Monfredo: Reading on Grade Level by the End of Grade 3

Saturday, November 03, 2018
John Monfredo, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTERâ„¢

Learning how to read is the “key” to learning.  As a former principal, I know how important it is for a child to become a good reader.  A child who reads poorly must endure years of frustration in an educational system that uses reading as its primary delivery system.

Here’s what the research states … reading is our first and most basic educational process.  From kindergarten through third grade, children learn to read.  Thereafter, they read to learn… children who read well by the third grade tend to do well in school.  About 40% of our nation’s children meet that mark without much of a struggle.  For others, it requires a great deal of effort from the school and their families.

Again researchers affirm that children with discipline problems, attendance, self-esteem, and dropouts are among the high percentage of those who do not read well.  Why is this the case?  These children are frustrated and begin to “quit” on themselves because of their lack of success in reading.

The harshest handicap we can impose on our children in our public schools is to fail to teach them by third grade to read well.  Thus, a cycle of failures and low self-esteem take over.  We must not shut that door our children!

It is an established fact that reading on grade level by the end of grade three is essential for there is ample research showing the effects it has on a child’s success in school.  According to the Anne E. Casey Foundation the inability to read proficiently puts them on the high school dropout track.   The researchers at the foundation stated that school districts need to focus on school readiness, school attendance, summer learning, family support and high-quality teaching.

I do agree with that “laundry list” of what the focal points of the schools need to implement.  Let’s also add that there has been an ACTION PLAN in place to put reading on grade level by the end of grade three as a TOP PRIORITY.   Yes, all districts have many needs but if you can’t have children reading on grade level by the end of grade three additional problems will continue to occur.

In order to move on this problem a sense of urgency needs to take place especially within our “Urban” districts.    Schools can’t do it alone for it has to be a “community” issue with assistance from our state and local elected officials.

Here are some suggestions…

Establish an Adhoc “Committee” within the Community” to address the problem with plans, benchmarks, and let the public know through a press conference that this is a crisis that we can solve together.  Be sure that representation on the committee includes the school administration, parent CPPAC , early childhood,  city and state elected officials, interfaith groups, social agencies, and businesses.

The Committee needs to start with prevention for as a whole we deal when there is a problem but don’t look to prevent a problem from occurring.   Start by advocating for a full-day preschool program in all of our “at risk” elementary schools and work with the many private pre-school programs that exist within your city.   Meet with your state legislators about funding for a full-day preschool program.  Involve the churches and agencies in after school reading.

In Worcester continue with our “Books for Babies” program where every newborn has a volunteer come to the hospital and deliver a book to mom and the baby.   Have a program to train volunteers or use our capable school nurses to visit the home of the newborn a month or two later with another book and information on the importance of reading to your child.  Parents need to foster an understanding of print by talking to their newborn or toddler and by reading to their child each and every day.  This won’t take place unless some parents are taught and encouraged to learn as how to read to their child.

The best bargain in our city is the Worcester Public Library. If you need books, visit the library or call me at 508-853-3444, and I’ll get you books for the home. In addition, parents need to be role models. Read yourself and read to your child.

In addition, those children lacking the necessary readiness skills in the kindergarten need to be given the opportunity to succeed by placing them in a K1 kindergarten program ( an additional year in Kindergarten) but with a special curriculum.  Also, all kindergarten classrooms will need to have a full-time teacher-aide to assist them.  (I know  some readers are thinking this will cost money and you are absolutely correct but it is best spent  on prevention than rather on remediation at twice the cost.)

Moving on to attendance … Worcester’s School Superintendent Maureen Binienda is well aware of this problem of chronic absenteeism and when she became superintendent reducing chronic absenteeism was one her top priorities.

The Worcester Public Schools has a committee that continues to work with the schools in reviewing attendance, giving out attendance data to parents every five weeks and reaching out to all parents about the importance of getting their child to school each and every day.  According to research and some common sense one of the most effective strategies for providing pathways out of poverty is do all that it takes to get students in school every day.  This alone, even without improvements in the American Education System, will drive up achievement, high school graduation, and college attainment rates.

Summer learning … yes, another budget item but as researchers point out a necessity.   According to studies, lack of summer learning impacts low-income students the most. Children not engaged in learning during summer can lose up to two months of academic growth. Known as the “summer slide,” the impact on our early learners adds to the list of reasons why they are not reading on grade level by the end of Grade 3.  Let’s have the district recruit those students in K-3 who need the necessary assistance to move forward with their education.   At the same time we need to work with our parents and help them learn how they can assist their child at home.

Obviously, best practices in the teaching of reading needs be in place.  We also need to have low teacher-pupil ratios.  In Worcester, there has been a great deal of “in-service” training taking place for our teachers.  In a future article I’ll be writing about what is being done in order to meet the needs of our students.  There are good programs in place but all areas need to work in harmony … good attendance, parent involvement, community involvement, summer school opportunities and especially additional funding from the state.

There is no silver bullet to solving this crisis, but what I have outlined is a start.  An ACTION PLAN with the assistance of an active and committed committee needs to be the first step. Remember being able to read proficiently is the crucial prerequisite to becoming educated. Once you can read, you acquire the knowledge needed to be successful in all your future endeavors.

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