The Crisis of Post-Pandemic Early Elementary Literacy in Montgomery County MD (part TWO of a four-part series)

Maryland has a large immigrant community.  Roughly one in seven Maryland residents was born in another country, while one in eight is a native-born American who has at least one immigrant parent.  Meanwhile, as of 2020 Census, there wee 75,000 illegal immigrants in Montgomery County, 43,000 of Central American origin.

Immigration can take a rough toll on families.  Even if a family has means, which many do, starting over again at the bottom of the income-earning totem pole, managing separation from spouses & siblings for extended periods, and adjusting to a completely different culture can take every ounce of energy one has.  But if there is no cushion or margin, especially if the immigrant comes from an economically-deprived town of origin, the challenges are compounded.  Imagine healthcare for a child who has never been to the doctor before, legal aid for someone who has never filled out a form on their own before, mental health care for a parent who has never dreamed of going to a professional for help with personal problems.

Now imagine a child learning how to read in this environment.  You may think a school system like Montgomery County Public Schools can provide everything needed to get a child reading but that is NOT the case.  If you are a person of means and your 1st grader is struggling to read and you are a dedicated parent, you will buy children’s books, inundate your shelves with them, visit the library, and/or read to your kid every night as a bedtime practice.  But if you are holding down two-three jobs, do not have discretionary money for books, do not have time to take your kid to the library, did not grow up in a home where reading was encouraged – if you even know how to read yourself! – you will be relying 100% on the school to get your child to read.

And how is the school doing on that account?  Last week, I introduced the Evidence of Learning assessment given each year to 3rd graders to measure their literacy readiness and noted that the pre-pandemic county-wide literacy rate of 82% in 2019 dropped precipitously almost in half to 46%.  What I did not reveal was that same statistic broken out for the Latino population: before the pandemic, it was hanging on at 71%.  In 2021, that percentage plummeted to 24%!  That’s right: last year, following the pandemic, only ¼ of all entering Latino 3rd graders knew how to read as per the Evidence of Learning assessment.

For the fastest-growing population in Montgomery County, this isn’t a problem; this is a crisis!  Especially because it is virtually impossible for school systems to single-handedly provide the sort of extra and individualized help to get that number of students up to speed.  It’s not an MCPS crisis; it’s a community crisis.

For this reason, after much prayer and discernment, the Germantown Global Connection is teaming up with Watkins Mill Elementary School and the Montgomery Village Foundation to provide after-school tutoring to the most struggling 2nd graders in the economically-deprived community of West Montgomery Village.  We will be recruiting volunteers to tutor once a week either on a Monday or Tuesday evening, from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at the Stedwick Community Center.  We will also need volunteers to help with hospitality, admin, and connecting with parents & families (Spanish-speakers needed for the last item).  Start date: Monday, October 3, 2022.

If it’s a community crisis, then the community – not just MCPS – needs to step up.  Won’t you join us?  Sign up HERE to help this Fall.

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