“Allowing poor reading skills to go unaddressed is the equivalent of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The reading rich will continue to grow, because with every new book they read, they build new vocabulary and knowledge, which allows them to access even more complex text. But for the reading poor, a struggle to read will only deepen the deficit over time unless the child’s teachers intervene quickly at the point of error.” –Juliana Worrell
When I read this quote in an opinion article, it hit me like a brick wall. Juliana Worrell is correct in that students who know how to read and are motivated to read will continue to perform well in school. On the flip side, students who find reading difficult and are not provided with the supports needed to overcome their challenges will further slip behind. Safety nets must be provided at a young age to students before their learning gap becomes a crater.
The COIVD-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on education, especially in the area of learning gains. Over the past two years learning has been significantly interrupted resulting in students not making full gains in learning. Over the course of the 2020-2021 school year, it is estimated the average student only made six months of learning gains. Thus, for a student who started the school year behind, another half-year of learning loss has been added. The six months is an average, meaning there were students who had less gains and those with more. Once again, we see the educationally rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
When it comes to education, rich and poor is more about resources than money. Resources come in a variety of ways—skill of the teacher, food, textbooks, school libraries, access to advance courses, access to learning interventions, building conditions (interior and exterior), technology, extra-curricular activities, etc. The pandemic brought these issues to the public concern, and we are having more conversations about them. However, there is no simple solution to these problems, and they will take time to remedy. In this time, we need to ensure solutions are created and not the problems simply forgotten.
This is a time when schools desperately need the support of the community. Partnerships between civic organizations and schools are essential for providing the much need resources. Volunteers can not only serve as tutors, but also as teachers sharing a skill or talent a class while a teacher works with a small group of students. Civic organizations can also work with schools on after hour events and mentoring. It truly takes a village, and unless we all come together the education divide will only get wider.