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SREB Urges States to Improve Adolescent Literacy


With an emphasis on improving overall student achievement, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) has urged states to develop adolescent literacy policies that place top priority on improving public middle and high school reading and writing performance. Such policies would also prove beneficial in boosting college and job training readiness of public high school graduates, SREB officials noted Friday during the release of a report detailing its recommendations, “A Critical Mission: Making Adolescent Reading an Immediate Priority in SREB States.”


The Atlanta-based SREB works with southern states to improve educational and economic development opportunities.

“We can’t expect to see achievement rise in math, science and other subjects unless students can read, write and communicate at more advanced levels. Our nation’s economic prosperity depends on our making progress in education,” Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said, according to prepared remarks delivered Friday at the Education Writers Association’s national conference meeting in Washington.

Kaine, the chair of SREB, led the SREB Committee to Improve Reading and Writing in Middle and High Schools, which prepared “A Critical Mission.” The committee, which includes members from across the political spectrum, took guidance from nationally prominent policy experts and researchers in literacy in preparing “A Critical Mission.”

SREB president Dr. Dave Spence says improving reading and writing skills of students with college aspirations is crucial to helping increase college retention and degree completion rates, particularly at the regional state colleges and community colleges.

 “In the systems I’ve been involved with in higher education, reading comprehension and expository reading and writing have been the chief problem areas for students enrolling in the four-year institutions. When students had strong preparation in reading complex texts and being able to explain it back, writing wasn’t nearly as much as a problem; math wasn’t nearly as much as a problem. In fact, we felt that a lot of the challenge we had in math was because students weren’t reading math problems effectively,” explained Spence, recalling his experiences as a former administrator in the California State University, Florida higher education and Georgia higher education systems.

Spence also said teacher education schools will have to improve how they instruct prospective teachers in helping high school students read effectively in subject areas, such as math or biology.

“Higher education has a big role to play as we try to improve high school and middle school students’ reading abilities in the subject areas. And that’s really what this report is about because reading with comprehension differs by subject area – math, science, social science … . We’re talking about teachers helping students navigate their studies more effectively,” Spence noted.

Interested readers can access to download a copy of “A Critical Mission.”

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