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Nurturing adults and active play
can improve your child’s
readiness for learning.
Nurturing adults and active play
can improve your child’s
readiness for learning.

Readiness for School

542 words


What Is Really Causing Low Achievement In Schools?
by Dianne Roth


Our local school board just received a report showing that children enter middle school reading at a higher level than when they enter high school. These appalling statistics often lead to a knee-jerk reaction to blame schools.

There are some questions that need asking. Were the same students tested at the beginning of middle school and again as they entered high school? In other words, did student "x" read better when she entered middle school than when she entered high school? Or, was the study based on student "x"s reading ability upon entering middle school and student "y"'s ability upon entering high school? Both studies might yield the same statistical data, but would give a different picture of the problem.

In the rush to point fingers, cause and effect is skewed toward schools, blaming teachers for being unable to maintain a steady growth curve of academic achievement based on testing.

As a teacher, I have observed a body of cause and effect that is being ignored. I taught first and second grade in a local public school until my retirement two years ago. Over my career I saw a slow, but consistent, decline in the readiness of young children coming into school. While the effect shows up in the school, the cause originates outside of it.

More children are coming to school hungry, tired, abused, obese, molested, unwashed, depressed, angry, junk fed, drug addicted, traumatized by visual images, and generally unsupervised and unnurtured. Social research shows that learning can only happen when a child is feeling safe and included. Trauma of any kind alienates children, leaving teachers dealing with behaviors rather than achievement.

In addition to this list of destructive childhood issues, children have spent hours and hours of their formative years sitting in front of a screen. Brain research shows that necessary electrical connections in the brain are only formed during movement through space, problem solving, and creative activity... read "play". Screen time offers none of this. Children are coming to school pacified and hypnotized by television and computer games. What's a teacher to do?

I taught in a school district near Corvallis. The teachers are well trained, committed, creative, caring people. They are representative of the legions of teachers who spend long hours preparing lessons that are delivered competently and carefully. However, there is little even the best teacher can do to overcome the violence, neglect, and apathy that many children experience in their homes.

Along with continuing efforts to improve our schools, we need to identify how our society under-values its children and begin sinking research and educational dollars into parenting models and interventions that will help children arrive at schoolhouse doors, ready to learn.


Dianne Roth is a teacher, mother, grandmother, and freelance writer. She lives in Oregon.




Last updated on October 8, 2012