Illiteracy (Pt 2)

If the numbers in my last post weren’t enough to convince you that illiteracy truly is a problem in America, then I’d like to take it a step further.

I was brought back to the issue when I re-watched the ending to ‘Won’t Back Down‘ this afternoon.  And I was reminded how I felt, watching the movie on the plane ride to Japan, how emotional watching this movie was and the issues it brings to the forefront.

To make a long synopsis short, the movie is about a mother whose daughter is dyslexic.  She keeps getting passed through the grades without anyone addressing the issue; she continuously gets picked on at school because her dyslexia has left her unable to read.  Her mother, after coming to her school one day sees how disinterested her teacher is, not only in the students and the problems within the classroom, but her own teaching as well.  She takes it upon herself to try and enact the Parent Trigger law and takeover the failing public school.  She enlists the help of one of the teachers at the school.  The movie documents them pulling together the signatures and getting parents to understand the importance of the Parent Trigger law.

The Parent Trigger law (PTL), which was first introduced in 2006 in California, is based on a pre-existing law that allows schools to be transformed if enough petitions from teachers are signed.  The basis for the PTL is such that public schools can be transformed into private schools.  If the majority of parents sign the petition (51% and above) they are given control over the school and the ability to turn it into a charter.

In 2010, the California legislature passed the ‘Parent Empowerment’ law to become the first state in the national with a PTL.

Since the PTL passed in California, over 20 states have attempted their own PTL’s and Mississippi, Texas, Indiana, Louisiana and Columbus, Ohio have enacted their own PTL.

Under the PTL, schools with an Academic Performance Index score of 800 or below qualify.  If the school falls into the range, parents can enact PTL and choose one out of four options: convert the school into a charter, replace the old staff and make budget decisions, dismiss the principal, dissolve the school and relocate the students to other schools.  With at least half of the school’s parents signing petition, the school district MUST implement the policy they choose.

The PTL has been challenged in some states, with blockages of the PTL in two California cities.  Others feel that many parents don’t really understand what is going on, and that they are being mislead by groups like the Parent Revolution.

For everything in this world, there will always be opposition.  It is human nature to play devil’s advocate, to look at the coin from both sides.  In this issue, I feel like the opposition comes from a lot of people wanting to keep up pretenses, rather than fixing a failing system.

These parents have it right.  Education in America has come under fire for years, and when you compare our nation to other countries, we rant 18th out of 23 for industrialized countries.  18th!  We used to be the leader!  (

The site linked above provides some chilling facts about the American education system.  Fact #6: Approximately 6 million students grades 7 through 12 are struggling to read at grade-level.  Struggling to read.  How is it that they get so far into their schooling, and still have a problem reading?  How can high school seniors still stumble over words that we should’ve been learning in first and second grade?

You wanna know how?  Because they get swept under the rug, pushed along to be the next person’s problem.  It’s sad.  So very sad.

Another sad, sad statistic.  So many teachers in school right now want to bring change, they want to be that teacher that overcomes the odds, helps all of their students, and sends them all along to brighter futures.  And many of these teachers quit within the first five years.  14% resign after the first year, 33% by year three, and 50% by year five.  New teachers, introduced into an old and failing system.  It’s no wonder they quit so soon, how can you come into a broken system and try to fix it, when no one else around you wants to.  And why don’t they want to?  Because they’re comfortable.  And change is hard.  Maybe these teachers, too, had the idea of being a new mold of teacher, of going against the education system and bringing a new type of ‘teacher’ to light.  But after years and years of abuse, of being forced into this straight and narrow box, they too have become a part of the problem.

But is it really alright to blame them?  Or should we look at the system itself?

The last, and maybe the most shocking?  High schools aren’t preparing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel after graduation.  1 in 4… you read that right, 1 in 4 students graduates from high school with the right knowledge and preparations to excel in the four core subjects in college.

This is obviously a subject very near and dear to my heart.  I’m an avid reader… I gobble books up like they’re candy.  I can’t imagine someone else, my age, who is incapable of reading a book.  And it’s not even for lack of trying, but rather an education system that failed them so early on, that by the time they reached high school, they were told they were beyond help.  I heard that enough in my years at high school, that if you’ve made it that far being unable to read, you may as well just continue like you have, because at that point there is nothing they can do to help you.  This is a sad reality we live in, and one that so many choose to ignore.

‘Ignorance isn’t bliss, but sometimes ignorance makes it possible for us to sleep at night,” – Dean Koontz, Dark Rivers of the Heart


Another wonderful illiteracy source:


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