For much of the last decade, American students’ literacy levels have been a source of concern. The students have demonstrated a mastery of skills and understanding that is below their levels. Students who are entering college have reading, writing, and math skills that are below the seventh-grade level. This education crisis has been blamed on a variety of factors. Parents, students, teachers, electronics, and the school system itself are all factors that have been linked to this issue. The study will concentrate on one aspect: the educational system. The study will look at how the United States of America’s public school education system is to blame for the 7th-grade reading level epidemic.
The 7th grade level of learning for students is supposed to be a transition period where they already have an idea of the career path they are going to pursue once they join college (Diperna 33). However, once the high school graduates transition to college, the freshmen depict 7th-grade reading level epidemic. The public school education system is to blame for this (Diperna 34). The education system teaches dependency instead of self-sufficiency. Students have been drilled to depend on what is thought in class. Any research they undertake is based on what was given in class by the tutor. Consequently, the students lack the ambition to expand their vocabulary, read, and learn new things. The students are thus conditioned to a culture where they focus solely on what the teacher said, without adventuring to acquire new things and ideas.
The public school education system modeled an A-F grading system that gauges each student’s ability basing on merit. The grading scale has failed to inspire students because of the too much theoretical framework and little practical aspect of learning, leading to a situation where the 7th graders have lost interest in the education system that is based on cramming issues rather than understanding concepts (Darrell and Criss 370). The social conditioning factors lead to students just copying notes and pass them onto tests. The students memorize key facts out of a textbook for the purpose of passing exams, only to forget a day later. This type of learning leaves students as empty vessels that are only filled with temporary knowledge when the need to pass exam rises and the same knowledge is discharged when need diminishes.
The education stakeholders have modeled the college degree program after the same failed institutional learning standards of the previous 12 years (Artley 145). The overpriced four-year college degree has the same hallmarks as the elementary and secondary school curricula. Therefore, the entering college freshman will have the same reading problem, because college is a continuation of the same system that made him or her have literacy problems. The entire system should be revolutionized to ensure that the literacy problem in the education sector is dealt with conclusively. Also, the training program has created some hula hoop, where children of diverse creative talents, interests, and ambitions are forced through the same hole regardless. The situation above is set up by having a standardized education system where each student must conform to its requirements despite the differential abilities and skills of each student (Kozol 76). This does not improve seeking of knowledge but creates conformity idea where all students try to fit and conform to a system that does not consider the diversity and uniqueness of each. Therefore, after high school, obeying the rules just to get by becomes the norm; the same is replicated as freshmen, where the new college students abide by the rules just to get by. That is what the public education system has conditioned them to do.
Efforts to amend the curriculum and promote diversity in learning in the United States of America have standardized the education process further. Instead of fighting standardization, the amendments have buttressed the standardized system of learning more. Legislations have been passed in a bid to improve the education standards (Harnandez 103). President George W. Bush championed for a federal law, the No Child Left Behind Act. The law was intended to cater for elementary and secondary schools students from poor backgrounds and ensure that they get an equal education with students from well-off families. However, as much as students accessed education, the idea of standardized testing was a negative component of the law. Standardized testing encourages teachers to tutor a narrow scope of skills that the school thinks improves the overall performance of its pupils (Darrell and Criss 373). The system focuses too much on students passing and ignores important factors like ensuring that students are fully able to read to write. In 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act replaced the legislation above. However, the law only modified the standardized tests; the tests are still in existence. Therefore, the laws promote a culture whereby rather than achieve an in-depth understanding of the overall curriculum the tutors only teach to the test. As the students, transform from secondary school to Freshman College, the problem of studying to pass exams is inculcated in them. Hence, the 7th-grade reading level epidemic exists in the college.
The National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) noted that in civic, math, reading, writing, and geography, nearly 25% leave 7th grade with academic skills that are “Below Basic.” (McKinnon and John 1057) Below Basic students refers to a category of learners unable to display even the incomplete understanding of knowledge and expertise necessary for skilled work at their level. Students enter college with no clear vision and mission of the career path they will pursue. The NAEP findings blame the education system for this reading epidemic; the granting of fraudulent diplomas (McKinnon and John 1060). The institutions confer honors that attest that students have mastered a 12th grade level of education, when in fact; they have not mastered a 7th grade or 8th grade level of education. Students have been conferred diplomas while they lack the necessary literacy skills like reading. The same students with diplomas strut to college while deficient of the literacy skills like reading and writing. The granting of diplomas is a fraud; the education system should ensure those only students who have the prerequisite skills and knowledge are given higher qualifications and thus proceed to college. Otherwise, it will result in scenarios where half-baked students’ progress to college with the 7th-grade reading level deficiencies.
The Common Core State Standard noted that most high school graduates do not focus on practical subjects like math past the 8th grade (Darrell and Criss 373). Most students prefer theoretical work; they like items that lack difficulty and complexity. This has conditioned students to be intellectually lazy. The Core Standard required that all public schools students be college and career ready for the future theoretical workforce. The standards were set for each subject. Education expert, Dr. Sandra Stosky worked in the Core Validation Committee. She rejected the standards set for math because she felt that they left out the standards necessary for preparing a student for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) career. Also, lack of public discussion of what entails to be college ready has affected levels of education for first-year students (Clerici-Arias 111). A minimum threshold that contains the type of college, what kind of majors, and what kinds of freshman courses are available should be set. The public should be aware of this so that when they send their children to college, they are sure that they are college ready. Lastly, the university system should be blamed for the reading epidemic (Alverman and Moore 978). The lower reading level of literature that colleges assign to prospective freshman as summer reading indicates that they treat the incoming freshman as not college ready. The college freshman is reading on a level of grade 7 instead of being given materials that reflect their level of education.
From the study, it is clear that the school system plays a significant role in promoting low literacy standards where you find an incoming first-year student having a 7th-grade reading level epidemic. The issues that encourage this problem have been discussed above. However, some recommendations can help alleviate the problem. Strong growth in reading should start in elementary schools that instill the student with the reading culture. Also, students need more inspiration and more freedom to learn that makes them have a passion for reading. Lastly, there is need to create a diverse spectrum of reading in the classroom and outside of class. To break the monotony of reading to pass, let the students get their hands dirty in farm work; after all, everyone was not born to be a doctor. We should all embrace diversity.
Alverman, Donna and David Moore. “Secondary school reading.” Handbook of reading research, 2 (1991): 951-983.
Artley, Sterl. “Trends and Practices in Secondary School Reading: A Report on Recent Research.” (1968).
Clerici-Arias, Marcelo. “The Challenge of Teaching Freshmen.” Eastern Economic Association Meetings (1994).
Darrell, Morriss and Ervin Criss. “A case study of middle school reading disability.” The Reading Teacher, 49(5) (1996): 368-377.
Diperna, Paul. The Brown Center Report on American Education. Vol. 1. Brookings Institution Press, 2000.
Harnandez, Donald. “Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation.” Annie E. Casey Foundation (2011).
Kozol, Jonathan. Savage inequalities: Children in America’s schools. Broadway Books, 2012.
McKinnon, Joe and Renner John. “Are colleges concerned with intellectual development?” American Journal of Physics, 39(9) (1971): 1047-1052.