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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 02/10/2011

When should kids be able to read?

By Valerie Strauss

It used to be that kids in the early elementary school grades were allowed to learn how to read at their own speed. Today test-obsessed public schools don’t offer that luxury; if youngsters aren’t starting to learn to read in kindergarten, and can’t read by the end of first grade, they are already behind.

The new Common Core standards, which have been adopted by most states, say, for example, that first graders should be able to, “With prompting and support, read prose and poetry of appropriate complexity for grade 1.”

The second grade standard: “By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, in the grades 2-3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.”

This flies in the face of research that shows that some students need more time to learn how to read, and that boys as a group are being put a disadvantage with earlier and earlier reading demands.

Richard Whitmire, author of the book (and blog of the same name) “Why Boys Fail,” wrote on this blog:

“Based on my book research, the biggest culprits behind the gender gaps are education reforms that wisely ramped up verbal skills in the earliest grades but unwisely failed to adjust reading and writing instruction for boys, who have always gotten a late start on those skills. The reform-minded governors intended to boost college readiness, but with boys, their good intentions backfired.

“Up until about 20 years ago, when students got a slower start on verbal skills, boys caught up by fourth or fifth grade. These days, many boys never quite catch up. They conclude that school is for girls and seek satisfaction in outlets such as video games, which in turn get blamed unfairly for causing the problem.”

Kids who live in poverty are especially at risk of academic failure because of poor reading skills; of the fourth-graders who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test sometimes called the nation’s report card, 83 percent of children of low-income students failed to reach the “proficient” level in reading.

Now the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation and about 70 other foundations are joining in a new campaign that attempts to infuse some sense into the reading world.

"The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading” intends to bring together public and philanthropic efforts to close the gap in reading achievement and to lobby so that grade-level reading by the end of third grade becomes an explicit priority for educators, policymakers, civic leaders, parents and advocates. It is, of course, no coincidence that this is happening as Congress considers whether and how to rewrite No Child Left Behind.

With all of the initiatives to improve education, it’s hard to argue that any are more important than making sure kids can read. Doing so is, of course, more than a matter of selecting an effective reading program; it involves early literacy at home, the availability of reading material, summer reading, and more.

President Obama has made a priority out of pushing STEM education, or science, technology, engineering and math. If kids can’t read, it isn’t terribly likely they will find their way into one of those fields.

But if they aren't given the adequate amount of time to develop the habit of reading at their own pace, they will never become readers. It's time to rethink how we address this most basic enterprise.

-0-

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By Valerie Strauss  | February 10, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  National Standards, Reading  | Tags:  STEM, STEM education, anne e. casey foundation, casey foundation, common core standards, kids and reading, national standards, obama and school reform, obama's education goals, president obama and school reform, reading, reading by fourth grade, reading by third grade, why boys fail  
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Comments

Why do some students learn to read long before they enter school, and learn with no formal instruction? I taught myself at 4, I have several friends who did, and my niece and nephew both did. The only factor I can see is that we had parents who read to us and gave us a lot of children's books with word games. (And my friend and I both acquired siblings at that age; we joke that we had to learn to read to ourselves because our parents were busy with the babies!)

It's well established that children with a background of being read to learn to read much more easily than those who don't. (And let's face it--if your only impression of books was gained from a first-grade reader, would you be eager to read them on your own?)

Maybe instead of "reading instruction" kindergarten and first-grade reading classes should be just the teacher reading aloud--from the readers while the students follow along and from any exciting book that makes the students want to find out what happens next.

I hope the schools have abandoned the practice my friend and I were subjected to; we were repeatedly told we should not be reading books that were not for our grade level.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | February 10, 2011 8:11 AM | Report abuse

I go by the two front teeth theory. If reading is coming along slowly, wait until the two front teeth are in before getting too concerned. Also, children of smokers are more inclined to be slower readers, but given appropriate time and instruction, can catch up at around age 9 or 10.

The nutty test driven culture isn't conducive to developmental learning and what some children experience is something of a compounded negative impact in which they continually see themselves as falling short of expectations and thus become crippled by the internalized feelings of failure.

