I was scrolling through my twitter timeline back in 2011 while living in SoCal, and came across a huffpost article titled, “Nearly Half of Detroit’s Adults Are Functionally Illiterate, Report Finds.” I was unaware of the state of education and any related matters at this point in my life, so I was completely taken by surprise. Although the 47% statistic has been explained, it was a real statistic from the late 90s. Even with a 5% margin for error, the range of 42%-52% is still alarming to me. We’re in America, how could someone grow up without learning how to read?! Is reading a right?
Fast forward to when I began working for a literacy organization in Detroit that worked with elementary to middle school kids… As I received individual assessment results that determined whether or not a student was reading at grade level, reality was starting to set in; most students were reading at least one grade level behind, while some performed much lower. While I was saddened, I was also hopeful that we would be able to help these students. Many did show improvement thanks to daily, one-on-one tutoring.
A year later, while doing research for a proposal, I came across some data (I can’t remember exactly what it was called) from the 70s that seemed to mirror what I read in that huffpost article. I thought to myself, “It’s been over 30 years, why are these literacy rates still the same?!”
Fast forward to now. Again, doing research for a proposal. The National Center for Education Statistics (National Assessment of Education Progress, Trial Urban District Assessment, 2015 Reading Results for 4th & 8th Grade) states that in 2013 only 30% of 4th graders and 46% of 8th graders in Detroit public schools were proficient in reading. In 2015 those figures dropped to 27% and 44% respectively. According to the 2014 ACT results, 36% of Michigan students, and only 14.7% of Detroit students were proficient in grade-level reading. The 2015 SAT results reflected the same trend, with only 34% of Michigan students, and only 13.1% of Detroit students meeting the benchmark for reading proficiency.
How are students matriculating without being proficient in reading? Reading is the foundation of education right? How are schools expected to reach their objectives when their students can’t read well?
I know now that there are many factors that affect a child’s reading abilities; many that teachers and the educational system have no control over. There are many that have been working tirelessly to alleviate this symptom of underlying causes, but I wonder what it’s going to take until WE ALL do more than just look at statistics in disbelief.