Imagine being an eighth grade student and not comprehending a written text. On the National Assessment of Education Progress (1998), 26% of eighth graders failed to meet the “Basic” standard of answering correctly explicit comprehension questions and a minimal number of interpretation questions about a basic text.
For the vast majority of eighth graders struggling with reading, that struggle is nothing new. Approximately 75% of students identified with reading problems in third grade are still reading disabled in the 9th grade, and 88% of poor first grade readers are still poor readers in eighth grade.
It’s fair to blame middle schools for not closing the gap, but middle schools face the steep obstacles of reversing the emotional, psychological, and behavioral effects of years of poor school performance.
Closing the gap in reading early—through pre-k, reading intervention programs, and research-based reading instruction—can nip educational failure before children indelibly feel like educational failures.
As the debates about school governance, i.e., mayoral control and charters, and school models, i.e., KIPP and GreenDot, continue, it might be wise to drill down into a classroom and see that early intervention to assist struggling students can make a difference in preventing future deficits—in any classroom.
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