Food for Thought...

March 9, 2018 chris
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By David Williams

Our local school system is in the process of hiring a new superintendent. Surveys and suggestions are being taken as the search for new candidates gets underway. There have been numerous suggestions, and many of them have merit.

Some are advocating that a greater emphasis be placed on reading during the earlier formative grades. Data reflects a hard road ahead for young students who fail to become proficient readers. The judicial and correctional system are well aware of the connection between poor readers and incarceration. According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, “70 percent of all incarcerated adults cannot read above the fourth-grade reading level.”

Think for a moment what this means. Poor reading can limit one’s ability to navigate the language scales. These struggling readers learn to communicate, but it is often a causal language that is counterproductive to academic or career success. The language used for standardize test and job interviews are of the formal nature. It doesn’t matter if every student is taught the same material if one’s critical thinking skills and comprehension is limited.

Another problem confronting many of our children is language acquisition. This is attributed to socio-economic status. Children of lower socio-economic status are exposed to 30 million fewer words then children of professional parents. Parents may underestimate their role of building their child’s vocabulary and giving words meaning. Research indicates lower SES children heard 616 words per hour compared to 2,153 words heard by their counter parts. Do the math over a four-year period and you have a 30 million word gap.

I once sat in the office of a local businessman who shared this statement with me: “David, I use to tell my children to do their best academically; now I tell them to keep their noses clean and that the competition will take care of themselves.” This businessman was aware that instead of aiming high and missing, most of us are aiming low and hitting. We are content to put forward a half-effort and then complain about the results. This attitude is manifest in our students.

Perhaps an even greater problem confronting our students’ success is the lack of parental involvement. Many schools currently are doing a multitude of things to try and improve parental engagement and involvement. Schools have tried to schedule meetings at a time to ensure maximum attendance, only to get minimum results. Parents are offered food and door prizes in an attempt to get them to come to the schools and become part of the vested group. If you were to compare and contrast the schools that excel with the schools that struggle, you’ll find that the excelling schools have active parental participation.

According to research by Benner, Boyle, and Sadler (2016), “Parents who were involved had higher expectations for their children (p.1053).” Higher expectation by parents often transfers to higher expectation by teachers. It is a team effort that accepts no excuses on results. Until all vested members get on board, any attempts to fix our education problems will be met with marginal success.

Contact David Williams at