To my knowledge, neither of my grandparents had a college education. I am uncertain if my paternal grandfather even completed high school. My father was the first in his family to receive a college education. After graduating high school, my parents were not expected to go to college but had the opportunity if they wanted it. Many from their generation did not go to college or at least not immediately. That was not necessarily unusual especially since there were many trade schools available for people to train specifically for a job. As my parents raised my siblings and me it was always assumed we would each get a college education. I don’t remember a time my parents said we had to, it was just expected because they worked hard to make sure we had the opportunity.
Of the four of us 3 have college degrees with two of us having advanced degrees. We are all successful professionals in our respective fields. The commonality between my siblings, my parents, and myself is that we all had the OPPORTUNITY to make a choice to go to college or pursue specialized training because we had a high school education. As we each graduated high school we were literate adults who could effectively communicate using written language. In short we could read and write.
There is an assumption that if you have a high school diploma you are a literate adult. It is assumed that you have the ability to read and to write to the level that provides you the opportunity to go to college if you wanted or you could pursue a career of your choice. Sure there would be some who graduated better prepared and suited for continuing their education in college, but regardless of their decision for the future those high school graduates could read and write.
In the past week HERE 4 Kids has been contacted by 3 different 19-year-old individuals who graduated from high school in 2015 and are struggling to begin careers because they cannot pass the various tests that give them the opportunities to pursue these careers. Every single one of these young adults lacks the necessary reading and writing skills to move on to the next stage of their life. These young adults all come from either a working class or middle class family. These young adults attended school regularly, received diplomas, and were deemed ready for life as a productive and contributing citizen in our society. So why can they not pass the necessary pretests to join the military or get a drivers license or enter a technical training program?
Some of you reading may assume that these young adults have some kind of cognitive deficit. Well, I have looked at two of the three full psychoeducational evaluations completed by the schools these young adults attended and the results indicate at least two of them actually don’t have average cognitive ability because they have ABOVE average cognitive ability with IQ scores ranging from 118-130, average is 90-110. So I ask you again, why do these young adult high school graduates not have the basic level of proficiency in reading and writing needed to enter specific careers?
Some may claim these young adults did not have good attendance or maybe they were behavior problems and that interfered with them learning. Again, after reviewing school records I can confirm not only were they not behavior problems but they attended area schools regularly and these school have a reputation for being one of the stronger schools in central Arkansas.
A few weeks ago I met individually with one of these young adults whose parents had paid for additional tutoring after school for many years. Since graduating this parent continued to encourage her son to find help to improve his reading and writing ability so he can pursue training in a specific profession. In the beginning this young man was resistant because whose is to say that after 13 years of attending school regularly that someone else could help him now. He immediately began two different jobs working 7 days a week to make enough to live. His options for jobs are limited and therefore he works hard physical labor 7 days a week. Once the cold weather set in and his body began to feel the effects of this labor, he felt motivated to pursue other career options but knows he can’t get far unless he improves his reading and writing skills.
My partner met with a young woman tonight who wants to enter the military but could not pass a written test, which is the first step in the process. This young person is angry because even after 13 years of an education she can’t pursue a career in the military because she does not have a necessary level of proficiency to read and write. If asked the questions she could be successful but when expected to read and write she is unsuccessful. My partner met with her tonight and like all first sessions she tested her knowledge of the basic sounds and symbols of our language. Like all other struggling readers, this young woman new most of her consonant sounds because those consistently make the same sound for the most part but was not proficient with reading vowel sounds like knowing the “ea” can be the long or short vowel E sound. If you can’t decipher the code, i.e. the letters and words, how can her knowledge be assessed except orally?
There are many people through out history who fought for the opportunity to be educated because it is well known that an education equals opportunity. We have laws that require all children to regularly attend school. We have countless educational initiatives, better-trained teachers, and quality materials. So I ask again, how is it that we have three high school graduates who have few opportunities for their future? Maybe you think these young adults are not representative of a typical high school graduating class but when 68% of children are not reading on grade level, statistically these three young adults are the few brave enough to admit their weaknesses and pursue assistance. The next barrier is that with the jobs they are qualified to work they do not have excess time or income to support the typical tutoring and reading intervention fees. These three young adults will learn to read well enough to pursue the futures they want through our program because of the generosity of others. Sadly there are too many others that have already given up on their future. Maybe they are doing what they can to survive in life or maybe they are self medicating like many end up choosing. The statistics paint a very limited and grim future for those who cannot read and write.
We have already failed one generation. Please help us change the face of education and use instruction that is supported by scientific research. Support our efforts to train current and future educators on the science of reading supported by countless studies on the brain and the neurological signature of learning differences such as Dyslexia. Stop arguing that we are doing it correctly. Stop making excuses that the problem is poverty or lack of parental support. These three young adults don’t meet that criteria and still can’t read and there are many children who succeed in spite of their socioeconomic status or the level of support of their parents. These three young adults, when they start their families, lack the basic reading and writing skills needed to help their children so do their children deserve the same limited opportunities because we failed their parents?
We cannot move backwards and make education a privilege for a few. An education, especially the ability to read and write, is a basic human right because it is the key to opportunities in the future. The fewer literate high school graduates we produce the fewer competent and able people we have for our work force. We are heading in the wrong direction. Help us help others. Help us give children the basic human right, the ability to read and write, so they can accomplish whatever goal they set in the future.