Jack Silva didn’t know anything about how children learn to read. What he did know is that a lot of students in his district were struggling.
Silva is the chief academic officer for Bethlehem, Pa., public schools. In 2015, only 56 percent of third-graders were scoring proficient on the state reading test. That year, he set out to do something about that.
“It was really looking yourself in the mirror and saying, ‘Which 4 in 10 students don’t deserve to learn to read?’ ” he recalls.
Bethlehem is not an outlier. Across the country, millions of kids are struggling. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 32 percent of fourth-graders and 24 percent of eighth-graders aren’t reading at a basic level. Fewer than 40 percent are proficient or advanced.
The U.S. Department of Education today announced more than $4.4 million in grants to improve literacy skills, outcomes and results for children with disabilities.
“When we improve literacy skills for children with disabilities, including those with dyslexia, we are not just teaching them how to read, we are opening doors to a lifetime of more positive opportunities, such as improved academic skills, reduction in behavioral incidences, increased school completion, and lifelong learning,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “These awards will continue to address inclusion, equity and opportunity for all children, including those with disabilities.”
I recently had the privilege to visit H. D. Cooke Elementary School in Washington, D.C. The school has a population of 398 students with 44% English Language Learners (ELLs). I was shadowing Flora Lerenman, a 3rd grade English as Second Language (ESL) teacher.
Our morning started off with meeting with the instructional coach for literacy. The teachers shared their schedules to make sure the coach has the opportunity to watch and support all the teachers during the coming weeks. It was incredible to see the support and the resources available to the teachers that help them ensure the academic success of their students.
Imagine you have a painful toothache that has gone untreated. Or a headache after squinting at the book you’re reading. Now imagine yourself in a classroom, struggling to pay attention and be engaged in class, with this pain gnawing at you.
For students in every part of our country, this has become a day-to-day reality.
A student’s health is strongly linked with his or her academic performance. The lack of health coverage – and the corresponding likelihood of poorer health – therefore makes it harder for many children in low-income and minority communities, to reach their full potential.
The need to ensure that every student is proficient in reading has been an article of faith in educational and political circles for at least the past decade. As Gov. Brian Sandoval said in his State of the State address on Wednesday, it is the key to success for students.
Yet, in a wide-ranging interview with the Gazette-Journal’s Siobhan McAndrew, published on Wednesday, Nevada’s new superintendent of public education, James Guthrie, said that about half of the third-grade students in Nevada couldn’t meet that standard today.
If he’s right, it’s a stunning indictment of the education system in Nevada.
Is it really possible that, despite all of the money, time and effort that have been spent on a variety of reading programs — programs that have been given priority over the rest of the curriculum in scheduling in many elementary schools — over the past decade or more, schools in Nevada still can’t teach more than half their students to read by the age of 9? That is simply unimaginable, and if true, requires even more attention than the governor gave it last week. It would truly be a crisis worthy of as much of the state’s resources as it can possibly afford.
DMC Sinai Grace Hospital, software company Compuware Corp. and students from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies are collaborating on a child literacy program that aims to get parents to read to their children for at least 15 minutes per day.
For some time, the parents of new children born at the Detroit hospital have been receiving a free children’s book a month through the United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Early Literacy Initiative. The program aims to help children from poor families overcome a common education skills gap.
Last fall, the United Way turned to Compuware for help in tracking the families’ participation in the program, the Detroit Free Press reported (http://on.freep.com/YM2HSp ).
The software company paired its concept developers with a dozen students from the college for a 15-week process of conceiving and designing an Internet and smartphone-based application to measure and report on the reading.