A Critical Examination of Grade Retention as Reading Policy (OEA)

State Reading Policy: An Overview

In the 2000s, the National Reading Panel (NPR) report and the reports from its subgroups[1] were adopted into George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, mandating scientifically based instruction[2] and establishing a framework for how reading should be taught in the U.S. — what is often identified as the Five Pillars of Reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.[3]

  • Legislation focusing on reading proficiency by 3rd grade, often including grade retention policies linked to high-stakes testing.[9]
  • Commercial reading programs being banned at the state level and re-evaluated at the district and school levels.
  • Reading policy and practices targeting dyslexia, including universal screening and mandates for systematic phonics instruction (often Orton-Gillingham[10]).
  • Policies have mandated systematic phonics instruction for all students.
  • A renewed emphasis on phonics in teacher professional development (such as requiring training in LETRS) and teacher education.[11]



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Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas


P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/