Do We Have the Will to Improve Reading Skills for Our Most Vulnerable Students?
June 7, 2012
The 2011-12 school year is over for our students, and our kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders have made much progress in learning how to read. About 30,000 to 40,000 of these students who have made so much progress are about to lose two-and-a-half to three months of reading progress.
Research shows that children who do not have continued reading instruction, who do not have books and who do not have adults to read to them lose as much as three months of reading progress over summer recess. If these students had the benefit of extended learning opportunities during the summer, we could improve reading achievement by at least one year instead of going backward.
Does North Carolina have the will to improve student learning in reading by extending learning during the summer for our most vulnerable children? Does North Carolina have the will to move away from a "quick fix" of just holding a child back and toward a solution of providing more learning time during the summer and extra help during the year?
And if there is the will, does North Carolina have the way? The answer just might be yes, and the inspiration comes from a surprising source. A bill has been introduced in the General Assembly (House Bill 1104) to give tax credits to businesses that contribute toward scholarships for students to attend private schools. I propose a different approach. Instead of backdoor vouchers for private school tuition, what about a tax credit for businesses willing to contribute dollars to provide extended learning opportunities for these vulnerable students during the summer?
Think about it. Our most vulnerable students have taken their last bus ride and are home for the summer. They do not have books to read. They do not have adults to read to them. They won't be experiencing enriching activities like summer camp or trips to the beach. They may not even visit the next town. The research says they will go backwards in reading.
That's a bleak picture, but we can paint a brighter future for these students if we have the will to take a different approach. Think about it North Carolina. We can invest now, or pay much, much more later.
June St. Clair Atkinson