Statement from NCTQ President Kate Walsh on Students’ Constitutional Right to Literacy


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Washington, D.C. -- A landmark U.S. Court of Appeals decision earlier this week affirmed what so many of us already believed. Not only does every child deserve the opportunity to learn how to read, but it is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution, granted or denied by the actions schools take. Millions of our students, not just the students in Detroit who served as the plaintiffs in this case, stand to benefit from this decision, presuming it is not struck down.

Apart from who gives birth to us, there is arguably no event in our lives more significant than learning how to read. Absent the ability to read, we face a sharply limited future, if not a bleak one, across any measure of a productive life. Most of us don't even think about what life would be like if we could not read, but that's not the case for the nation's marginalized populations. Nearly half of all black children and a third of all Hispanic children, year in and year out, are systematically deprived of the kind of instruction that would enable them to read.

While we applaud the judges in their decision, neither they nor those in the similar California state court ruling in February chose to explicitly side with science. That means that how states, districts, and schools respond to this ruling could end up being all over the map (e.g. more after school activities or extending the hours of the school library), rather than changing how they deliver reading instruction. Still, the writing is on the wall and these decisions may be just the nudge, or push needed.

We know how to teach reading effectively. It is time for education leaders everywhere to recognize it is a violation of our students' rights when we fail to do so.


To schedule an interview with NCTQ, please contact Nicole Gerber at (202) 393-0020 ext. 712.

About the National Council on Teacher Quality: The National Council on Teacher Quality is a nonpartisan research and policy group, committed to modernizing the teaching profession and based on the belief that all children deserve effective teachers. We recognize that it is not teachers who bear responsibility for their profession's many challenges, but the institutions with the greatest authority and influence over teachers. More information about NCTQ can be found on our website,

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