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Are you surprised that 18 percent of the students at a local junior high school have difficulty reading?

Asked at Checkers, 23rd and Louisiana streets on October 18, 2004

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Photo of Erin Flessing

“Yes. I wouldn’t think that people of that age would have difficulty reading.”

Photo of John Vannicola

“Yes I am. That is a pretty high number. You would think that the education system would better prepare them.”

Photo of Jeff Cuttell

“No. My wife works for a public school with children with special needs. She has filled me in on some of the problems that they have.”

Photo of Donna Swall

“Well it disappoints me, but it doesn’t necessarily surprise me. I know that some kids have difficulties learning, and that not all of the needs are being met in the schools.”


mr_daniels 13 years, 4 months ago

Thank God for Home Schooling! Plus. Larry, you are on Sir!

Carmenilla 13 years, 4 months ago

Read my post above......We are a society of non-readers. Unless the reading is on a TV screen or video game, that is.

mrcairo 13 years, 4 months ago

I don't belive those numbers. Hell that's about 1 out of 5. I wonder if the person testing had a clue. What did they test the kids on? Technical jargon? See Spot Run? Reading these rediculous posts?

I don't believe it.

mrcairo 13 years, 4 months ago

Hi_Jinks, how kind of you to point out the error in my ways.

To think someone with 2 Masters Degrees would make such a mistake. Tsk tsk.

italianprincess 13 years, 4 months ago

So would you say this then.........

The No Child Left Behind is a BIG FAT Joke????????

I know of many 5th and 6th graders that still can't spell and they graduate. You think the teachers at their schools would have noticed this and helped them out.

The scores in the paper last week reflect alot on whats going on in our schools here in Lawrence. The school my son attends had an average of 41.2 % of students who had trouble with writing.

Just look at the all reflects there.

Larry 13 years, 4 months ago

It amazes me that everyone wants to point the finger. Do you really think that the education system is at total fault here? How about placing some blame on the parents? With five members of my family working in the education profession, I have had many conversations about instructional strategies, NCA, QPA, NCLB, SIP, SBC, etc.etc. etc.

Educators are still working their tails off to find new and innovative ways to teach our children. The biggest problem is holding the attention of the children, helping them get motivated to learn, or having children come to school hungry or worried about where they will be staying that night (mom or dad's house or in a car). How about the fact that every time something goes wrong, it is the teachers fault. There is no way that we could blame a nine-year old or place some responsibility on the parent. That wouldn't be politically correct! If a student can't read or do grade level academics in the second grade (because Mommy and Daddy were too busy to read to him in the evenings, weekends, or help him with homework), it becomes the teacher fault. The school system attempts to hold the student back a year, but Mommy and Daddy are more worried about the social ramifications than whether or not the kid can read. That kid then learns at a very early age that "I don't have to do it" and he doesn't.

I have stopped by my brothers classroom on many occasions and each time, one thing comes to mind - I think he is NUTS. He is eligible to retire and can't decide whether or not to do so. That means that he is indeed NUTS. He works his tail off and can barely get needed support from the parents of struggling kids. NOT ALL, but some. He is quick to point out that most children of today are more interested in TV and computer games. Every few years, I get to hear about the NEW EDUCATIONAL theory that college professors (who haven't been in a classroom for years) are shoving down the throats of public school teachers. Maybe it is time to let teachers TEACH and give them the authority to discipline, have higher expectations than the parents, hold kids back who refuse to work in class. How about this? No child tax break for those parents whose children don't meet the proficient level on the state assessments. Ummm, what is that you say? That would be a bad idea because some parents might beat their children. EXACTLY MY POINT about parenting! How about no regular driver's license for high school students who don't meet proficiency on the state assessments. They can still have the restricted for work and school, but not the regular license until 18. School might get interesting in a hurry for some of these kids.

my_Two_cents 13 years, 4 months ago

Hoof_hearted You are right, Some of the kids who can't read, maybe there parents should use the books they have at home for more than door stops. those books hold more doors open than just the ones at home.

italianprincess 13 years, 4 months ago

For your information I am an educator myself and I see it all the time.

Yes there are parents who are to busy to work with their kids and their kids fall behind. You can't simply blame it all on the parents though either.

