Why Doesn’t Your School Care That Johnny Didn’t Learn to Read?
Why doesn’t your school care that Johnny didn’t learn to read?
Fact: This year 35% of the children leaving first grade did not learn to read.
Fact: 85% of these children will never learn to read and will become illiterate.
Fact: A high school student drops out of school every 26 seconds.
Fact: 85% of inmates are illiterate.
Fact: Illiteracy costs the American taxpayer $250 billion in lost productivity and damages each and every year.
So why doesn’t your school not care if Johnny learns to read or not?
There are several major reasons why your school or school district does not really care if your child learns to read this year.
- The first and most important one is that they already see themselves as successful.
They take credit for the 65%-70% of students who are successful and blame the failures on someone or something else. Parents who have children with learning issues are made to feel that it is their fault. “Look, Mr. & Mrs Williams, we have a lot of children in this school who are doing just fine; some are excelling. We can’t be expected to be successful with every single student. Your son is not performing well. Perhaps he should be tested for a learning disability. He just doesn’t pay attention in class. Is everything okay at home?”
Now who owns the problem?
Parents have little or no idea of the game that they are involved in. It escalates from the teacher to the principal to the special education team to the Individual Education Process before they can get a grip on what is happening. Schools play this game extremely well. They have had lots of practice. They lean on educspeak and on inducing fear that they may ostracize your child if you do not acquiesce in your demands. You are David. They are Goliath. And because you are probably as flakey as your child, you forgot to bring rocks for your slingshot.
- There is no reward for success
Schools which actually solve literacy problems for children do not get any credit for doing so. Teachers who are the go-to people when the going gets tough are given the harder to teach students. If they succeed, they are not given a break; they are given more and more damaged kids until they become overwhelmed. Many of them simply burn out and leave the profession. A Rand Corporation study showed that the top fifty percent of teachers, as measured by their SAT scores, left the profession within 5 years.
- No good act shall go unpunished
I had a colleague, Dr. Carmen Marcy, who started the S.P.E.D. school in Cook County, Illinois. The district sifted through the students in 16 high schools, found the most damaged ones and enrolled the entire lot into a school which Carmen ran. I helped train her staff. On the first day of training, two of her students held up the corner store across from the school on their way to class. In 3 years, she reduced the recidivism rates of these adolescents to the courts by 75% and made lots of students literate and responsible citizens. The district closed the school because too many parents wanted their kids enrolled.
- Success costs a high price
Another colleague of mine is a Special Education Director. I also helped him train his staff during the past few years. He has remediated the problems of many elementary school children with reading issues. They have successfully returned to the mainstream classrooms. Every time he does so, he loses federal grant money from his Title1 budget. He is gradually working himself out of a job.
We subsidize failure and systematically punish success. Maybe that’s why the spec ed lists never get shorter in most districts. If you have the courage to do a standardized test with special education students in September, and do the same test at the end of the year, 85% of these students will show no appreciable change.
The kids are not the priority.
Despite all of their posturing about the importance of kids and learning, the kids are not a top priority. They may be fourth or fifth down the list, and not on the short list. The top priority is the budget. There is never enough money and there never will be. And when times get tough it is the lowest front line classroom staff who get the axe. You rarely see middle and upper management take a cut or reduce their ranks when the belt gets tightened.
The second priority are the unions. Teachers unions and other associated unions have money and power and are completely unafraid to use it to maintain the status quo.
In a recent teacher’s strike in Ontario, teachers could be fined $500.00 per day for not showing up on the picket lines. So much for the kids. Egos and power mongering are probably the third reason for their lack of concern. The majority of administrators are too busy climbing the ladder to their next appointment to care about the collateral destruction around them. I have seen great teachers become grasping power brokers and completely lose sight of the reason that they were serving when they rose to a senior management position. Don’t be too hard on them. Such empire building is not confined to the teaching profession. It pretty much happens across the board, including some of those who claim to serve the Lord.
So now what can you do?