Thursday, July 03, 2008

Marilyn Brown: Fewer Students Read Between Lines

Fewer Students Read Between Lines
The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - Despite a decade of education reform, tens of thousands of Florida's high school students don't read well enough to survive in the work force.

•This year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results revealed just 38 percent of 10th graders are proficient in reading.

•About one fourth of Hillsborough County high school students - 12,088 - were placed in remedial reading classes in 2007-08.

•Nearly 35 percent of students who entered Florida's community colleges in 2006 were required to take remedial reading.

•College entrance exam reading scores are not improving. SAT scores remain basically flat in Florida and ACT reading scores in Florida dropped four points in 2007, nine points below the national average.

Now, after years of focusing on young readers, educators are turning their attention to high school students who need help. In addition to the reading class Hillsborough County requires for all ninth-graders and the remedial classes for the district's weakest readers, middle and high school students will have new curriculum in August emphasizing higher level thinking skills.

"The No. 1 problem in secondary education in our state and in our country is a decline in literacy in high school," said Don Gaetz, a former superintendent and chairman of Florida's Senate K-12 education committee.

State Education Commissioner Eric Smith notes recent statewide progress - the percentage of 10th-graders scoring in the lowest level has dropped from 32 percent in 2001 to 20 percent this year - but says "it's not even close to being adequate."

Gaetz, superintendent in Okaloosa County from 2000 to 2006, figures there are two reasons, echoed by national experts:

"We quit teaching reading in fifth grade," and, "In general, no one is responsible for the literacy of a high school student."

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