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Treat Illiteracy Like an Illness

The Teachers’ Lounge

People who are illiterate are much more likely to abuse drugs, have poorer health, spend time in jail and live in poverty than their literate peers. Despite the weighty consequences that can accompany illiteracy, many students are progressing through school unable to read or write proficiently.

As a first year teacher in 2006, I was horrified by the number of general education students who were illiterate. Many students were two and even three grade-levels behind in reading and writing. As my years in education have progressed, the phenomenon of failure has gotten unspeakably worse. Today, it is very common to encounter students more than 3 grade levels behind where they should be.

I have taught middle school students who could not identify all the letters of the alphabet. I met a fifth grade student who could not spell or write his last name. It is very common to meet elementary students who don’t know letter sounds, sight words or how to draft simple sentences. Despite Herculean efforts to teach, test and leave no child behind, so many students have been left behind, the bus is pulling away empty.


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