push for meaningful policy changes at both the state and local levels to ensure all students have equitable access to high-quality, evidence-based reading instruction aligned with the science of reading.

Below is an infographic that explains five crucial points about the concerning state of literacy within the Commonwealth, with a specific emphasis on the equity implications of the current literacy crisis:

  1. Despite Massachusetts’ high overall ranking in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), more than half of fourth-graders can’t read proficiently. What’s more, reading proficiency rates for Black and Latino students in MA are more similar to that of the average student in the lowest-performing states.
  2. While more than half of students in Massachusetts are not meeting third-grade English Language Arts (ELA) benchmarks, outcomes are especially concerning for Black and Latino students, English learners, students from low-income backgrounds, and students with disabilities. The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) scores show persistent gaps in literacy outcomes among student subgroups and demonstrate how deeply the pandemic has interrupted student learning.
  3. Nearly half of Massachusetts public schools use low-quality* literacy curricula in teaching students how to read. More than 100,000 students in grades K-3 attend classes in districts using discredited literacy strategies and materials. Of these 123 districts, only 17 plan to change their curriculum this school year. Switching to a more effective curriculum can be a cost-effective lever for districts seeking to improve academic achievement.
  4. In Massachusetts, only 16% of teacher preparation programs adequately prepare teachers for effective reading instruction. To be effective, educators must understand how to teach all five components of scientifically based reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension). Without well-trained and supported educators who know how to teach each literacy component, students in MA will continue to fall behind in reading.
  5. In the past five years, 27 states have passed laws requiring the use of scientifically backed methods of literacy instruction. The new laws apply to 17 areas, including school curriculum, professional development for teachers, requirements for testing, and screenings for dyslexic students. Unlike many other states, Massachusetts does not have a comprehensive literacy law in place.

Download the Infographic (PDF)