Reading Achievement, International Comparisons, and Moral Panic: Do International Reading Test Scores Matter?

Here’s the first paragraph of my recent article in JAAL – click on the link below to go to the full article. Thanks!

Moral panic about reading achievement appears to afflict most English-speaking nations from time to time, and when this occurs, stories of a decline in achievement appear regularly in the media. Referring to the first skills survey by the OECD, The New Yorker asserted, “In basic literacy,…younger Americans are at or near the bottom of the standings among advanced countries” (Cassidy, 2013, para. 1). In the United Kingdom, The Guardian newspaper told a similar story: “England’s young people near bottom of global league table for basic skills” (Ramesh, 2013). Australian students apparently fared no better, even with an emphasis on basic skills: “Focus on basic skills blamed for decline in reading standards” (Patty, 2010). In case you’re wondering whether achievement levels are higher in New Zealand, the birthplace of Reading Recovery, Radio New Zealand (2013) reported, “New Zealand’s scores in reading, maths and science examined by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2012 have fallen since the previous test in 2009” (para. 4). So, have reading achievement levels really fallen in all of these countries, and if they have, what should be done? These are the questions that will be addressed in this column.

Published by colinharrison83

Emeritus Professor, University of Nottingham

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