Tom Loveless Debunks Social Media’s Three Biggest Myths about Reading Scores: An interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Tom Loveless Debunks Social Media’s Three Biggest Myths about Reading Scores: An interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Tom Loveless, Ph.D., is an education researcher and former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution (1999–2014). From 2000 to 2017, he authored The Brown Center Report on American Education, an annual report analyzing important trends in education. Loveless has published widely in scholarly journals and appeared in popular media to discuss school reform, student achievement, and other education topics.

Loveless holds a Ph.D. in education from the University of Chicago, an MA in special education from California State University, Sacramento, and an AB in English from the University of California, Berkeley. From 1979 to 1988, Loveless was a classroom teacher in the San Juan Unified School District, near his hometown of Sacramento, California. From 1992 to 1999, Loveless was an assistant and associate professor of public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. At Brookings, Loveless served as director of the Brown Center on Education Policy from 1999 to 2008.

From 2004 to 2012, Loveless represented the United States at the General Assembly of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, a sixty-nation organization that governs international testing. From 2006 to 2008, he was a member of the president’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel.

Link to Tom’s Vita  LINK

Here is a link to the YouTube interview:

Here are some of the talking points from the interview:

Here is a link to buy Tom’s books LINK

Link to Tom’s Blogpost about the inaccuracies of claims made on social media LINK.

You can follow Tom on Twitter: @tomloveless99.





Shakeel, M.D., and Peterson, P.E. (2022 Education Next, 22(4), 50-58.

Final Thoughts About This Interview.

I’ve written several times pushing back on the incomplete and misleading stories being told on social media LINK, LINK, LINK. This interview is an important addition to the growing pushback on those social media stories. The size of the problems within reading is being exaggerated. Social media says about two-thirds of kids are reading below level. They make that claim based on an incorrect interpretation of the NAEP scores. Dr. Loveless indicates the actual figure is about 1/3. That figure has remained constant, and that lack of change includes the current era of reforms involving mandating SOR. I do not in any way want to give the impression that 1/3 of all students reading below grade level is unimportant. But as Dr. Lawless points out, looking at what the data is actually telling us requires a very different fix than the simplistic ones being advanced by SOR advocates. The discussion on what the best policy should be needs to be made using all the research. It needs to draw on practices from all sides. That discussion needs to begin in every state legislature considering changes in the laws around literacy, especially early literacy LINK. I believe the current changes are doomed to failure because they are based on false premises and fail to consider all the research. That point will be a recurring theme in my future blogs.

A good way to end this blog post is to call your attention to Paul Thomas’s latest letter about this topic. He is one of many advocates encouraging the proper reporting of all the research and the use of all the research to inform our decisions on this crucial topic. Here is a link to his open letter to the Biden Administration et. al. LINK

Several important interviews and blog posts are lined up in the next few weeks. Included will be an interview with Gravity Goldberg and a guest blog post by Jan Richardson. In addition, P.D. Pearson has agreed to be interviewed. I am working on setting up that interview late in the summer or early this fall. Until then:

Happy Reading and Writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, the guy in the middle taking flak from all sides)

Copyright 2023 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely this author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

4 thoughts on “Tom Loveless Debunks Social Media’s Three Biggest Myths about Reading Scores: An interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito

  1. Ann Kay

    Dr. Sam,
    Thanks for yet another illuminating interview!
    The million $ question is: Why do 1/3 of US students seem to learn to read effortlessly while 1/3 of students cannot even read at even a basic level? Early brain development! Our task is to “zap the gap” between these two groups. Research has found that preschool brains that effectively process sound, retain sound, and keep a steady beat will be better readers.
    It’s not hard to help children “train” their brains for reading before they start school. 1) SING. Research has found that babies pay more attention and acquire language earlier. 2) KEEP THE BEAT. Rock babies to the beat while chanting nursery rhymes and singing songs. Have children pat a steady beat while saying rhymes and singing songs. 3) TEACH SKILLS. Have children clap the rhythm of a song—the way the words go, tell the difference between higher and lower pitches, match a pitch with their voices, and sing in tune within their vocal range—from about middle C-up. We need to communicate the research and strategies to parents, careproviders, and preschool teachers. Together we can “zap the gap!”

    1. doctorsam7 Post author

      We’ve talked about this and even done an article about this. I really think you are on to something

      1. doctorsam7 Post author

        In answer to your million dollar question- the key thing is that different kids have different backgrounds of experience and learn different. So some essentially learn to read without much help. Other need scaffolding. Well trained teachers, trained in a variery of methods can help with that. District level RTI can help get those teachers services delivered in a way that is sensitive to each districts needs.

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