Literacy crisis in America’s schools persisting beyond COVID-19, with students making some recovery

Beginning-of-year data from Amplify’s mCLASS® shows youngest students remain the most at risk

BROOKLYN, NY (October 21, 2022) — Amplify, a publisher of next-generation curriculum and assessment programs, released a research brief about national beginning-of-school-year (BOY) reading data today. While students in elementary grades are making progress toward early literacy levels that pre-date the pandemic, only about half of students in grade three are on track for learning to read, and nearly a third are in the highest risk category. In kindergarten, half of the nation’s students are starting school already in need of intensive intervention in early literacy skills.

Compared to where they were before pandemic disruptions, more of today’s elementary students are still in the highest risk category for not learning to read. Moreover, students in grades that did not experience the disruptions as acutely are showing gaps, with only about one-third of kindergarteners and less than half of first graders starting the year on track for core instruction in early literacy.

“The data in this report are another signal that we need to do even more to support teachers so they can help this generation of young students get on track in reading,” says Susan Lambert, chief academic officer of elementary humanities at Amplify. “We won’t see early literacy improve beyond pre-pandemic proficiencies if we don’t make changes across our educational system. It is a crisis that can be turned around — with focused efforts on evidenced-based practices.”

Literacy rates in the United States remain a crisis today, with many students urgently needing support. The good news: research-based reading instruction reduces the need for intervention and enables children to move forward as capable, confident learners. When students receive instruction based in the Science of Reading, outcomes improve. When that instruction takes place in the early grades, research shows that most students can be taught to read at or approaching grade level. Schools and districts need to invest in reliable universal screeners, high-quality core curriculum, evidence-based interventions, and professional development for educators based in the Science of Reading.

The report compares mCLASS® with DIBELS® 8th Edition benchmark data from the 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23 school years. Approximately 300,000 students in a matched set of 1,400 schools in 43 states are represented. The schools in the source data are slightly more likely to be in large urban metropolitan areas than the nation overall.

The data was collected using the mCLASS platform, which automates the data collection of DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills). DIBELS is a widely-used series of short tests developed by the University of Oregon that assess K–8 literacy. DIBELS is an observational assessment collected by teachers interacting with students one-on-one, either live or over video. DIBELS is typically administered three times a year (beginning, middle, and end of year), and is used to identify reading difficulty, monitor progress, and inform instruction, especially for struggling readers.

About Amplify
A pioneer in K–12 education since 2000, Amplify is leading the way in next-generation curriculum and assessment. Our core and supplemental programs in ELA, math, and science engage all students in rigorous learning and inspire them to think deeply, creatively, and for themselves. Our formative assessment products help teachers identify the targeted instruction students need to build a strong foundation in early reading and math. All of our programs and services provide educators with powerful tools that help them understand and respond to the needs of every student. Today, Amplify serves more than 10 million students in all 50 states. For more information, visit

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