IDA Pushes LEARN Act

citizen | 5/31/2011, 5:50 a.m.
By Sherico Jones...
The International Dyslexia Association will be holding their 62nd annual literacy conference in Chicago in early November. Topics of discussion include training teachers to teach reading to diverse student populations.

By Sherico Jones

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is urging Congress to pass the Literacy Education for all, Results for the nation (LEARN) act. The LEARN act, introduced by Senator Patty Murray from Washington, would authorize federal literacy funds to be used for Multi-tier System of Supports (MTSS) to help struggling learners from birth through high school.

The LEARN act will ensure that all children in pre-k will be screened for language issues, vocabulary and phonics, Cinthia Haan; IDA board member and chair of the Government Affairs Committee said. It includes targeted intervention to boost areas of weakness. The goal is to continue to watch them and not let them get two years behind before referring them to Special Ed. This is not a Special Ed issue, its a teaching issue.

Part of the plan, according to Haan is for children to learn phonics and be able to read for knowledge by second grade; have this skill reinforced in third grade and be able to take in information and think critically by fourth grade.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, in 2007, the state of Illinois ranked 25th in the country for fourth grade scores. Haan states that fourth grade students who are not proficient in reading, are very likely to become the nations least-skilled, lowest-income, least-productive and most-costly citizens of tomorrow. Low-income and minority students are being left behind, she said. Only 15% of these students read proficiently by fourth grade.

We are not educating our kids to compete in this ever-changing global economy, she said. The pool that jobs, colleges and the military pull from is too small and shrinking because kids dont get to the fourth grade knowing how to read efficiently. Only 2 out of three do, according to the nations report card.

The Learn Act funding, coupled with state's enacting literacy laws, are the key to closing the achievement gaps for what IDA refers to as SEEDS kids: Struggling readers, English language learners, economically disadvantaged youth, dyslexia students and specific learning disability students.

The plan would require all teachers to be retrained and certified to teach reading. If the teacher is not effectively teaching children to read, they would either be re-trained or removed from the school system. The LEARN act would provide $12 billion in federal funding to facilitate this.

Most children with reading difficulties arent addressed until after 3rd grade, by then the child is seriously behind and losing self-esteem, Haan said. The perky, bright-eyed, eager student we witnessed in Pre-K thru 2nd grade has begun to feel stupid and inadequate. It will take years of work for this child to catch-up; the child has lost important developmental growth [and] is highly likely to never reach grade level reading and may drop-out of high school.

The national dropout rate in 2007 was 16%. The dropout rate among African-American students, ages 16-24, was 9.9% compared to 4.8% for their Caucasian counterparts; according to the latest report from the Illinois National Center for Education Statistics.

In 2007, 6.2 million young people ages 16-24 years old had dropped out of high school and will cost our society an estimated $260,000 each in lost earnings, taxes and productivity, Haan said. Americas high school dropout rate has become a national crisis,

The IDA, which has become the Illinois Dyslexia and Literary Association, will be hosting its 62nd annual Reading, Literacy and Learning Conference November 9-12 at the Hilton Chicago. Topics of discussion include teaching diverse student populations how to read. The IDA is hoping to start a grassroots literacy movement.

The LEARN act is currently in the Illinois senate and is the only one that specifically targets comprehensive literacy, Haan said.

These children can all be nurtured to grow, Haan said. I dont care if a student just came over the border with their parents and just learned the English language. I dont care if they have a learning disability or if they struggle due to trouble at home; if teachers understand the roots of language and are trained to teach diverse populations, these kids can learn to read.

For more information or to register for the upcoming Literacy conference visit: www.interdys.org.