The ALSCW’s newly released study strongly suggests that two factors- a fragmented English curriculum and a neglect of close reading- may explain why the reading skills of American high school students have shown little or no improvement in several decades despite substantial increases in funds for elementary and secondary education by federal and state governments.
The report, entitled Literary Study in Grades 9, 10, And 11: A National Survey analyzes the responses of more than four hundred representative public school teachers who were asked what works of literature they assign in standard and honors courses, and what approaches they use for teaching students how to understand imaginative literature and literary non-fiction.
Some of the study’s major findings include that the content of reading curriculum is no longer uniform in any consistent way, that the works teachers assign generally do not increase in difficulty from grade 9 to 11, and that teachers generally favor personal responses or historical contexts over close analytical readings of texts.
The ALSCW in turn recommends; that high schools revise their English curriculum to incorporate a progressively more challenging core of literary and non-literary texts, that English departments at colleges and universities emphasize the analytical study of literature espeically in the case of students planning to become secondary English teachers, and that the US Department of Education and state legislatures give priority to the funding of professional development programs that emphasize close, careful reading.
To read or download the complete, 36 page report, visit the ALSCW’s website at www.bu.edu/literary/publications/Forum4.pdf.