Thomas Jefferson called the Declaration of Independence an “expression of the American mind.” It was a synthesis of the “letters,” “printed essays,” and “elementary books of public right,” meaning the works of Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, and Sidney in which Americans had immersed themselves.

Fast forward to today. Since 2020, the reading scores of high-school-aged students have steadily dropped. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that fully two-thirds of U.S. children cannot read with proficiency and 40 percent are essentially nonreaders.

Reading and reading well is an important habit for students to develop in the classroom. However, some schools are running in the wrong direction instead of focusing on improving reading scores amid this decline. They opt for lower academic standards, thus setting children up for long-term failure. We believe that raising standards and expectations will, in the end, raise individual boats as well.