Reading aloud to kids is of great importance. That should be the cornerstone of early childhood reading programs. The reading material should be of high quality with a genuine plot and having words that actually increase the vocabulary. Kids should also have the opportunity to choose their own books. Volunteers, either retired teachers or college ed students, can give students some one-on-one time with their chosen books, giving assistance and guidance along the way. Schools must find ways to fit in apporpriate reading instruction, or it is the system that is failing the students. Tests can wait. Reading comprehension (thus joy from reading) should be the primary focus.

Posted by: shadwell1 | February 10, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

As noted above, variation in language/reading development and reading at home (with other reading materials available)are two huge issues that schools have no control over.

Add to those two: the many issues with immigrant students who may be illiterate in TWO languages,students with dyslexia, auditory difficulties and other language difficulties, and parents with no idea how to encourage their children......

Two partial remedies might be to set aside more funds for tutoring, and to offer parent classes/support groups on how to support reading in the home.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | February 10, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

There is very strong evidence that you can improve in reading at any age, and older children can catch up easily given access to interesting and comprehensible reading material. Please see our paper:

Krashen, S. and McQuillan, J. 2007. Late intervention. Educational Leadership 65 (2): 68-73.

Write me, and I'll send you a copy: skrashen@yahoo.com

Posted by: skrashen | February 10, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Follow the link below to read the entire journal article regarding reading to young children in the home. The importance of reading to children in the home should be stressed thoughout the healthcare points of service - prenatal visits, WIC, well baby visits, various clinics, etc.

Pediatrics 2004;113;1944-1951
Alice A. Kuo, Todd M. Franke, Michael Regalado and Neal Halfon
Parent Report of Reading to Young Children

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/113/6/S1/1944?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=acp+reading+children&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT

Posted by: shadwell1 | February 10, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Kids who live in poverty are especially at risk of academic failure because of poor reading skills; of the fourth-graders who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test sometimes called the nation’s report card, 83 percent of children of low-income students failed to reach the “proficient” level in reading.

But if they aren't given the adequate amount of time to develop the habit of reading at their own pace, they will never become readers. It's time to rethink how we address this most basic enterprise.
...........................
Time to recognize that there is no crisis in public education contrary to President Obama and his Secretary of Education.

The problem in the poverty schools have existed for decades, while for decades the middle class public schools have for decades prior to 2000 shown improving scores on national tests.

Yet neither the President or his Secretary of Education offer any new programs or ideas regarding the problem in poverty schools. Their only idea is to blame teachers while totally ignoring that the majority of teachers in this country work in middle class schools and not the poverty schools where the problem exist. They pretend that teacher unions and tenure are the problem while they ignore that these are features of middle class schools where there is not the problem of poverty schools.

By the way it is more telling to look at the failure rate for reading by 4th grade students on national tests. These are the students that do not even pass the basic level. The failure rate for poverty school is over 50 percent for students that can not pass the basic level. This failure means that these children can not read at all.

A review of the national tests for 8th grade students in poverty schools indicates that the failure rate for basic skills is almost 50 percent.

If a student can not read by the 8th grade it is highly probable that the student will ever learn to read. The lack of poverty students to read explains the high number of these students that do not graduate high school.

Instead of the President and his Secretary of Education declaring a national crisis they should be offering new programs to deal with the large number of students in poverty schools that can not read by the 8th grade.

But it is far more easier to pretend there is a national crisis and blame teachers.

If politicians could they would claim a national crisis in crime based on the high crime rates that poverty areas have had for decades. The only reason the politicians will not do this is because they know that they can not blame the police unions.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

By the way the new attack is now shifting to teaching colleges.

"The federal education secretary, Arne Duncan, has said that many, if not most, teacher-training programs are mediocre. “It is time to start holding teacher-preparation programs more accountable for the impact of their graduates on student learning,” Mr. Duncan said in a speech in November."

Apparently now the poor performance in national testing of students in poverty public schools, which has existed for decades, is the fault of teacher training in colleges and universities.

