Constructions of Difference

How Reading First, Response to Intervention, and Common Core Policies Conceptualize Individual Differences

Authored by: Sarah L. Woulfin

Handbook of Individual Differences in Reading

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  August  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415658874
eBook ISBN: 9780203075562
Adobe ISBN: 9781135120931


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The literature on individual differences in reading addresses cognitive skills and strategies but pays less attention to the broader forces, including policy, that contribute to the construction of individual differences. To broaden our view on the political and social construction of individual difference, I interrogate the messages within contemporary reading policy. This chapter explores the aims and ideas of reading policy in order to advance our understanding of the relationship between institutional forces and the construction of individual differences. I will compare how three waves of reading reform—Reading First, Response to Intervention, and Common Core State Standards—construct individual difference. First, I will briefly review the recent history of US education policy. Second, I will analyze policy documents to surface how these policies conceptualize reading and individual difference. Specifically, to illustrate how institutional forces shape the conceptualization of reading and individual difference, I martial evidence from policy documents from two large states: California and New York. I treat the policy documents as sources of data on the ways in which reading and individual differences are defined. The policy documents from three reading reforms showcase differences in how policymakers and reformers define the problem of reading instruction and construct various solutions. Throughout, I argue that education policy plays a vital role in the construction of students’ individual difference in reading.

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