February 02, 2012 at 09:30 AM EST
International Reading Association Forms Expert Research Panel to Advance Quality of U.S. Literacy Instruction

Foremost Names in Literacy Come Together to Respond to Critical Literacy Issues, Shape Literacy Policy and Help Improve Reading Instruction in Classrooms Across the Country

University of California's P. David Pearson, Ph.D. Appointed Panel Chairman

NEWARK, Del., Feb. 2, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- To advance the quality of literacy instruction in the United States, the International Reading Association ― the world's foremost expert on literacy ― today announced the formation of an expert research panel that will provide leadership regarding some of the biggest issues in the field. The Literacy Research Panel, which is chaired by the preeminent literacy researcher and author P. David Pearson, Ph.D., of the University of California at Berkley, will respond to critical literacy issues facing policymakers, school administrators, teacher educators, classroom teachers, parents and the general public.

The panel has identified four critical issues in literacy that will serve as its opening focus:

  • The Achievement Gap. While the disparity in academic performance of students of different races has narrowed slightly, the gap between socioeconomic levels has actually increased. According to the U.S. Department of Education's 2011 Condition of Education report, about 68 percent of 12th-graders in high-poverty schools graduated with a diploma in 2008, compared to 91 percent of 12th-graders in low-poverty schools. Moreover, the gap between the 90th percentile and the 10th percentile continues to widen.
  • Motivation and Engagement. Though the high school dropout rate has been incrementally decreasing in recent years, an alarming 28 percent of students still do not graduate on time. This problem isn't contained to high school ― 25 percent of college freshmen drop out before the end of their first semester. Many students simply aren't being motivated or engaged in a way that will lead to increased retention at either the high school or college levels.
  • Standards and Assessments. The new Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts present many challenges, including classroom implementation and professional development, and strong guidance is needed for schools to use the standards in a way that benefits students.
  • Teacher Education. The ability to assess student literacy progress toward curricular goals and to lead effective classroom conversations are vital skills in need of systematic development. We need better methods of teacher evaluation and a way to counter the implicit assumption in policy circles that there's no payoff for teacher education or professional development.

"I'm thrilled that the International Reading Association has taken this bold step to reassert IRA's role in informing policy and practice at all levels — international, national, state and local," said Dr. Pearson, chair of the IRA Literacy Research Panel and professor of Language and Literacy, Society and Culture at Berkley's Graduate School of Education. "We need to make sure that our most trusted research is used to improve professional development and classroom practice on the way to more equitable achievement for every group of students — anywhere and everywhere."

The panel intends to engage with policy circles at the national and state level. However, the panel aims to do more than affect policy change; it aims to enhance effective literacy instruction across the country by introducing constructive initiatives to change policy and practices where it matters — in districts and schools.

Members of the Literacy Research Panel include:

  • Peter Afflerbach, Ph. D., professor of Curriculum and Instruction and director of the Reading Center at the University of Maryland
  • Nell Duke, Ed.D, professor of teacher education and educational psychology and co-director of the Literacy Achievement Research Center (LARC) at Michigan State University
  • Virginia Goatley, Ph.D., ex officio, research director at the International Reading Association and associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Albany
  • John Guthrie, Ph.D., professor emeritus, Department of Human Development at the University of Maryland
  • Kris Gutierrez, Ph.D., professor of Literacy and Learning Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Kenji Hakuta, Ph.D., the Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education at Stanford University
  • Peter Johnston, chair of the Department of Reading at the University of Albany
  • Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D., the Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education and Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Nonie Leseaux, Ph.D., the Marie and Max Kargman associate professor in Human Development and Urban Education Advancement at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Elizabeth Moje, Ph.D., associate dean for Research and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the School of Education at the University of Michigan
  • Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar, Ph.D., the Jean and Charles Walgreen Jr. Chair of Reading and Literacy and a teacher educator in Educational Studies at the University of Michigan
  • P. David Pearson, Ph.D., chair of the Literacy Research Panel and professor of Language and Literacy, Society and Culture at the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Victoria Risko, Ed.D., ex officio, president of the International Reading Association President and professor of education emerita at Vanderbilt University
  • Timothy Shanahan, Ph.D., professor of urban education, director of the Center for Literacy and department chairman of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Catherine Snow, Ph.D., the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Karen Wixson, Ph.D., dean of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's School of Education

"Each year, students struggle to excel because they lack the necessary literacy skills," said International Reading Association President and ex officio Literacy Research Panel Member Victoria Risko. "In the United States, an estimated 32 million adults are unable to read, and about 40 percent of high school graduates lack the literacy skills sought by employers. We're proud to call attention to this issue and work with teachers to improve the quality of literacy instruction across the globe."

The Panel's specific action steps in addressing its four priorities will be determined in the coming months. The Panel will participate in several activities at the International Reading Association's 2012 Convention to be held in Chicago from April 29 to May 2.

Members of the Panel will also serve as a resource for the editors of Reading Research Quarterly as well as for IRA's director of research. They will also support the Association's advocacy mission.

About the International Reading Association

The International Reading Association is the world's foremost expert on literacy. A non-profit global network dedicated to advancing the quality of literacy instruction and research worldwide, the International Reading Association supports reading teachers and other literacy professionals by providing professional development resources, advocating for policy and practices that benefit all teachers and students, and conducting research that promotes informed decision-making about literacy practice in the classroom. With more than 65,000 members worldwide, the Association is one of the world's largest educational membership organizations. The International Reading Association's many publications and peer-reviewed journals, including Reading Research Quarterly, provide coverage of research-based practices for the classroom and ideas and reflections on literacy from around the world. Additional information is available at www.reading.org.

CONTACT: Media Contact
         Brian Belardi
         RF|Binder for the International Reading Association
         (212) 994-7531
         brian.belardi@rfbinder.com
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