Total disregard that the same colleges and universities graduate the teachers that work at the middle class schools where students for decades have scored well on national testing.

NY Times: Teachers’ Colleges Upset by Plan to Grade Them

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

The second grade standard: “By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, in the grades 2-3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.”
............................
This is the insanity of the policies of this President and his Secretary of Education.

Decades of national test scores that indicate 50 percent failure rates in reading in the 4th and 8th grade for students in poverty schools.

And supposedly the President and his Secretary of Education believe this was all caused because the United States did not have a standard proclaiming that students should read by the 2nd grade.

Our national leaders are either buffoons, or believe that the majority of Americans are buffoons and will believe anything.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Bravo. I'd like to see more folks willing to step up and suggest that we reconsider what we are asking of children. Studies have shown that 80% of kids will be reading by 3rd grade no matter what we do. But we don't give anyone that opportunity. They have to hit benchmarks along the way as though all kids will develop at the exact same pace. It's absurd. There are so many better ways we could be focusing our attention and money.

As a first grade teacher in a high poverty school I am concerned that what we are doing now is turning kids off of reading. How sad.

Posted by: Jenny04 | February 10, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I go by the two front teeth theory. If reading is coming along slowly, wait until the two front teeth are in before getting too concerned. Also, children of smokers are more inclined to be slower readers, but given appropriate time and instruction, can catch up at around age 9 or 10.
Posted by: shadwell1
..........................
Time to stop the conjectures that are not supported by the known facts.

National reading tests of poverty students in the 8th grade indicate almost 50 percent fail the basic level and can not read. These children are older than 10.

The problem is 5 years of neglect before entering public schools and this would be shown if there were national tests of preparedness before entering public schools.

The problem has existed for decades.

I am not concerned whether political leaders or Americans want to spend the money to actually deal with the problem.

It is a though a problem when the political leaders pretend that they can deal with the problem of students that can not read by simply mandating that these students read.

This type of pretense has only degraded public education for the last 10 year.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecinNaR32Qs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmdHvkcMhZ4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo1AJWqCIww

It may not be proper, but I saw this series a while back and had to rethink my position on "mandatory." For your decision...

Posted by: jbeeler | February 10, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

For all those with suggestion the reality is that the first step needed is for the American public to repudiate the President, the Secretary of Education and all politicians who have pretended that they can simply mandate that students read.

Since 2001 education in the middle class public schools in this nation have been degraded by the idea of political leaders who believe that learning can be mandated.

Before 2001 middle class public schools performed highly on national tests. Now the political leaders tell us that the teachers of America are responsible for the decades of failure of poverty schools while they totally ignore that the majority of teachers in America work in middle class schools and not the poverty schools.

There will be no new programs or ideas to deal with the problem in the poverty schools and education in our middle class schools will continue to be degraded, until the American public repudiate the political leaders who are only using public education as an issue for their political campaigns of reelection.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Bravo. I'd like to see more folks willing to step up and suggest that we reconsider what we are asking of children. Studies have shown that 80% of kids will be reading by 3rd grade no matter what we do.

As a first grade teacher in a high poverty school I am concerned that what we are doing now is turning kids off of reading. How sad.

Posted by: Jenny04
.............................
The study might be true for all the children in the United States but it can not be true for children in the poverty schools.

If 80 percent in the poverty schools were reading by the 3rd grade you would not have over 50 percent reading failure rates in the 4th grade for poverty students. Again this is not failure of proficient reading but basic reading. This indicates that these students simply can not read.

There is a real problem in this nation in not acknowledging that in the poverty schools you can not simply teach in the same way as teaching is done in the middle class schools.

In the middle class schools you do not have students with the same level of neglect before entering school that you have in poverty schools.

Time to test all children before they enter public schools since there appears to be a continuous refusal to accept that there is a difference between students in middle class schools and children in poverty schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack - I completely agree with you that this is not true of children in high poverty schools. They tend to be the 20% who do not learn to read by 3rd grade. That we have allowed this to go on is absurd. I don't think setting benchmarks at each grade level will solve this however. Expecting every child to be at a level 3 (or C or whatever depending on the assessment) at the end of kindergarten and so on does not make this happen. We need to educate parents, get more kids living in poverty into high quality childcare before kindergarten, and read, read, read to and with kids.

