Friday 16 Apr, 2010

Improving literacy skills

A math class in Woburn, Mass., has started writing notes in plain English to solve algebra problems, going along with a common trend in Massachusetts to improve literacy skills among older students.  The UNESCO Institute for Statistics found that U.S. students in fourth grade score among the best literacy scores in the world, but by the time they reach eighth grade their scores are much lower.  By tenth grade, their scores are among the lowest in the world.

To help solve this problem, the trend in Massachusetts has been to strategically weave in literacy to all subjects and grades.  For students who do not meet the established reading standards, there are now targeted programs to intervene like the Scholastic READ 180 program used in Lawrence, which combines reading and Internet content.  Many districts are also trying to instill a passion for reading by introducing more contemporary books.  Experts in the field think these initiatives are crucial since after fourth grade students no longer learn to read, they read to learn.  If they cannot read at their grade level, they cannot understand the material and the probelm spirals from there.  Hopefully with this continued effort, American students will see improved literacy scores.

Ken Mills uses a diagram to help explain an algebraic concept to his eighth-graders at Woburn’s Joyce Middle School. (Mary Schwalm for The Boston Globe)