Miami Heat super All Star and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James and State Farm Insurance are commended for visibly bringing to the nation’s attention the appalling fact that one student drops out of a USA school every 26 seconds.
Unfortunately, this is not new news. CNN reported this stat in 2010.
Prior to that, in 2007 at the National Governor’s Association Summit, it was reported that the figure was one student drops out every 29 seconds. If the two statistics are correct, to the second, that only means that the drop-out rate worsened by approximately 10 percent in just three short years.
The factual issue America faces is that the country is not doing what really needs to be done to curtail and eliminate the dropout epidemic.
In launching their program nearly one year ago, State Farm’s press release stated: “The campaign titled ’26 Seconds,’ will use interests – like music, sports and video – to engage youth. It will provide an online venue for youth to express feelings on the issue and creatively share thoughts and talents – encouraging them and their peers to make graduation a priority so they become more than a statistic.”
Again, it is admirable that the company, which has earned praise and support from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, desires to do something about the problem.
|Rand Harbert, Sr VP of State Farm, presents Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
with a :26 jersey at the Grad Nation Summit. (Nick Wass/AP Images for State Farm)
However, the real problem resides at a much more basic level.
Students must be able to read.
If they cannot read they will, indeed, become a statistic, as statistics prove this point.
Consider these startling stats:
* The number of functionally illiterate adults is increasing by approximately 2.25 million persons annually, including nearly 1 million who drop out of school, 400,000 legal immigrants, 100,000 refugees, and 800,000 illegal immigrants, as well as an astounding 20 percent of all high school graduates.
* 75% of America’s state prison and 59% federal prison inmates are high school dropouts, with approximately 65% of them reading at or below a 4th grade level, while 85% of all juvenile offenders lack basic reading and math skills.
* Illiteracy costs taxpayers and companies over $225 billion annually in crime, welfare payments, lost taxes, job incompetence and remedial education.
* If literacy levels in the United States were the same as those in Sweden, the U.S. Gross Domestic Product would rise by approximately $463 billion and tax revenues would increase by approximately $162 billion. (How’s that for stimulating the economy?)
As research has shown, time and time again, in order to effectively teach someone to read, students must be taught using systematic and explicit phonics methodologies. Additionally, it has been proven that the best way to remediate a person’s reading skils is through phonics instruction.
The National Reading Panel, after completing the most extensive study on the subect of teaching reading, published their findings in The Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read. The report states that there are five key factors that must be present for effective reading instruction.
The first two elements are “phonemic awareness” (the ability to notice, think about and work with the individual sounds in spoken words) and “systematic phonics instruction” (teaching the relationships between the letters of written language and the individual sounds of spoken language).
Thank you again LeBron and State Farm for continuing, through your “26 Second” program, to bring the drop-out epidemic to more people’s attention, and especially to LeBron through his Wheels for Education program where he is assisting students in Akron, Ohio, to learn to read, but more is needed from you, and from other concerned individuals and companies around the country.
The Main Street USA challenge is this: expand your scope and energy to include implementation of evidence- and research-based phonics reading programs in all schools right now, as only then will America’s students: 1) learn to effectively read and 2) have their reading abilities remediated so that they are able to read.
As Frederick Douglass stated, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
This must be America’s first and foremost goal.
Over For Now.
Main Street One