I'm not sure testing kids before they enter school is necessary. It's pretty clear very early on (Head Start or kindergarten) who needs a lot more support for literacy. We just aren't able to do it. In a school like mine more than half our kids can come in not recognizing the letters, not having been read to, not even having been talked to enough. We've got a long way to go to get them reading.

Posted by: Jenny04 | February 10, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

bsallamck,

Actually, according to various journal articles, tooth eruption is associated with other developmental timeframes. Plus, a study in Austrialia found significant differences in gender in the time of etuption of the maxillary central incisors (boys avg. months later) Various studies (easy enough to find on a pubmed search) have shown tooth eruption and other developmental milestones are sometimes associated with influences such as maternal smoking and LBW. And yes, poverty matters.

A link to the Australian study:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14640156

Posted by: shadwell1 | February 10, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Why do some students learn to read long before they enter school, and learn with no formal instruction? I taught myself at 4, I have several friends who did, and my niece and nephew both did. The only factor I can see is that we had parents who read to us and gave us a lot of children's books with word games.
Posted by: sideswiththekids
................................
When should kids be able to read?

Before they enter public school.

The reality is that reading is a skill that is learned over time and there is no set procedure that will guarantee every time the ability to read.

There is also a major difference between children that learn to read before public school and the children that may learn to read in public school. The children that learn before public school enjoy reading and will probably continue to read throughout their lives.

The child who learns to read in the public school may enjoy the teacher approval of being able to read "The apple is red." but this does not mean that this child will enjoy reading.

Before entering public schools children will have a one to one relationship with parents while once they enter public school they are no longer will have a one to one relationship with teachers. The approval of teacher has far less meaning to a child than the approval of parents in a one to one relationship. This is probably why children that learn to read before public school also enjoy reading and want to read. The approval that they receive from their parents is so effective.

Another difference about children learning to read before public school is that these children are not taught on a kindergarten or 1st grade level. Americans used to learn to read before public school from parents that only had a bible for reading to children.

Imagine if for the first 5 years of a child's life no one spoke to the child. Would anyone not understand that this child is not prepared for public school? Children that have been neglected in regard to reading before entering public school will have great difficulty in learning how to read.

The neglect of parents in regard to reading before public school affects more children in poverty schools than it does in middle class schools and is the reason why so many children in poverty schools have difficulties in learning to read. Reduced vocabulary and language skills of poverty areas during the 5 years prior entering public school contribute to the problem since reading is dependent upon language skills. Imagine the difficulty of teaching a child to read that can not speak any language. There is also the factor of parents that may not know how to read.

It is interesting that we have departments of the government providing public information and pamphlets about nutrient and eating, yet the Department of Education does not provide public information or pamphlets for parents on the need to read to their children before public school.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I seem to remember some study years back about the number of adults who could not read well enough to fill out a job application; some enterprising reporter gathered several job applications from companies around town and pointed out that some of them were so poorly drawn up that he, with his education, had trouble filling them out!

There are three problems with children's literacy: students who haven't learned to read, tests that don't measure their reading accurately, and the problem of defining grade level. At one time, "Moby Dick" was considered a boy's adventure story and a waste of time for adults, who presumably were supposed to be reading more "serious" books.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | February 10, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

bsallamck,

Actually, according to various journal articles, tooth eruption is associated with other developmental timeframes. Plus, a study in Austrialia found significant differences in gender in the time of etuption of the maxillary central incisors (boys avg. months later) Various studies (easy enough to find on a pubmed search) have shown tooth eruption and other developmental milestones are sometimes associated with influences such as maternal smoking and LBW. And yes, poverty matters.

A link to the Australian study:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14640156

Posted by: shadwell1
.............................
Okay but the children that fail reading in the 8th grade are 13 or 14.

