Editorial | Shortcomings in literacy an educational, social problem


Johnny can’t succeed if he can’t learn to read.

Here’s an educational certainty — the ability to read is crucial to success in life, and too many Illinois children are failing to gain it.

The numbers from the state’s recent school report cards, widely reported in The News-Gazette, show the widespread failure of K-12 students statewide and, more specifically, in Champaign-Urbana. This is far more than an embarrassment, it’s a social disaster.

That’s why Stand for Children, working with sympathetic legislators, has proposed a three-bill package aimed at establishing a statewide literacy plan and boosting funding in a way that allows more school districts to improve their teaching of reading.

The proposals involve far more than just throwing more money at a problem and hoping it goes away. They have real substance in terms of boosting teachers’ skills in teaching reading and improving the techniques they employ.

In other words, the intentions are good, and, so far, so are the ideas behind them.

But it’s fair to ask just what is happening in Illinois schools now. Taxpayers are spending a fortune on K-12 education that is supposed to put an emphasis on the teaching of reading.

What are the problems that confound the teaching of reading to youngsters?

Too many young children are entering schools unprepared to learn. Too many children come from homes where education, including literacy, is not valued, and there are few books and even fewer adults to read them to their children.

Family disintegration and dysfunction, poverty and a wide variety of other social factors are at play. In addition, board of education numbers reveal that far too many children — most probably those at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder — are either chronically absent or truant.

Then there are the discipline problems that create obstacles to creating an environment where all children have the opportunity to learn.

Even the most industrious efforts and best-tested teaching techniques will be frustrated by those factors.

Semi-literates, when they become adults, face a variety of challenges when it comes to meeting the daily challenges of life — making a living, raising a family and being a well-informed citizen who contributes to the community.

Many people are familiar with the damning statistics associated with reading and writing problems. But, to cite just one, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that “60 percent of (prison) inmates are struggling readers.”

No new program, of course, comes without cost. Despite recent revenue increases, the state of Illinois bears crushing multibillion-dollar debts related to its underfunded public pensions.

Fortunately, the initial costs are low — $200,000 to allow the state education department to hire a literacy director to develop curriculum and training plus another $5 million to fund a block grant program enabling selected schools to conduct pilot programs for “evidence-based” reading programs.

Depending on the results, the state could expand its effort to improve students’ ability to read.

In terms of government spending, these are nominal sums that could be allocated based on a reallocation of current K-12, new revenues or a combination of the two.

The bottom line, of course, is that improving student literacy is too serious an issue not to try to improve. If current efforts are not achieving the desired results — and they most emphatically are not — it’s time to study, debate and take a new approach.

Stand for Children’s proposed package is most worthy of serious consideration and debate. The status quo — whatever its causes — is unacceptable.

Ino Saves New

via rk2’s favorite articles on Inoreader https://ift.tt/G9ZqpoO

March 19, 2023 at 08:50AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s