Ending the Crisis of Illiteracy – What Almost 50 Years in the Special Education Trenches has Taught Me


Michael Maloney Speaking on Illiteracy

The Crisis of Illiteracy is Real

  • As of today, 15,000,000 school-aged children across North America are behind in literacy skills.
  • 25% of Americans cannot decode words at a Grade 8 level.
  • One-third of North Americans have never read a single book.
  • Almost 50% of North Americans cannot understand information written at a Grade 8 level.
  • Up to 72% of college students are enrolled in remedial education classes.
  • 85% of prison inmates are illiterate.
  • A student drops out of high school every 16 seconds, mostly as a result of being behind.
  • 30-35% of first grade students will not learn to read this year.
  • 85% of those students will never catch up to their peers.
  • These facts have not changed substantially for the past 40 years.

The Solution is Available

  • Three effective remedial methods (i.e.Direct Instruction, Precision Teaching and Behavior Management) have been available for more than 40 years.
  • Public education has failed to acknowledge these methods which have demonstrated overwhelming proofs of success individually and in combination.
  • Public education has systematically ignored the research studies such as Project Follow Through and the Sacajewa Project which have offered highly successful solutions to the literacy problem.
  • Schools of education have consistently failed to teach these methods to our teachers or to even alert them to the research regarding these methods.
  • Teachers are completely unaware of the major research studies which describe the successes of these effective methods.

The Solution to Illiteracy Needs to be Implemented

  • Governments at all levels need to fund only those programs which have a long and significant record of success in solving literacy issues.
  • Colleges of Education need to train teachers in using methods that actually work.
  • Education administrators have to be held accountable to select programs which have a proven record of success, especially with students who are at risk of school failure, and most especially for students who are in the primary grades.
  • Principals need to be able to show significant literacy and numeracy gains for every student by providing staff with the materials, training and support of proven programs.
  • Teachers need to learn and use these methods in a consistent application.
  • Parents must become more knowledgeable about what works and how to get these methods adopted by their school.

The tools are available. The problem is immense but can be overcome if everyone does their part. It is highly unlikely that everyone will put a shoulder to the wheel to push hard to eradicate illiteracy. If this initiative is implemented, we could wipe out illiteracy in our schools in a decade.

And if they don’t implement effective methods…

If this situation does not come to pass, and your child has a literacy issue, you still have an option. If you can read, you can use the Maloney Method to teach anyone else to read. There is no need for your child to suffer. Like thousands of other parents have already done, you can teach him to read. That way, we will still beat illiteracy one child at a time.


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