Too many Vt. kids struggle to read. What went wrong — and can educators reverse a years-long slide in literacy?

Published: Oct. 4, 2023 at 5:52 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - In spring 2000, former University of Vermont neuroscience professor Reid Lyon visited the Statehouse with advice on how best to teach the state’s children to read.

But for more than two decades, Vermont schools pursued a very different approach, paying little heed to Lyon’s advice about the fundamental skills needed to crack the code of the English language. What followed was a long, gradual decline in standardized test scores.

Once ranked second nationally for reading achievement among fourth graders, Vermont has dropped to the middle of the pack, even though its spending per pupil is second highest of any state and it enjoys the relative advantage of a small, homogeneous and well-educated population. In response to these declining scores, Vermont’s schools and teachers are rethinking how they teach reading.

Darren Perron spoke with Seven Days’ Alison Novak about her story in this week’s issue.