Johnny still can’t read
April 3, 2012
• Six out of ten seniors graduate without reading, writing skills needed to succeed
• ‘Good jobs [are] going unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates’
The book, “Why Johnny Can’t Read” shocked the nation back when Dwight Eisenhower was president and the Desoto was still a popular car.
But readers of that 1955 book would be just as shocked by a 2012 report Alliance for Excellent Education that contends Johnny is about as illiterate as ever.
Research by the Alliance say that more than 60 percent of twelfth-grade students leave high school without the advanced reading and writing skills needed to succeed in college and a career.
This, it notes, seriously constrains their future employment options and restricts national and state economies.
The report, “Confronting the Crisis: Federal Investments in State Birth-Through-Grade-Twelve Literacy Education,” identifies what it sees as promising solutions underway at the state level, including implementing the newly adopted common core state standards in English language arts and the “Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy” (SRCL) program.
"While the trend lines for educational and workforce demands are steadily rising, students' reading and writing skills are not keeping pace," says Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. "This results in unprepared college students taking remedial courses, employers spending more money on job training, and good jobs going unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates.”
According to the report, 44 percent of all students at public two-year institutions and 27 percent of all students at public four-year institutions enrolled in a remedial course. Remedial education at the postsecondary level costs the nation an estimated $3.6 billion annually.
Additionally, students who enroll in a remedial reading course are more than three times less likely to earn a bachelor's degree within eight years than are students who take no remedial education courses.
Mr. Wise says this is a critical time for the federal government to partner with all states “by fully investing in comprehensive literacy plans to ensure that every student graduates from high school with the advanced skills necessary for success in college and a career."
The report notes that since 1973 the share of jobs in the United States requiring postsecondary education has increased from 28 percent to 60 percent. During the same time period, however, the literacy performance of 17-year-olds has remained the same.
Additionally, 25 percent of eighth graders nationwide lack even partial mastery of grade-level knowledge and skills, according to the 2011 Nation's Report Card in reading, putting these students at risk of dropping out before earning a diploma.
"Unless Congress provides additional funding for the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, state literacy plans are more likely to sit on a shelf and gather dust than they are to help improve students' reading skills in the classroom," says Mr. Wise.