Recently on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams, Chelsea Clinton gave a news report on the collaboration between a charter school in Rhode Island and the surrounding public schools. The goal of this venture is to help the public school children in kindergarten through 2nd grade improve their reading skills… and it is working. When this collaboration began three years ago, only 37% of K-2nd graders were reading at or above grade level. Within eight months, that number was up to 66%.
This particular Rhode Island school district is the poorest in the state, and many of the students are Latino children. Their situation, though, is reflected across the country. According to the School Library Journal, our country’s graduating high school seniors in 2011 only had a 31% proficiency rate in reading. Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance has released a study “Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete?” that reveals that this proficiency rate really varies depending on the ethnic and racial background of the student. The numbers are even lower for Latinos. Barely 5% of Hispanic students ranked proficient in reading, according to the study.
Literacy is one of the top skills necessary for a student to succeed academically. If you can’t read and write, or understand what you are reading, it affects virtually every subject across the board. Almost every class requires reading. Even in math, you have to be able to read word problems, or at least the directions.
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One of the things that struck me the most about Clinton’s report was that the “innovative” strategies the charter school was sharing with the public school teachers were actually not new techniques. I’ve used them with my own children in teaching them to read. I learned about them through the curriculum I use. And, having been in the field of promoting literacy for a few years now, I know that other parents and teachers know about them, too.