There is an education crisis across our nation, and it’s one we can solve if we work together. We can address our education challenges, but it requires the cooperation and collaboration of individuals and organizations from all sectors. After all, our education crisis is far more than a social issue. It has real economic implications for our future.
Today, one-quarter of our nation’s youth fail to graduate high school within four years, and in some school districts youth have only a fifty-fifty chance. As high-skilled, high-tech jobs become the backbone of our nation’s future, we need a workforce ready and able to succeed in our new, knowledge economy. America’s best economic stimulus is education.
It is in everyone’s interest to ensure our youth are well educated. It is everyone’s responsibility to offer a helping hand and get involved.
Youth need support from the time they are in preschool to ensure success in high school and beyond. A critical juncture is 4th grade reading proficiency.
Two out of every three 4th graders in the U.S. score below the proficient level in reading. And the numbers are even worse for low-income students. Eighty-three percent of 4th graders from low-income families cannot read at a proficient level.
Proficiency in reading by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child’s educational development. In the early years, learning to read is a critical component of education. But beginning in fourth grade, children use reading to learn other subjects, and therefore, mastery of reading becomes a critical component in their ability to keep up academically. Children who reach fourth grade without being able to read proficiently are more likely to drop out of high school, reducing their earnings potential and chances for success.
We are fortunate in Minnesota, and specifically in our region, to be ahead of these national statistics with higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates, higher proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics in 4th grade. According to Kids Count Data Center, Minnesota is ranked 7th nationally for education. Teachers, students, families and communities are doing many things well and right, but there is still room for improvement to help each child in Minnesota be successful both in school and life.
We have the power to change our nation’s future if we work together to address poor early grade reading skills.
Education experts indicate there are a few key strategies on which we must focus.
• First, parents want to help their kids learn to read, yet they often do not have the time or ability to do so. Instilling a love of reading in a child is one of the most important, and satisfying things, any parent or adult can do.
• Second, schools must have the text books, techniques and curricula that are grounded in best practice and we must help teachers teach in ways that engage children.
Page 2 of 2 - Government is a part of the solution. The LEARN Act, which would support comprehensive state and local literacy, is the first priority on a national level. Everyone should help elected officials recognize the importance of early grade reading for our economic future. But, we citizens have the power to change the social and economic future of America.
• Finally and simply, kids who need extra help must get it. Connecting struggling students with a caring adult is a strategy that works.
What can you do? Read, tutor, mentor
In our area there are many opportunities to get involved
• United Way of Southwest Minnesota Success By 6 (507.929.2273)
• Contact area Head Start programs
• Contact your school district and ask about volunteering at the school or in an ECFE program
• Local library – volunteer to assist with children’s story time or other programs
• Daycare centers and after school youth programs
Find a program, and get involved. It is just that easy. Change doesn’t happen without you.