So they have not caught up by 9 or 10 as they would have been the case if this was a major reason for being unable to learn how to read.

I would rather go by the national tests scores. Walk into a kindergarten class in a poverty public school and over 50 percent will not learn how to read by the 4th grade and out of those children slightly less than 50 percent will learn how to read by the 8th grade.

This is vastly different from a kindergarten class in a middle class public school yet we continue to use the same methods for the very different situation.

Your ideas of early childhood reading are correct but the problem is once in the public school these children are past that stage and the current thinking is not for some of the programs you suggest, but for pretending that teachers are at fault for not getting the same results as teachers in middle class public schools.

It is easy to say the following:
"Schools must find ways to fit in apporpriate reading instruction, or it is the system that is failing the students."

But the reality is that it is not reasonable to expect a school to simply correct all problems that stem from poverty. This problem has existed for decades and schools dealt with the problem as best they could. The students that could learn were taught while the students that could not learn failed.

It is easy to say that a company of soldiers should deal with an attack but this is meaningless if the situation indicates that all the company will be killed.

The evidence has been in for years that given the limited resources of poverty public schools the probability is that large numbers of students in these schools will not learn how to read.

There is no movement in government for new programs or ideas regarding this problem. Simply saying the schools should deal with it is meaningless.

By the way the crime rate is higher in poor areas than in middle class areas yet it would be absurd to expect the existing police force in a poverty area without new resources or difference in policing to reduce the crime rate to the rate in middle class areas.

Also it is interesting that everyone that states "the system that is failing" never indicate the specific system. Is it the school system, the state system, or the federal government?

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack - I completely agree with you that this is not true of children in high poverty schools. They tend to be the 20% who do not learn to read by 3rd grade. That we have allowed this to go on is absurd. I don't think setting benchmarks at each grade level will solve this however. Expecting every child to be at a level 3 (or C or whatever depending on the assessment) at the end of kindergarten and so on does not make this happen. We need to educate parents, get more kids living in poverty into high quality childcare before kindergarten, and read, read, read to and with kids.

I'm not sure testing kids before they enter school is necessary. It's pretty clear very early on (Head Start or kindergarten) who needs a lot more support for literacy. We just aren't able to do it. In a school like mine more than half our kids can come in not recognizing the letters, not having been read to, not even having been talked to enough. We've got a long way to go to get them reading.

Posted by: Jenny04
................
I can not understand your statement of only 20 percent failing when the percentages on national reading tests of the 4th grade are over 50 percent. I can only think that you are referring to results of local tests that are meaningless in many cases since they are so watered down.

Testing is definitely needed for all children just before they enter public school. This is the only way to fully see the extent of the problem. Having individuals aware of a problem when there is a means of more accurately judging the problem. Besides these tests would allow measurement of the effectiveness of programs before public school. For all we know some Head Start programs are effective while others are not.

In Great Britain all children entering the public school system are tested.

It really is meaningless to test children later on without testing them before they enter the public school system. For all we know some of the best teachers in the country may be in the poverty public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

President Obama has made a priority out of pushing STEM education, or science, technology, engineering and math. If kids can’t read, it isn’t terribly likely they will find their way into one of those fields.

Valerie Strauss was simply being polite when she wrote the above.

National tests have been available for years that indicated the problem of the failure of students to learn how to read in the poverty schools. The results of national reading tests of the 8th grade are just as bleak as the results for the 4th grade reading test for the poverty schools.

The President supports his Secretary of Education in the call for meaningless local standardized testing while refusing to set up a program to test children upon entering public schools.

The meaningless of local standardized testing is now accepted with New York State honestly admitting that tests were watered down and worthless. States are continuously releasing results of local testing that radically report higher scores than the scores achieved by these states on the national tests.

National tests prior to children entering public schools would allow for information to be gained regarding later national testing, and would also indicate which programs of Head Start are effective and which programs are not effective. These tests would determine whether new or revised programs are effective.

Currently there is a pretense that local standardized testing will supposedly indicate teachers that are not effective, while the national testing of children upon entry to public schools would measure the effectiveness of Head Start which over time has cost hundreds of millions if not billions.

