Much is made of the idea that 25% of American kids read at below basic on the National Assessment (NAEP). These kids can't do their schoolwork, aren't going on to higher education, and are going to have difficulty taking care of themselves and their own children someday.
There is a growing sense that if we adopt the right intervention program for them we'll catch them up, close the gap, solve the problem. High schools and middle schools just need to start programming special classes for these kids.
This is a pipe dream.
While I certainly support extra programming for older poor readers, my AMP program is a good example of what might be done. But let's not be too sanguine about that approach. Recent experiences with Striving Readers grants and some other investigations that have been undertaken by IES that say that such an approach will help close the gap--by about 1 month (and that is when the intervention is successful; they often are not). Perhaps this month can be improved upon by raising the quality of the teachers, selecting only programs that have been successful in past studies, and doing everything possible to get full implementation. But how much improvement will come from that... 2 months? Many of the students who enter high school are 2 or more years behind... closing the gap by or 1 or months per year will not solve the problem.
There is a need for substantial increases in instructional time for these kids and that time should be devoted to teaching them how to read hard texts. Yes, set up a ninth-grade reading class to be taken in lieu of electives, but set up such classes in 7th and 8th grades (and in all the other high school grades as well). Then make sure these kids are in your afterschool programs so they can get extra reading hours then, and summer school is a great idea as well. Even all of that will not necessarily save these kids, so if you are really serious you'll make sure that reading and reading instruction is a big part of these kids' school days--in history, science, English, math, and any other text-oriented subjects.
Setting up a special class for these strivers is a good idea, but it won't do much without the other investments.
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