Groups: NJ schools can do much more to keep students reading at grade level
Many New Jersey students aren't reading at their grade level.
According to some advocates, this is likely due in part to the fact that New Jersey public schools aren't consistent in the way they approach literacy instruction.
So, a number of groups from across the Garden State are teaming up with a goal of putting an end to business-as-usual literacy instruction.
“Teaching students to read should be an unwavering professional pursuit informed by evidence and a track record of success, not based on a popularity contest of which teaching method is preferred or currently in vogue," said Paula White, executive director of the advocacy organization JerseyCAN.
The Cranford-based organization is the main voice behind the New Jersey Legacy of Literacy Coalition, which recently held its first event to present data on literacy gaps to parents and other members of the public.
How subjects are taught, in general, is a local decision. But, White said, there are methods of instruction that are more likely than others to help a child read.
"When we're not utilizing those strategies, what we're doing is we're selling kids short," she told New Jersey 101.5.
JerseyCAN pointed to the latest Nation's Report Card as a call to action for a high-quality statewide plan. The state ranked well for reading proficiency among eighth-graders, but recorded its lowest fourth-grade reading scores since 2005.
The Garden State, meanwhile, has failed to move the needle in closing racial or socioeconomic gaps in fourth-grade reading proficiency for the past two decades, JerseyCAN noted.
Beyond raising awareness about the issue, the campaign intends to lobby for legislation in New Jersey that could help to promote consistency with literacy instruction, including measures aimed at teacher training and keeping parents more informed about their child's progress in school.
On Wednesday, JerseyCAN showcased literacy data and hosted a screening of the documentary The Right to Read in Newark. It's next stop is May 24 in Asbury Park, where reportedly 0% of third-grade public school students are reading at grade level. A screening in Camden is scheduled for May 31.
JerseyCAN plans to schedule more public events in the weeks ahead.