Many Middle and High Schoolers Not Reading at Acceptable Levels
> 7/14/2006 1:50:42 PM

Problems with literacy are hardly a new phenomenon in American schools. A new Washington Post article and several recent nationwide surveys suggest that focus on literary aptitude should not be restricted to lower schools, as far too many secondary school students are not performing at national standards on tests of reading and comprehension. Perhaps most significant among these is a study by the Alliance For Excellent Education which states that just over half of the students who took the ACT college entrance exam in 2005 were ready to tackle university-level reading.

According to the report, only 51 percent of students who took the ACT in reading met the ACT's college readiness benchmark in 2005. The benchmark represents the level of achievement needed for students to have a 75 percent chance of earning a "C" or better or a 50 percent chance of earning a "B" or better in a reading-intensive freshman college course.

Other studies of school performance in the last decade actually charted very modest increases in the reading aptitudes of students in the 4th through 8th grades, leading to the report's most disturbing conclusion: reading skills largely deteriorate in high school.

The ACT report suggests weak or nonexistent state high school reading standards contribute to the dip in reading scores between the 10th and 12th grade. It found that 29 states did not have grade-specific standards, while 28 states either had one group of standards for 9th through 12th grades, or ignored one or more grade levels.

Some in government have made small steps toward addressing this widespread problem. In 2005, the current administration allocated 28 million dollars for their Striving Readers Program, a grant initiative aimed at increasing the literacy rates of middle and high school students. Some argue that this sum is negligible, especially when compared to the amounts of money devoted to reading in lower schools. While it's encouraging to note that some of those with the ability to influence public policy have acknowledged this problem, the results of the report suggest that we need more oversight and resources to move toward substantial changes in this distressing trend. Our school system has failed adolescent students in important ways, and they will only continue to fall behind unless serious discussion takes place between officials at the highest levels of government and education.

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