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A half a century of research on achievement in literacy

by Dr. Rosalind Horowitz, Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching    |    August 17, 2017

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"The Achievement Gap in Reading:  Complex causes, persistent issues, possible solutions" is a recently published book co-edited by Rosalind Horowitz, professor in the Departments of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching and Educational Psychology, and  S. Jay Samuels, professor emeritus of Educational Psychology at  The University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. This volume presents the research of 24 distinguished scholars in varied fields, who conduct educational and literacy research.  Most of the scholars chosen for this volume have been pursuing scientific research for half of a century, from 50 to 65 years, and have served on prestigious academies, and received honors for their publications. The scholars clarify why it is that some groups have not had the opportunities necessary for developing the reading practices and achievement needed for 21st century advanced schooling, and the tools and habits often needed for life. 


These experts examine factors that contribute to in-school student achievement.  However, what becomes apparent as one traverses through this volume is that literacy, cognition, and learning are influenced, consistently and heavily, by factors that reside outside-of-the school, including: poverty and economics, ethnicity and culture, family and community stratifications, and approaches to measurement and change that significantly matter in the assessment of literacy and learning.  These outside- of-school factors are presented from a range of research perspectives that sharpen insights for worldwide policies and practices.


This book offers hope that, given opportunity and the amelioration of obstacles, all students are psychologically wired to learn and can, indeed, reach a level of reading proficiency and achievement which will influence their work and lead students to a good and thoughtful life in the years beyond schooling.


One of three chapters written by Horowitz offers an international perspective, and demonstrates that some of the difficulties that prevent literacy development in the United States are also obstacles impinging on other nations.  Based on international assessments, there is research showing a drop in reading comprehension in United States adolescents and a call for thriving attention to adolescents in high schools and youth in colleges.


This book is unique in several regards but most importantly, it is the first full-length volume to address the achievement gap that Latino/a Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans face with particular attention to reading achievements and reading research. Studies to date remain isolated in special reports and single journals, but not summarized and analyzed in a single volume.


The lines of research discussed shed light on the problems we face. Chapters discuss the severe and persisting effects of poverty, quality of language and discourse developments needed for schooling, differences in internal motivations among ethnic groups, and social and cultural factors or neighborhoods that can enhance or impede learning in schools. Research findings reported are vital to all academic disciplines and subjects offered across schooling, and development of reasoning and a democracy.


Learn more about "The Achievement Gap in Reading."


Learn more about Dr. Rosalind Horowitz.



Photos: Cover of "The Achievement Gap in Reading"; Dr. Horowitz (second in from left) poses with doctoral students (L-R) Anita Pickett, Susan White (M.A. Candidate), and Teresa Sellers at the AERA book celebration in San Antonio.


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