According to The Nation’s Report Card, the National Assessment for Educational Progress found 37 percent to 40 percent of fourth graders to be reading “below basic levels.”
The figure is so unbelievably high that the immediate feeling is “It can’t be true.” Unfortunately it is, and most of the general public, our leaders, and the media do not realize the extent and seriousness of the problem .”
So, it is not surprising that for most families, the figures have little meaning. It isn’t until they hear the frightening message that their own child “has reading difficulties,” that the problem becomes real. But even then the realization does not sink in. The expectation is that children learn to read. So, when that does not happen, the logical conclusion is that somehow their child is not up to par. In other words, they see the failure as a problem with their child and they are unaware that they are part of an epidemic.
But reading failure rates of the magnitude being reported are not signs of problems in the children. They are signs of problems in the teaching system. Chester Finn, President of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, was right on target when he said that America should “view the educational inadequacies of millions of its daughters and sons not in terms of organic problems inherent in the children but rather as the fallout from unsound, inept or ill-conceived instruction by adults.”