The Secretary of Education pretends to believe in testing in public education but refuses national testing of children upon entering public schools even though this type of testing would provide the best measure of the effectiveness of public education in the United States.

Time for the United States to follow the example of Great Britain and test children when they enter the public school system.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack

What Jenny posted is entirely possible. She said 20% of children are failing to read. There are about 20% children living in poverty and so your 50% failure rate would be taken from the 20% poverty figure and that number would fit within the parameters of Jenny's 20% figure.

Posted by: demathis | February 10, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack

What Jenny posted is entirely possible. She said 20% of children are failing to read. There are about 20% children living in poverty and so your 50% failure rate would be taken from the 20% poverty figure and that number would fit within the parameters of Jenny's 20% figure.

Posted by: demathis
.....................
"As a first grade teacher in a high poverty school I am concerned..."

Jenny mentioned that she is in a high poverty area so my assumption was all the children came from .

If the school had only a 20 percent rate of poverty students and all of these were failing than the failing rate for poverty students would be 100 percent.

I really believe the 20 percent figure is from a local test and that local tests do not reflect the reality of national tests.

I really wish that we would go back to 1999 when not much was done about the problem but at least we did not have the national leaders that were posers pretending that they were concerned and doing something.

Perhaps the citizens of Chicago are used to tuning out the words of their politicians while I am not.

By the way the remark of the President about the children responsible for the health of our economy in the State of The Union was not the first time he has made this claim.

"He lectured teachers, students and parents on the need to "step up their games" if the United States wants to compete with India and China in the global economy. It was Obama as scold in chief."

The above was from an article in the Washington Post November 4, 2009.

It must be great being President of the United States. You are not responsible for anything and your only work is telling Americans who is responsible for our problems.

No jobs, blame the kids.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/04/AR2009110403864.html

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

basallamack

Jenny was not referring to only her students when she wrote about 80% learning to read and 20% failing to learn to read. She was referring to all students. So, her proportions remain potentially valid.

Please stop being obtuse. We get your concern about high poverty schools and students.

Posted by: demathis | February 10, 2011 8:26 PM | Report abuse

basallamack

Jenny was not referring to only her students when she wrote about 80% learning to read and 20% failing to learn to read. She was referring to all students. So, her proportions remain potentially valid.

Please stop being obtuse. We get your concern about high poverty schools and students.

Posted by: demathis
...........................
I am sorry if I am appearing to be obtuse.

I see now that the 80 percent is the number of students throughout the country that can read. I really did not know this figure since I mainly review national test data and it does not normally provide this type of data readily. Scads of data but no organization of the data into groups.

The 80 percent figure is interesting in that it appears to be a very low figure for advanced nation. I wonder what the figures are for other advanced nations.

I wonder if there is a projection of how low this figure will be in 10 years with the growth of poverty in this nation.

It would be interesting to see a chart of the yearly literacy rate in the United States and how they have been affected.

There are continuous stories on lower performance in education in regard to other nations. With a low literacy rate we really do not need these comparisons to see where public education in the United States is headed.
..............................
I just checked the national data and see the the 80 percent has to be reading at basic skill levels and not proficient or above. Massachusetts had 80 percent and I question the 80 percent figure for the entire nation since the scores in Massachusetts are higher than 48 other states for 2009.

Where does the 80 percent figure come from that you and others are talking about since it does not appear to come from national 4th grade reading scores of 2009.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 10:55 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,

The national percentage for achieving basic or above in 4th grade is 67% and 75% in 8th grade. 83% of 4th graders at schools with Free and Reduced Lunch(FRL) percentages between 0-25% scored basic or above. 45% of 4th graders at schools with FRL% greater than 75%(high poverty schools) scored basic or above. About 20% of public elementary schools are identified as high poverty.

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2010/section2/table-rgp-3.asp

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2010/analysis/section1a.asp

Posted by: sammann | February 10, 2011 11:36 PM | Report abuse

I obviously didn't make myself clear (which is a hazard of trying to get a comment off in a dash) and I apologize.

