Dropping Out of School Every 26 Seconds

In 2007, at the National Governor’s Association Summit it was stated that one student drops out of a US school every 29 seconds.

Three years later it was reported by CNN that the statistic is every 26 seconds.

The following year, NBA All Star LeBron James and State Farm Insurance decided to bring this startling news to more people’s attention through their “26 Second” program.

What will it take before America implements exactly what needs to be done to tackle the problem? That problem being illiteracy.

With illiteracy a major cause of juvenile delinquency and crime, as reported on many fronts, it seems only natural that the primary emphasis should be to ensure that every American knows how to read proficiently.

And the most proven method to accomplish that very worthwhile goal, whether it be beginning reading instruction or remediation, is through systematic and explicit phonics instruction.

Instead of illiteracy costing taxpayers and businesses over $225 billion annually in crime, welfare payments, lost taxes, job incompetence and remedial education is it not better to increase production and income through literacy?

In 2003, the Alliance for Excellent Education stated in their report, “If literacy levels in the United States were the same as those in Sweden, the U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) would rise by approximately $463 billion and tax revenues would increase by approximately $162 billion.

It is time for change. It is time to Wake Up and not only address but handle the problem.

Phonics reading methodology can, and does, change lives. But, only if it is used.

Solving America’s Education Problem – Back To Basics

First President Obama stated that children in America needed longer school days.

Then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, stated (per the Philadelphia Inquirer): “Our school calendar’s based on a 19th century agrarian economy. I’m sure there weren’t too many kids in Philadelphia working in their parents’ fields this summer.”

The above statement by Duncan is true; school in America has been based on an agrarian calendar. Summer was a time for children to assist their family in the fields, harvesting, and the like.

Don’t get us wrong; we do not particularly have an issue with children attending school longer.

And it is known that there are researchers who have said that adding even short amounts to of time to a curriculum raises test scores.

What we take exception to is that the root of America’s educational crisis is not a short school day.

Witness, the United States has been on the agrarian calendar for education essentially since schools were formed (circa 1647).

Under this system and schedule, the U.S. did lead the world in education for decades and decades.

Thus, changing the school day schedule or the number of days in school is not the answer. It may help some, but it is not the answer.

What is?


Pure and simple, the basics of education.

The Three R’s: reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.

Youth today have not learned their basics. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

National test scores, as collected and averaged by the National Center for Education Statistics, show slight, only slight, increases in reading and mathematic scores in all grade levels of students tested the last four decades.

Whole word reading displaced phonics as the way to teach students to read. And, despite the fact the National Reading Panel (which reviewed over 100,000 studies on reading) states unequivocally that the use of phonics is the best way to accomplish this task, most of our students are not taught to read using phonics.

Student comprehension is low, as dictionaries, which used to be in classrooms in mass quantities, have all but disappeared from the educational scene.

The problem is not the number of hours a child spends in school.

The problem is what and how our children are being taught while they attend.

And this problem has been staring us in the face for decades.

Our youth need to be taught the basics.

Teaching those basics is the best way to halt student dropout, of which there are 3,000 students who leave school PER DAY.

“In Philadelphia, for instance, about half of all students cannot read or do math on grade level. The dropout rate hovers around 50 percent as well,” states the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Keep in mind that the National Institute of Justice reported that 85% of all juvenile offenders lack basic reading and math skills.

Food for thought.

Preparing Students for the 21st Century

Preparing students for the 21st century is, quite frankly, like preparing them for any other.

They must know how to read.

If a person graduating high school does not know how to read proficiently, not at a 4th grade level, they will be unable to master most any job, let alone their life.

Reading is so fundamental to life, from being able to read a job advertisement to a car or home contract, from banking paperwork to past-due notices and more, that until America begins to properly educate students how to read all other methods of “education reform” are doomed to dismal failure, regardless of the amount of money spent in that sector.

The statistics that are continually gathered regarding how functional illiteracy affects all of society are staggering. The three worst are:

  • In the U.S. prison system over 60% of all inmates read at or below 4th grade level
  • Approximately 85% of juvenile offenders are functionally illiterate
  • Illiteracy costs taxpayers and companies over $225 billion annually in crime, welfare payments, lost taxes, job incompetence and remedial education

The solution to the problem is not rocket science, or even close.

The solution is simple. Teach students how to read, effectively and competently, through the use of systematic and explicit phonics.

Get America back to basics.

Teach children their ABC’s and their 123’s.

Then, and only then, will they be armed with the correct tools to complete their education and to forge a life in the 21st century and beyond.

As Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

The Nonsense Of Whole Word Reading

The early advocates of whole word reading methodology (which has changed identities using various other names) sold their education-destroying concepts via absolute nonsense.

Consider one of the first arguments against phonics: memorization is rote and tedious.

Factually, for a person to learn to read using phonics they must master the 54 sounds that the 26 letters and certain letter combinations make. Then they must remember the various exceptions to these sounds.

Compare that to a person, keeping in mind that most people start learning to read at a very young age before their mind is fully developed, having to memorize thousands upon thousands of words and how they sound by where each of the letters, both upper and lower case, are located in the word.

One of the major problems (among many other issues) with whole word reading is that there are many words spelled very similar to each other. And yet others are spelled quite differently that sound exactly the same. What that does to a child learning to read by looking at a string of letters is cause confusion.

Witness this fact.

Assume that little Johnny looks at the letters t h r o u g h and is told that the word sounds the way the instructor tells him. Ok, good. Johnny knows that t h r o u g h sounds like through. The instructor also informs him that through means “in at one end out out of the other.”

Johnny, now possessing the knowledge of how through sounds and what it means, a little later comes across the word thorough. To Johnny that word looks like through so he, in most cases, automatically assumes that the word is one and the same. Then he sees the word thought. And the word though. Same result.

To top it off, Johnny then learns that t h r e w sounds exactly the same as through but has a different definition. Add some more confusion to poor Johnny.

Proponents of whole word (look-say, sight word, sight read, etc.) will laugh this off as simplistic, that it does not occur and if it does the student must have a learning disability.

But they are wrong. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Back in 1927, neurologist Dr. Samuel Orton, under a Rockefeller Foundation grant, concluded that children who had been diagnosed with ‘congenital word blindness’ (now called dyslexia) were actually severely harmed by the methods that had been used to teach them to read (sight-reading).

However, that is not the point of this mind-numbing whole word example of “teaching.”

The accusation that phonics is rote memorization and has too many exceptions to the rules and thus should not be used falls totally flat on its face when one considers that there are over 500,000 words in the English language and these experts expect a person to “memorize” (which is what whole word is) half a million words!

How can anyone memorize that many different letter combinations and their equivalent sound? Aside from the obvious fact that whole wordies are demanding that poor Johnny memorize all of them (or at least tens of thousands) when their argument against phonics was that it was not good because it demanded memorization of 54 letter and letter combination sounds and a handful of exceptions.

Systematic and explicit phonics is THE most effective method to teach reading. And it is far easier to learn the sounds and exceptions than to attempt learning the sounds made by letter combinations made in over half a million words.

End note: student Johnny is used as a tribute to Rudolf Flesch for his early fight supporting phonics in his best-selling book Why Johnny Can’t Read, originally published in 1955. Anyone who has not read it should do themselves a favor and get a copy. It can be ordered here: Amazon.

© 2001-2017 Sue Young & Scott D. Welch. All Rights Reserved. Smart Way Reading-Made in the U.S.A. (727) 734-8483