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THE STORY INSIDE THE STORY: American Reading Levels

Dorothy Philbin | CNBNewsnet


I usually listen to talk radio as other channels just don't appeal to me anymore.  Tonight, July 9, 2022 the topic was America's educational system and the cause/effects of our adult reading levels.

CNBNews graphic file
The original statement came from the United States Department of Education.  According to them, of the population 16 - 74 years of age, only 54% can read on a 6th grade level or above.  If true, that is frightening.  The same report listed the top 10 countries ranked for their reading ability.  America came in 7th though I have to admit I was surprised we came in the top 10 at all.  Ahead of us were Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. 
That was another surprise to me.
I pondered this with two other teachers.  Having taught English as a Second Language I feel a large part of our low scoring is that we educate so many non-English speaking immigrants.  The other countries on the list have very low levels of immigration.
One of the other teachers felt that the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality has done a lot to hurt education.  This theory has been around for 20 or more years.  The proponents of it feel that if there is a winner and loser(s,)  those who don't get a trophy will have his feelings hurt.  Well, hurt feelings are a part of life.  This leads to students being passed on to the next grade without being prepared for it, then the next grade until the student is given a trophy (e.g., diploma) just for being there.
The third teacher felt that the problem is administrators and parents.  In "the olden days" if a student didn't do well, the parents held the student responsible.  Today the parents hold the school responsible.  The administrators have the students and the parents and the board of education to contend with.  In addition, they have state standards and No Child Left Behind criteria to contend with.  They need to learn how to push back but that will not make them very popular with anyone.
We spoke about attendance.  When I taught at West Philadelphia H.S. I had a summer job one year.  I had to contact the parents of students who were chronic absentee problems.  I was instructed there were too many calls to make (over an entire summer) so I was only to call the parents whose children missed 80 or more days in that school year.  The usual replies I got were "He just isn't a morning person," or "I leave him off at the front door, but he walks out the back door."  Again, we don't want to hurt the little darling's feelings, so we give him a trophy (e.g., a diploma.) 
One of the other teachers shared that one of her students missed 112 days out of 180.  He passed that year.  We have to give the student his trophy, let the administrators off the hook and to do this - let's just blame the guy in the middle - teachers.