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.
Full article available at: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/reading/when-should-kids-be-able-to-re.html