The 80% is the number of kids who will learn to read regardless of how we teach them. If we expose them to print they will learn to read. (It's not really that simple, but pretty darn close.) The other 20% need much more specific instruction and intervention. It doesn't mean they don't or can't learn to read, just that we have to figure out how to help them. And I don't think setting arbitrary benchmarks throughout their early schooling is going to do anything helpful.

Posted by: Jenny04 | February 11, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I obviously didn't make myself clear (which is a hazard of trying to get a comment off in a dash) and I apologize.

The 80% is the number of kids who will learn to read regardless of how we teach them. If we expose them to print they will learn to read. (It's not really that simple, but pretty darn close.) The other 20% need much more specific instruction and intervention. It doesn't mean they don't or can't learn to read, just that we have to figure out how to help them. And I don't think setting arbitrary benchmarks throughout their early schooling is going to do anything helpful.

Posted by: Jenny04 | February 11, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

While I can't argue with the basic thrust of your piece, Valerie, some possible implications in it scare me a little. Clearly, some children have trouble learning to read. Letting them "learn to read at their own speed" is not the best solution if it means leaving them to fend for themselves, or surounding them with books and hoping for the best. Reading is a complex process, and all children benefit from explicit instruction in how that process works. Brain plasticity is at its height in early elementary grades and letting the opportunity to teach students how to read slip away could be detrimental. Setting benchmarks that guarantee failure for some kids is a mistake; so is going back to the days of "whole language."

Posted by: larsguthrie | February 11, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

It is very true that 20% of children need very direct, explicit instruction in the area of reading. They need someone to sit with them one-on-one or in a very small group and work on reading for approximately 30 minutes everyday. I know this works because I have the luxury of being able to do this with students everyday. I have students who have gone up two grade levels already this year! However when you are 4 grade levels behind and expected to take high stakes tests on your grade level, time is not on our side. I am ecstatic that the students are making so much progress, yet saddened to know that at the end of the year they will be deemed a failure if they cannot pass one test.

Posted by: jenc73 | February 11, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

The national percentage for achieving basic or above in 4th grade is 67% and 75% in 8th grade. 83% of 4th graders at schools with Free and Reduced Lunch(FRL) percentages between 0-25% scored basic or above. 45% of 4th graders at schools with FRL% greater than 75%(high poverty schools) scored basic or above. About 20% of public elementary schools are identified as high poverty.

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2010/section2/table-rgp-3.asp

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2010/analysis/section1a.asp

Posted by: sammann
..............................
Thank you. This is great data.

The totals are really shocking for the 8th grade reading with 3 percent advanced in 1992 and 3 percent advanced in 2009.

This means no difference for almost a 20 year period. At some point there needs to be the recognition that if you want improved education large numbers of students have to start reading above their grade level.

Also the fact that 25 percent of students can not read at the 8th grade level is alarming.

At some point the entire priority of our educational system has to be focused on reading. It makes no sense to believe one can improve education when there are such obvious problems in the reading skills of students.

The fact that 33 percent or one third of all students can not read by the 4th grade is not comforting.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 11, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I taught my son to read before entering kindergarten. I simply wanted to take the question mark of "when" out of the process. I used a book called "teach Your kid to Read in 100 Easy Lessons." It was written by Siegfried Engelmann who also wrote the Direct Instruction program Reading Mastery that I use in my k-2 Aut. Supp. classroom.

What can I say? Direct Instruction works. My son loved it because he was reading sentences within 2 weeks. He followed me around the house last summer demanding 3-4 reading lessons per day!

This cannot offset language deficits in the home or a poor learning environment. However, it can give children a lot of skills and confidence quickly. Some friends questioned why I made the effort when my son wasn't even in kindergarten at the time. Well, I'm glad I did. This year, thanks to Gov. Christie's budget cuts, my son's kindergarten class has 24 students. That's far too many kids in my book. Good luck to the child who is a struggling reader!

Posted by: Nikki1231 | February 12, 2011 7:00 AM | Report abuse

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