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Advanced language development needed in schools
5/20/2014 12:50:11 PM

Dear Editor,

Our school system can not create the future by clinging to the past. None of us need to memorize that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. That information is recorded. What students need is the ability to comprehend the basic language in their grade-level books. And what adults need is the ability to comprehend the basic language in college-level books. Einstein explained it this way: “Know where to find the information and how to use it—that’s the secret of success.” 

Advanced language development is the foundation of advanced reading levels. Language development starts the day of birth. Kindergarten starts at age five. By age five, students may already be more than five years apart in language development. Five-year-olds from language-rich environments may have the language development expected of a typical eight-year-old. Five-year-olds from language-poor environments may have the language development expected of a typical two-year-old. 

In order for students to comprehend what they read, they need to understand 90 to 95% of the words. When students are placed above their reading levels, they are not able to understand much of what they read and little or no reading growth may occur. However, those same students usually understand when their teachers interpret what their books say for them. That’s because conversational language may be as simple as the third-grade level. 

According to our Nation’s Report Card, just 32% of eighth graders can read at or above the eighth-grade level. Eighth graders who read at the fifth-grade level would need to make four years reading growth during eighth grade to be at level by ninth grade. Our school system allows one year to make one-year’s reading growth. How can students, who make below-average reading growth, be expected to gain four-years growth in just one year when they aren’t even able to understand much of the language in their books?  

Children from language-rich environments may read at the ninth-grade level by fifth grade. There is no reason for students who read at the ninth-grade level to learn social studies, science, etc. from fifth-grade books. In order to reach their full potential, minds need to read the most challenging language they can comprehend. Reportedly, up to 20% of dropouts are gifted students who feel unchallenged, ignored, and frustrated.

Correct placement of students would awaken the sleeping giant—Motivation. As one high schooler put it, “If I could get out of school by being able to read at the college level, I’d read 24-7.” The millions/billions saved by allowing upward movement according to reading levels could be used for “Language School.” Language School would be quality daycare for all children and thus, a show-stopper for the “unbreakable cycle of poverty.”

Laura Froemling
Retired Teacher and Author

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