By now, many of you have heard the sad statistics comparing pre-pandemic and post-pandemic literacy rates at the 2nd grade level in our community. If not, I’ll review: in 2019, 82% of all 2nd graders in Montgomery County at the end of the year demonstrated ‘literacy readiness’, that is, the ability to read well enough to learn all subjects via the written word. In 2021, two years later, that percentage dropped to 47.5%, vividly illustrating the drastic effects of COVID on our youngest and most vulnerable. But the statistics were more devastating for our Latinx students: from 71% in 2019 to 24% in 2021!
In response to these statistics, GGC has mobilized and stepped up to our part in addressing this crisis: a two-days/week literacy tutoring program for 2nd graders in West Montgomery Village area using volunteers to conduct one-on-one tutoring with a basic phonics-based curriculum. Kids are demonstrating significant improvement in phonics, reading, relationship with books, and even how their families approach learning as a whole. It has been stunning to watch.
Well, MCPS just came out with their 2022 statistics: how have the following year’s kids done county-wide? Better. Here are the trends:
As you can see, overall our entering 3rd grade literacy rate jumped up by about 13%. And our Latinx students by almost double that –a 26% improvement!
Is this good news? Most certainly! The trend is in the right direction and clearly we are making progress in rectifying the effects of the pandemic.
But lest we rein in our efforts, let’s take honest stock: even after these significant increases in literacy, as of this past year, only 3/5 of all entering 3rd graders in Montgomery County can read! And only ½ of entering Latinx students! The state with the lowest literacy rate is California: only 76% of residents can read. Even if we continue to make small strides in literacy, in a matter of years we would be projected to have a lower literacy rate than California! By comparison, the country of Sudan had a 58% literacy rate in 2015.
The point is, while we may applaud ourselves for making progress, it isn’t enough. Not near enough. Unless drastic measures are taken to address the literacy pandemic, ten years from now we could be watching tens of thousands of teenagers failing miserably in school and not having a chance at living wages or further education.
GGC has decided this is not just an MCPS problem but an issue the whole community needs to address.
What can you do?
- Become a tutor or a reader at the Let’s Read! Literacy Tutoring Program and volunteer on a Monday or Tuesday evening.
- Join the Black and Brown Coalition (www.bandbcoalition.org) that is addressing educational deficiencies among people of color head-on.
- Write a letter to your County Council member, many of whom are newly elected, and remind them of the plight.
- Pray for fifty more tutoring programs around Montgomery County to address the problem.
After food, shelter, and clothing, I’m not sure I can think of a more pressing issue to address in our community. Let’s not stop now. Let’s finish the job!