THE READING CRISIS

Hard Facts

The majority of students are not learning to read effectively in school. 66% of 4th grade students are failing to read at basic grade level. 9 million of 11 million students are failing in their earliest school years. The ultimate outcome is that 126 million – 30% of American adults – read at or below the 5th grade level. 32 million citizens – almost 10% – are illiterate.  Source: PIAAC Proficiency Levels for Literacy.

Inadequate reading skills have devastating consequences for kids, and for our country. Poor reading skills can cause behavioral problems and damage self-esteem, limit academic success, diminish employment opportunities, and can lead to crime and substance abuse. An estimated 60% of our country’s prison population is illiterate, and illiteracy reduces our nation’s global economic competitiveness and impacts the quality of our democracy.

How Did This Happen?

The root cause of the reading crisis is simple. There is a shortage of teachers that understand how to use structured language, which are the reading instruction methods scientifically proven to work with all learners. Students of all ages have the aptitude to succeed, but the education system fails them because it fails to educate their teachers to teach effective reading skills. 

Humans are hardwired to speak, but learning to read is a complicated, detail-oriented process. Unfortunately, most colleges and schools of education prepare future teachers with a prevalent but disproven method of instruction.  Currently, teachers are taught to use whole language instruction, but whole language instruction doesn’t build a foundation of phonics knowledge. In fact, it acts to “minimize or omit direct, systemic teaching of language” which should include phoneme awareness, spelling patterns and rules, grammar, and letter-sound correspondences. “Most children must be taught to read through a rather protracted process in which they are made aware of sounds and symbols that represent them, and then apply these skills automatically and attend to meaning.” Source: What Teachers Need To Know.

Recent history shows the education system cannot change and adapt fast enough to alter the statistics above. Profitable, whole language curriculum textbooks reinforce poor instruction. System-wide education reform cannot be purchased or philanthropically transformed through massive grants. To learn more, read “Hard Words” by Emily Hanford.

Despite a government outlay of $14,000 per child, and $18 billion invested in professional development, the system is not successful at improving teacher skills because the education system has too many decision makers. Only nine out of 1,200 professional development programs studied by The New Teacher Project were considered effective.

Read more about how Boon’s solution providing teacher training can reduce the reading crisis.