By Topeka Capital-Journal, Feb. 9
The ability of K-12 students in Kansas to read at their appropriate grade levels is receiving a lot of attention from legislators, as it does every year and as it should.
A recent report shows that far too many of Kansas fourth-graders, and other students, are testing below proficient in reading and that the achievement gap between students from low-income homes and higher-income homes is widening.
State and local education officials should be alarmed at such findings and should do everything possible to increase the reading ability of all students at an early age. Increasing the number of students who read at grade level and reducing the achievement gap between low- and higher-income students would be a notable achievement.
But everyone must realize total success is beyond reach. Those who think one day all students will read at grade level and there will be no proficiency gap are fooling themselves. Society and home life play roles in K-12 education that, so far, no one has figured out how to completely overcome.
Some young people living in poverty do very well in school, generally because their parents or someone else in the household respects education, passes that respect along to the child and shows an interest in his or her achievement.
Students who don’t have that support at home generally don’t do as well in school regardless of economic status, although some in all socioeconomic groups do exhibit the self-determination to succeed on their own.
Constantly throwing more money at the schools isn’t the answer to proficiency, neither is removing the least effective 5 percent of teachers working in public schools, as one legislator suggests.
School funding doesn’t follow a student out on the streets.
Granted, ineffective teachers should be weeded out as soon as they are recognized. That may be possible when there is a surplus of good teachers looking for employment, but not so easy when school districts are struggling to fill available teaching positions. And there’s always going to be a bottom 5 percent, regardless of how good a district’s staff may be.
The readiness of the children society sends to schools has a great bearing on the success of our educators. Anyone who doesn’t believe that should visit an elementary school.
That doesn’t mean we should accept the status quo. Teachers must strive to get the best from all students.
In the end, there will be students who aren’t proficient and an achievement gap. Keeping those numbers as low as possible will be success.
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