Illiteracy "no longer acceptable" in high school
Nothing happens in California's education system that escapes the notice of Joanne Jacobs, especially when it's a story as dismal as this: An alarming number of California's high school students can barely read. Unsurprisingly, it is the poorest kids who suffer the most from illiteracy:
Poor students are also more likely to struggle with reading. Two schools on opposite sides of the East Bay hills highlight the disparity.
At Richmond High, 71 percent of students receive free or reduced-price meals and 3 percent of students are white. At Miramonte High in Orinda, no students signed up for subsidized meals, and 71 percent of students are white. At Richmond High, 62 percent of ninth-graders score at the bottom of national reading tests, compared to 4 percent at Miramonte.
Joanne also noticed two interesting things about this story, both of which are evident in the following passage:
High school English teachers may have students with reading levels ranging from first grade to collegiate in the same class, making it close to impossible to teach each student at his or her own level.
In Lisa Storer's senior college prep English class at Richmond High, students went through as many as seven drafts to write a passable essay on Hamlet. "That's why they hate me, and they hate Hamlet," she said. "Luckily, I love Hamlet."
Even a student with a fourth-grade reading level eventually managed to write a simple five-paragraph essay with a thesis sentence, supporting paragraphs and a conclusion. But colleges expect far more sophisticated work.
First, Joanne points out that this demonstrates the "false equality of heterogeneous classes," which is the "politically correct" alternative to tracking kids into classes according to their ability. The false pretense that everyone is of equal intellectual ability means the kids who need the extra attention don't get it.
Second, Joanne points out that this article makes the assumption that everyone should go to college - even kids who require seven drafts just to achieve a "passable" essay. How is it possible for educators to acknowledge that large numbers of kids can't learn to read while still expecting every kid to somehow function at the college level by age 18? Author Suzanne Pardington points out that, "[Illiteracy] is not a new problem. But for many high schools in the East Bay, it is no longer acceptable." We're supposed to be comforted by learning that it was previously acceptable?
Oh, and just for the record, it's those hated, "racist" exit exams that are forcing schools to deal with this problem.