Must read by age eight: sure sign of a faulty system

The assumptions in this Time magazine article frustrate me. The article is calledWhy Third Grade Is So Important: The ‘Matthew Effect’.”

From the article: “Too often the story unfolds this way: struggles in third grade lead to the ‘fourth-grade slump,’ as the reading-to-learn model comes to dominate instruction.”

Could we develop a new model? One that doesn’t leave so many kids behind based on a single skill? It’s as though there is one and only one way to teach beyond third grade — this “reading-to-learn model” — and if it doesn’t serve a certain population of students, well then, too bad for them. Never mind any other skill or talent they may have in spades; if they cannot do this one thing by the time they’re eight years old, if they cannot learn according to the only system we can come up with, they’re sunk, for the rest of their schooling career and by extension everything that comes after.

When children are not forced to read before they are ready, then some of them learn to read early, most learn around seven or nine years old, and some learn later than that. And by the time they’re teenagers, they’re all at the same level, and you can’t tell which kids learned when. IF they’re allowed to learn at their own pace, with no dire consequences for waiting a while.

Nobody should have their whole educational career hanging on the development of a single skill by age eight. If that is what is happening, then that is the sign of an incredible lack of imagination and an extremely faulty system.


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