Now that the short version is out of the way, let’s dig in. When I say "can't read," I don't me that they don't know the letters or that nobody taught them the sounds. I mean that many of our students don’t read on level and our scores on standardized English tests leave a great deal to be desired. Reading struggles spill over into all other subjects and threaten to derail the rest of the education system. If you’re graduating seniors that read at a 5th grade level, everyone is going to have a bad time. Read more after the jump.
I’ve found myself more frequently, as my relationship grows with my students, being asked to read questions and passages to them. It breaks my heart. They know the material, they understand what I tell them, and they are so smart, but the textbook is several levels ahead. My high schoolers struggle with reading so they struggle with spelling, and their limited vocabulary makes them more susceptible to discipline from either the inability to find an appropriate word to use or from lashing out due to frustration resulting from the inability to read. That’s the cultural aspect.
On the instructional side, having kids at such different reading levels dramatically increases the need to differentiate instruction. High school teachers aren’t trained in educating middle schoolers. That’s why the certifications are different. The expectation on the teacher is good, but without the proper support and resources, are teachers really being set up for success? No.
What’s to be done? Everyone wants to get involved in the 8 hours that our kids are in school. Everyone from the Mayor to the non profits want to be in the school and in the classes. Well you can’t. We teachers have this. What you CAN do is provide the support outside of the classroom to alleviate some of the burden on the teachers. Inside schools, one reading class isn’t enough. There needs to be dedicated schools and programs for kids that are behind. Passing them on and shoehorning them into classes with kids light years ahead of them only hurts the struggling learner.
Let’s be smart about this and put our resources together to create a lasting solution to our literacy crisis.