EDUCATION: More than job-training

Schools Neglecting English

This paragraph from a story about dropping reading scores on the SAT made me sigh:

…the relatively poor performance on the SATs could raise questions whether reading and writing instruction need even more emphasis to accommodate the country’s changing demographics.

The story goes on to point out the growing number of test takers for whom English is a second language:

Roughly 27 percent of the 1.65 million test-takers last year had a first language other than English, up from 19 percent just a decade ago.

I found the last paragraph in the story especially alarming:

The SAT and rival ACT exam are taken by roughly the same number of students each year. Most colleges require scores from at least one of the exams but will consider either. In recent years, some colleges have adopted test-optional policies allowing applicants to decline to submit test scores at all. (Emphasis added.)

I am convinced that the emphasis on math, science, and computer use that has obsessed American schools for the past several decades has been accompanied by the neglect of essential teaching of language skills in grades K-10.

The current crop of teachers and administrators seem to feel that native English speakers don’t need much instruction in their language and that special allowances should be made for students for whom English is a second language.

In their eagerness to embrace the computer age, the men and women who control primary and secondary education seem to have lost sight of the truth that education is accomplished by means of language.

By using “whole language” beginning reading methods that create reading problems, by rejecting the direct teaching of grammar, by failing to teach children to write (or at least print) legibly, and by requiring very little challenging written composition or reading, U.S. schools have created incompletely educated high school students.

Having created crippled readers and writers, well-meaning educators then whip up these unprepared young men and women to apply for college, where they will be faced with remedial courses in the subjects they should have mastered by the end of high school.

I’d like to see U.S. school leaders redirect their obsessive concerns to grades K-4. That’s the window for enriching the vocabulary of the children who come from homes in which they haven’t heard much conversational English.

By prioritizing language acquisition grades K-4 and by providing plenty of practice in challenging reading and written composition grades 5-8, public education would transform high school into a place in which young adults could explore different subjects and come to some idea of what occupations they might like to pursue in life.

As things stand, children who come to school with limited language fall behind in kindergarten and never catch up.

As things stand, educators permit millions of children to reach their senior year in high school unprepared for university studies, and then urge them to attend.

That’s an insane way to run a school system.