Friday, September 28, 2012
It’s the third grade stupid
I call myself stupid because the answer I've been seeking was right under my nose. I've been watching programs about education and reading just about everything I can get my hands on, but I think I found the answer I was looking for. It all came to me when I downloaded the latest Time magazine article titled " Why Third Grade Is So Important: the Matthew Effect by Annie Murphy Paul.
Just about Everything I've come across recycles the same-old problems such as parents, unions, government, bureaucracy, students, vouchers, punishment and money, and it's left at that until the subject comes up again. I think education is the key to all our problems.
I agree with the author when she states that the single most important year of an individual's academic career is the third grade. This is the year these students start learning how to read-and decoding words by learning the alphabet. They go from, in her words, learning to read to reading to learn. It's a pivot point because according to Donald J. Hernandez, a professor of sociology at CUNY-Hunter College, third graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times more likely to become high-school dropouts.
It usually goes this way: struggles in the third-grade lead to a "fourth- grade slump" as reading- to -learn dominates the instructions. The substandard readers will begin to avoid reading out of frustration, and the traits of failure begin to take place. It gets even harder as the inferior reader progresses because classes in science, social studies, history and even math have to come to rely more on textual analysis.
Researchers have said that what distinguishes a super school from the rest is called the "Matthew Effect," taking from a Biblical verse found in the Gospel of Matthew: "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath: It just reinforces what we have know all along," the rich get richer and the poor get poorer."
Some states have recognized the importance of reading and are taking a hard line stance: third graders who aren’t reading at-grade level don't get promoted to 4th grade. "Mandatory retention" bills have already been passed in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and Oklahoma and are being considered in Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, and Tennessee. I'll have to keep that information to myself because, if my daughter found out, she would be asking for transfer to one of those states. She's been in and out of her principal's office and often overruled when she recommends a student for retention.
The author recommended some ideal alternatives: teachers and parents could get together and come up with an individualized learning plan for every third grader who needs help with reading-it might take specialized instruction, tutoring or even summer school. As she said the most important thing is taking action, and researchers have told us that we shouldn't assume that reading problems will work themselves out.