Media “Distorts” Coverage of the “Science of Reading”: A Reader

In the first of a series of posts, Maren Aukerman, The University of Calgary, details the dominant media “narrative [that] distorts the picture [of reading] to the point that readers are easily left with a highly inaccurate understanding of the so-called ‘science of reading.'”

As literacy scholars and teachers have noted since the beginning of media coverage of the “science of reading,” Aukerman explains how the coverage often misinforms through oversimplification and switching between claims of “research” and simple anecdotes:

I examine how well-intentioned journalism about the “science of reading” is frequently biased and inadequately research-based, ultimately making the case that such reporting has damaging consequences for the teaching of early reading.

The Science of Reading and the Media: Is Reporting Biased?

Mainstream media, in fact, remain selective in what and how they report on education and reading; for example, the daily email from the New York Times sends a different message about reading than their articles on the “science of reading” (notably by Goldstein and Hanford):

More recently, the national test results capture both the initial academic declines and any recovery, and they offer some nuance. While there was a notable correlation between remote learning and declines in fourth-grade math, for example, there was little to no correlation in reading. Why the discrepancy? One explanation is that reading skills tend to be more influenced by parents and what happens at home [emphasis added], whereas math is more directly affected by what is taught in school.

So remote learning does not explain the whole story. What else does? In a sophisticated analysis of thousands of public school districts in 29 states, researchers at Harvard and Stanford Universities found that poverty played an even bigger role in academic declines during the pandemic [emphasis added].

“The poverty rate is very predictive of how much you lost,” Sean Reardon, an education professor at Stanford who helped lead the analysis, told me.

NYT “Behind the declines” daily email (28 November 2022)

Below, then, are sources from scholarly and public publications/posts examining the patterns and bias identified by Aukerman:

See additional resources for examining media coverage, misinformation, and bias: