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.
ONE WAS ON THE ROOF OF a Habitat for Humanity house in California when it occurred to her. Another was in a state senator’s office in Oklahoma City. Still another was at an education conference in Minneapolis when she began to consider it.
It’s a decision hundreds of educators across the country have made this year: To change the conditions in their classrooms, they would have to run for office themselves. Some 550 educators will be on election ballots this fall, according to the National Education Association, running for everything from local school board to governor.
Their numbers are particularly pronounced in states where teachers took to the streets and statehouses in the spring, places like Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia. At least 20 educators filed to run for Congress this cycle, and the hundreds of educators running for statehouse positions came from both political parties from Maine to Alaska. Though the exact issues varied – compensation, the upward creep in class sizes, the trickling pipeline of qualified educators – they pointed to a common theme of neglect in state K-12 education budgets.
That activism led to a spike in educators filing their election paperwork, says Carrie Pugh, the national political director for the National Education Association, which has compiled a database of the educator-candidates.
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.
Just because students are on winter break does not mean that learning needs to stop.
Families can incorporate a number of ways to keep children’s minds active and foster learning outside of the classroom.
The break “allows children to sharpen the skills they have learned in school thus far,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch.
“At the same time, there are a number of teachable moments in holiday activities that can further learning and ensure that children don’t miss a beat when they return to school in January. Learning should always be fun, especially during this time of year.”
Students can easily brush up on their reading, math, and science skills while partaking in fun activities that embrace both winter and the holiday spirit.
“Read,” stressed Allison Strupeck, director of communication services for Carpentersville-based School District 300.
Parents should encourage children to read every day over break for at least 30 minutes. For younger children, read to them for at least 15 minutes every day and then have them read for equally as long. Children will be more inclined to read if it is a family endeavor, so set aside daily quiet reading time for the entire family.