Since the appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967, little else has been achieved in bridging the wide gap in literacy levels between students of color and their counterparts.
Researchers at the National Dropout Prevention Center note that students who read below grade level receive poor grades and often fall behind and, in some cases, fail to graduate from high school with a diploma in their hands. Reading levels among at-risk students strongly correlate to poverty, crime, and unemployment in adults without an education.
The best schools now focus on giving students the tools they need to stay engaged with what they’re reading. Schools and literacy movements are working hard towards encouraging positive attitudes about reading at all grade levels. This is through supporting upper-level students as they transition from middle school to high school and helping elementary school students from diverse backgrounds reach their potential by improving access to free online libraries, books, and culturally contextualized pedagogy.
Literacy gap for students of color
According to recent studies, students who are identified as at-risk read at the eighth-grade level. This is significantly lower than their white and Asian counterparts, who read at the tenth-grade level. Achieving literacy at the eighth-grade level is a crucial step to improving student achievement. This is the level when students have the highest chances of passing a high school equivalency exam.
Black literacy matters
In the United States, it’s widely believed that students who read below grade level perform worse academically. These students cannot break down information and create emotional connections, which is a key component in understanding text. Students with poor literacy skills fall further behind in their academic pursuits. Reading below eighth-grade level demonstrates a strong correlation with poverty, crime, and unemployment. The most prominent victims of these occurrences are Black adolescents, including teenagers in high school with barely any chance of getting into college.
Schools that foster positive attitudes about reading help students reach their potential
Schools that use responsive teaching methods effectively help students of color achieve their potential. They have a higher percentage of their graduating classes attending college and enrolling in advanced learning opportunities in high school.
Since the Black Lives Matter Movement peaked last year, schools that have shown significant progress with minority students share commonalities like implementing culturally relevant teaching methods, identifying equity gaps, and fostering positive attitudes about reading. These include Madison Park Elementary, Fruitvale Elementary, Madison Park Elementary, and Hoover Elementary, all with ELA scores of above 50%.
Experts advocate for the importance of seeing the future generation through a new lens, to improve instruction based on their needs and motivate and equip them to participate in the learning process. This is attainable through nurturing positive relationships with students and ensuring learning materials are accessible and centered on relatable topics in life.