Why Do So Many Good Students Begin to Struggle In The Higher Grades?

According to Natalie Wexler our youngest students are not given the tools they need to develop into academically strong adolescents in high school. The measuring tools she used to arrive at this conclusion are the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam and our very own state and national exams.

The latest PISA exam was administered to over 10 million students worldwide and most of them were not able to complete the basic reading tasks that are expected of a 10 year-old. This is concerning because the exam is given to 15 year-old students.

Students in the United States have not occupied the top spots in performance on this exam in more than two generations. Even though slight gains were seen for American students in the last exam, the results are no reason to celebrate. The gains were not due to American students scoring higher on the exam. They were due to a decline in performance by students in some of the countries ahead of us.

For two decades our education systems have attacked the performance problem at the high school level but Natalie believes that poor performance in high school is the result of a poor academic foundation formed in the elementary years. She believes that, “In an effort to boost reading scores, many elementary and even middle schools have virtually eliminated social studies, science, and the arts to make more time for practicing “finding the main idea” on disconnected texts that don’t enable kids to acquire much knowledge. Ironically, the subjects schools have marginalized are the ones that hold the potential to boost kids’ knowledge of the world—and, ultimately, their reading comprehension.” And I tend to agree.

Because of an absence of books in the house where I grew up, my mother gathered and had me read to her the condensed novels from Readers Digest. Talk about heavy reading for an eight year-old… We kept a dictionary close at hand to pronounce and define words I did not know. This caused my vocabulary expanded far beyond that of my peers in our little country school.

The concepts made known to me while struggling to read novels years beyond my age allowed me to participate in conversations that would otherwise only confused and frustrated me. I can tell you from experience that communicating clearly and concisely as a young child with the adults in your life can change the way that child views their world

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