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Don’t Trust Government to Teach Your Kids

Test results are out and, again, things aren’t wonderful in Idaho schools. In fact, recent data points are downright concerning to those paying attention.

Recently, the state released results from last school year’s Idaho Reading Indicator tests, exams administered to kids in kindergarten through third grade. The exams revealed that roughly 70 percent of kids in those grades read at grade level.

That’s bothersome in and of itself, but there’s more. Low-income kids fare significantly worse. Testing data show only about 61 percent of low-income students read at grade level.

Still, there’s more. Students of color, primarily black and Hispanic kids, are even worse off in Idaho schools. A mere 54 percent of Hispanic kids read at grade level, and black students barely cleared the 50-percent mark.

These numbers tell a damning story, but let’s keep our eyes on the figure that matters most. If only 70 percent of the students in K-3 read at grade level, then roughly 26,000 Idaho kids don’t.

Unconscionable. Kids who can’t read are set up for failure. Their trajectory in life is drastically lower than those of their peers. How low? A 1993 Department of Justice report revealed that students who can’t read proficiently by 4th grade are far more likely to end up in a correctional institution or on welfare. From the report: “Reviews of the research literature provide ample evidence of the link between academic failure and delinquency. It can also be shown this link is welded to reading failure.”

DoSomething.org, a literacy advocacy site, notes that more than 70 percent of America’s incarcerated population can’t read above a 4th grade level. The site also points out that young women who can’t read proficiently “are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than girls their age who can read proficiently.”

In short, being able to read matters, and our public schools aren’t up to the task right now to teach our kids how to read.

Elected officials are aware of the problem. Gov. Brad Little and lawmakers doubled reading funds for schools during the legislative session, amounting to more than $26 million. But we’ve seen this show before. During his tenure, then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne promised and delivered more reading dollars. But scores remained flat and thousands of kids passed through a still-failing system.

What’s an engaged parent to do?

First, visit IdahoSchools.org to review your school’s performance. If your local educators aren’t getting the job done, hold them accountable. Question the principal. Take your case to the school board. Discuss the matter with your state lawmakers.

Next, take it upon yourself to build a culture of literacy at home. Read to your kids. Let them see you read. Visit the library. Find free ebooks and audiobooks online. In fact, volunteer to read at grade schools or Barnes and Noble and bring your children with you. Don’t trust the government to educate your kid, lest they end up as one of the 26,000 students who can’t read proficiently. Your kids deserve better and, with a little effort, you can give it to them.

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