Reading fundamental

Posted: Sunday, November 17, 2002

On Oct. 23, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige released a letter that he sent to state school officials, including Alaska. It is good that parents in Juneau and other communities are made aware of the content and his concerns.

In his letter, Dr. Paige expresses concerns about attempts by some states to lower expectations to evade the law. While Alaska has established a minimum competency test for graduating seniors, Alaska has not bitten the political bullet to determine why there exist the inability of the system to teach our young primary grade children the cornerstone - reading. That 40-45 percent year after year after year fail to achieve is continuing failure of the educational system to teach them to read in the primary grades. The challenge to end this tragic situation is the basis for the "No Child Left Behind" program.

According to Dr. Paige, "it is nothing less than shameful that some defenders of the status quo are trying to hide the performance of underachieving schools in order to shield parents from reality. ... Those who play semantic games or try to tinker with numbers to lock out parents and the public stand in the way of progress and reform. They are the enemies of equal justice and equal opportunity. They are the apologist for failure. And they will not succeed."

Your reading public can access the full text of Dr. Paige's letter at:

Finally, Dr. Paige closes: "Although some critics continue to attack aspects of the law and some naysayers have convinced themselves that some children are too poor or too different looking to learn, we know they are wrong."

I fully agree. The 40-45 percent of primary school children of Alaska urban public schools and the many villages with 100 percent allowed to struggle with or not being taught to read are the victims of academic child abuse and it has to stop.

Educators must be themselves taught how to teach reading to these struggling and failing students. Current pedagogy serves the high achievers and should not be discarded. For those children it works. For these failing and struggling students it has to be "parked" and these struggling children addressed with scientifically proven methods of reading instruction.

A.M. Johnson


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