The Reading for Understanding Initiative:

Key Findings and Implications for States and Districts

Reading for Understanding Title

It is difficult to over-state the importance of reading comprehension skills—they enable learning about almost all content areas and topics for students while in school and over the course of their lives. Without adequate reading and comprehension skills, an individual’s ability to pursue their field(s) of interest, to become and remain self-sufficient, and to engage productively in society are greatly curtailed. In the workplace, the ability to read, comprehend, and analyze complex texts is fundamental to attaining and holding high paying jobs.

Unfortunately, the United States has been falling short of our national aspirations that all students achieve high levels of reading comprehension skills. Over the past seven years, states have taken steps to address this problem by adopting more rigorous reading/literacy standards aligned to college- and career-readiness and investing in teacher training. Despite these actions and the efforts of many dedicated educators, state, national, and international indicators converge to show relatively stagnant growth in reading performance.

In 2010 the U.S. Department of Education launched a focused, five-year research initiative to “aggressively attack and derive solutions for enabling students to understand what they read.” Previous research initiatives had led to insights and subsequent instructional programs that proved to be effective in helping young children become adequate decoders of texts—translating text into sounds and words. But that same energy and focus had not yet been applied with rigor to the problem of comprehension—the complex process that allows one to gain meaning and construct new knowledge from texts.

Please find the full ETS report "Retooling Literacy Education for the 21st Century; Key Findings of the Reading for Understanding Initiative and Their Implications" here.

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