Thursday, November 11, 2010

OUR kids can't read: Will you help?

I was stunned to see the statistics in the November 9, 2010 New York Times article entitled "Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected". It hurt my heart to think about the magnitude of what we are dealing with.

Recently as I sat listening to students read to me, I realized I have to find a way to do more. I volunteer two days a week at a local District 150 school to read with students. This is my fifth year. I read with 4 students for 20 minutes each. Ideally, a child should probably read at least 20 minutes per night.

It started out selfishly - it was a way to be at the school; I could observe my student and I could help out. Win-Win. But I never lost sight of the fact that in many cases, the twenty minutes I was giving a student to read, may be the only time they had an adult, other than a teacher, sit with them and encourage them to read.

Read the article below and think about it...

Black kids can't read: What are you prepared to do about it?

The statistics in the November 9, 2010 New York Times article, "Black Boys Score Far Behind White Students," leave one speechless. According to the report entitled "A Call for Change" released November 8 by urban schools advocacy group the Council for Great City Schools, only 12 percent of black males are proficient reading at grade level reading while in fourth grade, compared to 38 percent of white males.

The statistics do not look much better when comparing for poverty as measured by qualifying for school lunches. Poverty does not seem to answer the question because, according to the report, poor white males do just as well as black males who are purportedly not in poverty. Looking forward, things don't get better. The article states:

President Obama stated: "One of the best anti-poverty programs is a world class education." I wholeheartedly agree. We know that people learn in different ways and many have different styles of learning, but there is no excuse on the part of our country, teachers and parents for the abysmal performance of our young men in education. The ability to read and do very basic statement analysis is crucial in just about every area of life. If one cannot read, they will not make solid, well-informed decisions. The likelihood of being deceived by contracts or any type of written agreement, multiplies when someone is a poor reader.

Armed with these new statistics, we must take action as a community and nation. We know that black male dropouts lead the country in terms of incarceration and that this trend will continue to increase. The high cost of sustaining a prison system -- in desperate need of reform -- is illogical and fiscally impossible. We need to conduct a national dialogue on how to get to the heart of criminality and truly start intervening at the first sight of risk factors. These traits unfortunately start before the child is ever born. As a strategic forecaster, I'm tempted to bury my head in the sand as I look forward.

So let's look at our options. Black males who drop out of school are likely to live in long protracted periods of poverty. They will pick up skill-sets often involving a criminal lifestyle. More than likely they will spend time in jail or prison, leading to the wrong type of schooling. We are faced with mounting crises in the black community and the days of deflecting simply will not work.

We can no longer trust in a savior that will emerge and fix our problems. The deliverers will emerge within our community. Mentors, coaches, parents, grandparents and professionals from all walks of life will say, "Enough!" The question is: How unbearable must this situation become?

We know that we should mentor young men and women in all areas of life, but we also have to send this message: "If you are unable to take care of children, it is unacceptable to have them. Stop!"

We have a plethora of "baby mamas" and daddies in all communities -- black and white -- who do not have the wherewithal to raise healthy kids. The 40 percent out of wedlock rate is a national crisis. We have to read the writing on the wall -- enough is enough. Unfortunately some can't read it. Those who are literate have to start reading it for those who can't, and teach them a better way.


Emerge Peoria said...

It is also astounding that only 38% of white boys are proficient in reading. This too is cause for great concern.

Sharon Crews said...

Are these statistics broken down by economic level or just by "all" white boys compared to "all" black boys. I won't be happy until these statistics go by economics and education of the parents, not be race. At least, go by race and economics--black middle class vs. white middle class, etc.
Also, the unfortunate truth is that the health of the mother when she is carrying a child makes a difference with regard to brain development, etc.

This is one of the reasons why removing home ec and child care classes from 150 high schools was such a mistake. These young people need to understand the importance of nutrition and, also, the detrimental effects of alcohol and drugs to pregnancies.
I wish I knew the way to change all the factors that contribute to this lack of literacy. So much of the damage has already been done before kids enter school: sometimes in the womb and sometimes in the homes for those crucial 3 to 5 years before schools take over. Schools just can't bridge the gap. Bear in mind that even when strides are made, the kids who are on track keep improving their skills, too--so the others still stay behind.
I am absolutely amazed at how much the 7-year-old boy (black/mixed) in my life teachers his 5-year-old sister and his 4-year-old brother. One of the things the teacher said he missed recently was to start with 4 and count by 10's. I am sure no one ever asked me to do that. We worked on it in the car. Before we got home the five-year-old could do it, also.
Off the subject, a bit, but it seems to me (from a FOIA) that Manual doesn't have any self-contained special ed classes--total mainstreaming. I understand how mainstreaming might be beneficial to the special ed students, but it has to slow the process considerably. My guess is that the process is slowed down even at the primary school level when a teacher has to reach a children with wide ranging abilities.

spikeless said...

The complete 120 page report is available online at Call For Change FINAL COPY.pdf

Sharon Crews said...

I missed your comment about only 38% of boys reading at level. Just my observation--I think that one day we will come to realize that TV has been the source of so many of our problems. One major result of TV: Reading was once our way out of boredom--now it's TV.

Frustrated said...

Education of low income students (regardless of race) is a systemic problem that will not be cured by focusing solely on what happens at school.