Report: Students read way below level that prepares them for college, careers

Renaissance Learning, which tracks the reading habits of some 10 million US students, has released a report that not only tallies which books kids are reading, but also analyzes the complexity of the reading material.

Students Reading Below College Readiness Standards.

The Christian Science Monitor (11/18) reports that according to Renaissance Learning’s latest “What Kids Are Reading” report, US students “are reading more nonfiction, but not as much as Common Core standards recommend, and their reading tends to be far less challenging than it should be to prepare them for college or careers.” The report indicates that only roughly 25% of US students read enough sufficiently challenging material to “experience the most growth in reading.”


In most secondary classrooms, I see very little reading and almost no writing! This report confirms what I have known and observed for years!

  • “25% of US students read enough sufficiently challenging material to “experience the most growth in reading.”
  • Research indicates that students who spend at least 30 minutes a day reading independently, at an appropriate “challenge” level (where they can understand at least 85 percent of what they read), experience the most growth in reading, according to the report. And yet just over a quarter of students in Renaissance’s study read that often, and nearly half read for less than 15 minutes a day.
  • But by the end of high school, the average complexity of the books that 12th-graders are reading is 5.2 on the ATOS scale – a far cry from what standards say they should be reading – between 9.7 and 14.1 for high school – and far lower than the complexity of the average New York Times article (10.6) or college textbook (13.8).
  • “A key cornerstone of reading comprehension is vocabulary.  Over time, boys are at a disadvantage because they’re just not getting enough exposure to vocabulary.”
  • By high school, less than 15 percent of students read one or more books in their target range.
  • since Common Core standards were announced, the percent of reading that is nonfiction has moved up by about 5 percent for every grade level, Stickney says. But it’s still far below the recommended level
  • Students’ reading amount peaks in sixth grade, when they read about 436,000 words per year in books, and then falls to the low 300,000s by the end of high schoolGirls, however, tend to read a lot more than boys: The average girl reads some 3.8 million words between Grades 1 and 12, about 25 percent more than the average boy, who reads about 3 million.

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