Fifty Years of Federal Government Involvement in Reading Education

Patrick Shannon, Pennsylvania State University
Jacqueline Edmondson, Pennsylvania State University
Leticia Ortega, R.J. Hendley Community School
Susan Pitcher, Elizabethtown College
Christopher Robbins, Eastern Michigan University


For the last 50 years, sincere federal representatives and employees have worked diligently to influence the daily practices in American public schools. Since Brown v. the Board of Education Topeka, Kansas in 1954, the federal government has required states to ensure that all citizens receive equal opportunities to public schooling. Implementing and enforcing the Brown ruling has not been easy or straightforward because experts, politicians, judges, and educators have struggled to define what equal opportunity and treatment under the law could mean for education in general and reading education in particular. Depending upon one’s perspective, federal actions in reading education could be considered progress, regress, or just a mess. In this chapter, we describe, analyze, and comment upon the federal legislation from Brown to the recent No Child Left Behind law, paying particular attention to their consequences.