Editor, Ceres Courier,
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 50/50 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 fourth grade reading proficiency.
Two out of every three fourth-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 fourth-graders from low-income families cannot read at a proficient level.
Poor reading ability in early years leads to behavior problems in the classroom later. Dropouts, in turn, are more likely to be unemployed, to earn low wages and to end up on welfare or in prison.
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.
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. Find a program, and get involved. It is just that easy. Not everyone can make a difference but the people who can and step up to make that difference is one worth while. And it feels good too!