One thing I believe everyone can agree on is educating our youth should be one of our highest priorities. To that end not only is reading fundamental, it is critical for our children's success in life. Unfortunately the statistics tell a different story.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Assessments are conducted periodically in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, U.S. history, and beginning in 2014, in Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL).
Based on NAEP's August 2012 report, 67% of fourth graders nationwide were reading at their grade level. Eighth graders fared better with 76% of them reading at grade level. African American and Hispanic fourth graders reading at grade level were 49% and 51% respectively, eighth graders were 59% and 64% respectively. An excerpt of the complete table is at the end of this article.
Needless to say there is a lot of work to be done, especially in the African American and Hispanic communities. These statistics cannot be viewed in a vacuum, there are a myriad of socio-economic factors that must be a part of the discussion. One thing is for certain, we cannot solely rely on our educational system to get this done. these are our children, we need to shoulder some of the responsibility.
LiteracyNation Inc. is one organization that is making a difference. Their mission is both simple and powerful.
The mission of LiteracyNation is to encourage and promote youth and adults as well as those whose native language is not English, to develop basic skills in reading, speaking, and writing English, thereby empowering them to participate in their communities.
All it takes is one person with an idea, vision, and passion to start something. After that they need our support. Let's do the responsible thing and support LiteracyNation. They can always use more books and donations. Visit their website at www.literacynation.com.
I question the commitment of our politicians when it comes to the education of our young people.
Educating young minds takes more than classroom instruction and standardized exams. It requires a commitment to nurture students and expose them to a myriad of educational and cultural opportunities. How can this happen if one of the first things on the chopping block during budget discussions is funding for after-school programs and the arts.
I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, New York received national attention thanks to the award winning film Brooklyn Castle. Their chess team has won more national championships than any other in the country. They were the first middle school team to win the United States Chess Federation's national high school championship.
According to an article in the New York Daily News, the team from I.S. 318 currently receives $20,000 from the New York City, money that could go away if the proposed budget, which calls for $130 million to be cut from childcare and after-school programs is passed by the city council. Is this how we invest in our children's future?
In April 2012, after winning the National High School Chess Championship, the middle school students attended a ceremony inside City Hall. Mayor Bloomberg was quoted saying “I was really impressed with you guys,....You’re a lot smarter than I am.” I guess cutting the budget for after-school programs is how he shows his appreciation.
Beginning in 1940 with a ten-cent stamp honoring Booker T. Washington, the United States Post Office Department began issuing stamps to commemorate the contributions of African Americans. Based on their Historian's report dated February 2011, the Post Office has issued 138 commemorative stamps.
Why is this campaign important?
Last week, we focused on the school to prison pipeline. Needless to say there are a myriad of issues requiring our attention. The statistics are staggering and the trend is continuing if not increasing. Armed guards in schools, zero tolerance policies, and draconian levels of punishment are turning some of our schools away from what they're supposed to be.
We are well aware of the recent incident involving the arrest of a 16-year-old girl over a science experiment. There are those who feel the punishment was justified.
During an interview on MSNBC Kharry Lazarre-White of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol said the line between a disciplinary infraction and a crime had become blurred in many U.S. schools.
“It’s become blurred, one, because now you have police officers in schools,” he told MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “So, you have police officers responding to issues that used to be that teachers or school safety officers responded to. Secondly, you now see this broad range of issues that would have never been seen as something to arrest a child. We have children expelled for singing too loudly in classes, for running through the hallway, for being late, but one of the most striking aspects of this is that the number one issue that you see leading towards this kind of expulsion is children who are refusing to respond to authority, children who are, quote, being defiant.”
Go to school, work hard, get a good education so that you can get a good job. That's what most of my generation heard as we were growing up. For most of us that was sound advice but is it still valid?
Schools are being closed, college costs are skyrocketing, and good jobs are few and far between. I think it's time for us to reevaluate what we're telling our students. I don't think we're preparing them to thrive in the real world.
I think there should be more emphasis placed on teaching students about personal finances. Students should be encouraged to learn about investing and managing their money. They should understand how to manage debt.
We need to encourage students to become producers not consumers. We need to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit within them. Consumers do not create wealth, they make everyone else wealthy. Getting a good job makes you a better consumer.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.