These arguments have become a distraction to the real issue. We are failing America's kids in a very big way. There are a few facts that are not argued very often, because most of us understand they are simply facts. About 80% of the kids who make it to high school will graduate from high school in four years. This is a well researched fact. We don't have to know why or think about the political implications. We can accept this as a fact. Yes, it is better than it has been in the past. We are definitely graduating more kids on time, thanks to the efforts of many individuals and organizations. But, I think that losing one out of every five kids is a disaster in a country like ours with so many resources. If you disagree, please read on. We also know that about 42% of high school graduates will be in college sometime between the ages of 18-24. Again, this is really not disputable. It is well researched and based on actual enrollments at real colleges and universities. Whether you think this is an appropriate percentage can be debated. We can argue that college is not right for every student, but we can't argue about how many people attend college. So, if you do the math you will see that just over a third of our high school students actually complete high school and go on to college. I will leave it up to you to decide if that is a good number. Finally, we know that about 60% of the students who go to college will require at least one remedial course once they get there. It is higher and lower in some places, but overall we know that more than half of our kids who make it to college are not prepared. If you do the math one more time, you will discover that just over 20% will graduate high school and go to college with adequate preparation. So there you have it. Only one in five of the kids who start high school in the United States will be end up fully prepared for college. You may say that is okay. You may believe that college is really only for an elite group of 20% of our kids. If so, you don't need to worry about the American educational system. It is working just fine. But if you believe like I do, that education should provide all kids with a solid foundation so they can do whatever they want with their lives, you will want to help find a way to improve it.
From this point forward I will be focusing on solutions for the real teachers in real classrooms who are engaged daily in the mighty struggle to educate our kids. I don't care to fight any more about school choice or teacher tenure or funding or calendars or anything else. I accept that others will continue to engage in conflict about these things, but I believe at this point they have become a distraction from the real issue. There is widespread agreement that our problem begins in the early elementary years. If children are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade, they are very likely to have big problems later on. That is because our system makes a huge shift at the beginning of fourth grade. Each student is expected to move from learning to read, to reading to learn. Once they are in fourth grade, we expect they will be able to read well enough to learn from the printed word. Even kids who do not have access to a formal education can learn beautifully if they can read and have access to information. There are correlations to reading success in third grade and almost every other indicator. When you look at the statistics on third grade reading, all of the other problems come into focus. More than two thirds of our third graders will NOT get the reading skills they need for success later in life. That means only one out of every three kids will be reading well enough by the end of grade three.
It is surprising that we are not focusing more on this issue. I believe it is because most people who know the truth don't think we can do anything about it. We talk a lot about poverty, which plays a huge role in this problem. There are many people who believe that you can't teach kids to read unless you fix the poverty. I believe that we won't fix poverty until we teach kids to read...ALL kids. So from this point forward I will be focusing on solutions to our great American reading crisis and leave the distractions to others.
Check back here in the coming weeks to learn more...