Connecticut’s public school superintendents are acutely aware that learning to read is fundamental to school success. And no goal is more important to success in reading than becoming an independent reader, capable of reading grade-level material by the end of third grade.

Simply stated, from preschool through grade three (PK-3), children learn to read. From grade three through grade 12, students read to learn.

Unlike learning to speak, reading is not an inborn capacity. For the vast majority of students, reading must be taught. Because of its impact on so many facets of children’s lives, including social and emotional issues, school attendance, and dropout rates, when it comes to reading, failure is not an option.

Recently, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released its 2022 results. The data revealed that over time Connecticut’s fourth and eighth-grade student performance in reading has decreased. Clearly, as school district leaders, we have work to do. We embrace this challenge.

An excerpt from the Nation’s Report Card shows how eight grade academic performance has declined.

Historically, the methodology associated with teaching reading has been the subject of controversy. Thankfully, during the past few years, the majority of reading researchers have coalesced around an approach entitled the Science of Reading (SOR). SOR’s components include: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency, and listening and reading comprehension.

In meeting the challenge of every student reading independently by the end of third grade, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) is grateful for the support provided by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE). Through “The Science of Reading MasterClass,” a vehicle for training teams of leaders from individual school districts, the CSDE/CAPSS partnership is helping school districts to develop the capacity to utilize SOR in a highly impactful manner.

This unique partnership has the potential of elevating PK-3 reading instruction across the state, with the goal of helping all students, regardless of their individual characteristics or backgrounds, to become proficient readers.

CAPSS is hopeful that the Science of Reading initiative can serve as a model for future productive state department-superintendent partnerships. Partnerships that will move us closer to our shared goal — providing the best public school education possible for all of Connecticut’s children.

Fran Rabinowitz is Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.