It’s not exactly a secret: many high school dropouts have reading problems. As a result, they are unable to keep up with classmates, lose heart, and eventually depart the classroom.
Unfortunately, despite all the hype you’ve heard, after more than two decades of KERA, reading proficiency rates in Kentucky remain abysmal.
On the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 35 percent of Kentucky’s fourth grade students read proficiently. The number was scarcely different for our eighth graders, who only posted a 36 percent proficiency rate in this crucial academic skill.
At first blush, the 44 percent proportion of our 10th grade students who meet the PLAN test Benchmark Score in reading looks a bit better. However, by the time kids take the PLAN a notable number have already dropped out; so, this figure really isn’t much different from the message from the NAEP.
Thus, news from Lone Jack School Center in Bell County, which serves grades from preschool through the eighth grade, is particularly heartening. The Middlesboro Daily News reports that an aggressive reading program at Lone Jack boosted the percentage of second grade students reading at grade level on the MAP test from only 35 percent early in the school year to 74 percent in testing just completed. That is really good news!
By the way, Lone Jack’s staff got parents involved to help with this dramatic improvement. Teachers met with all but one of the second graders’ parents to get them on board and provide materials those parents could use at home to help their kids to read better.
This new story reminds me of another exciting story we covered early in the school year. In my blog, “To read, or not (Part 3),” I discussed exciting results with teaching reading – to high school students, no less – in the Boone, Kenton and Campbell County school districts.
For example, nky.com reported of one Boone County school:
“At Conner High School, the computer-based Reading Assistant program was used in 2011-12. Of the 70 students who participated, nearly half advanced 3-6 grade levels. Another 15 students advanced two grade levels.”
That is the kind of progress we need to make statewide if we really want to get our dropout problem under better control. Because if kids can’t read, they won’t learn. But, the evidence from Lone Jack and Northern Kentucky is that tools that really do work are now available. We just have to develop resolve in our educators everywhere to use them.