Some kids don't want to learn either which puts them in a higher level of not learning much and not caring. I'm not blaming the schools, but at my son's school according to the paper that was the percentage for writing.

Isn't the " No Child Left Behind " supposed to make sure kids are learning at their level and ready to advance?

Like I said, I'm not purely blaming the schools, but you can't put all the blame on the parents either. Maybe they need to make learning more fun for some kids also. Some kids do get bored in class and need to be more stimulated.

Larry 13 years, 4 months ago

Compare the assessment scores from this year to a couple of years back. Looks to me that most scores are going up. We can't expect the scores to jump to 80% over night but it appears that most districts are making progress. From what I keep hearing, school district curriculums are now more in line with state curriculums than ever before. This is because school districts have no choice but to do so due to the state assessment requirements and AYP. That sounds to me like NCLB has put pressure on our school districts to ENSURE that kids learn rather than provide an opportunity to learn as in the past.

Secondly - (to italianprincess) - To you - the utmost respect for doing what you do. However, I believe that NCLB only requires that states guarantee that 100% of students reach the 80% by 2015ish. NCLB requirements are broad in general. As I understand it, the State of Arkansas high school Math assessment could be the equivalent of the Kansas middle school assessment, yet if 80% of their high school students score at the proficient level, the state of Arkansas meets AYP. The states gets to determine what information is mastered for the AYP requirement. In addition, in Colorado, if a school district doesn't make AYP, the entire staff has to attend a one-day Math inservice. As you know, in Kansas, the consequences for not reaching AYP are much different.

It seems to me that NCLB has simply made school districts scramble to reorganize their curriculum and as far as I can tell, scores are on the increase. By the way, although the Bush administration spearheaded the creation of NCLB, they didn't write NCLB. Check out the history of NCLB and it's creators and you will see non other than Mass. Senator Kennedy on the list. If I'm wrong about this, please correct me. I admit that this information is coming from my conversations with close friends and family members who are educators at every level including administration.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 4 months ago

Someone I know very well works in the Topeka school system (Boy! You want to talk about horror stories! Some of you people out there have no idea what goes on in our nation's schools, let me tell you!). And from everything that this person has shared with me......Virtually everything that Larry said in his post sounds "oh, so familiar" to my ears!

Larry.....You the man!

I'm sorry, folks.....But if you don't agree with all (or some) of Larry's post......that's fine! You're entitled to your opinion! But, personally, I believe Larry's post gets a "gold star"!

Congratulations, Larry!

Also, where Larry speaks in his post about some parents unwillingness to hold their kid back a year (social stigma) an absolute bullseye!!! There are many parents that don't want to hear the truth about their kid! And there are many parents who don't have a clue, either! If a parent is told that their child may have some sort of "deficiency".......some parents freak! They interpret their own kid's "learning disability" or "social deficiencies" (with regards to how well one student gets along with other kids) as......"You mean to tell me that my kid has mental problems??!! You mean my kid has social disorders like so many mass murderers had when they were kids??!! Oh, no! You don't know what you're talking about! My kid is fine! He is not retarded, autistic, socially-challenged, or whatever it is you are trying to tell me! I know my kid, you don't!"

Too many parents don't have a clue about their kid's needs and/or deficiencies.....and/or when they do meet with a teacher, special ed instructor, and/or administrator, they freak out when they hear that their kid might be something less than "perfect"!!

Parents do need to be more involved with their kids!

And another thing......That whole business of...."Hey! Me and my significant other work all day! I wish we had more time to spend with our kids, but bills have to be paid, ya know!!"....That is such a crock! What in this world is more important than your kid(s)???!!! Obviously, for whatever the reason or reasons, there seems to be a whole lot of children who aren't getting enough attention at home (in one form or another) and it shows in our schools! I would hardly consider taking a kid to soccer practice or buying him or her computer games as a true form of "proper attention"!!!

This whole situation is sad (no matter what you think the reasons for it are)!

It really is!

Andre_Linoge 13 years, 4 months ago

A significant percentage of American children can't read today because the government school system is designed to prevent them from becoming literate. Language instruction today uses the whole-language approach. Children are given words lists to memorize. They are not taught phonics but rather look-say. They are taught to approach English words as though they were Chinese characters. They look at the word as an complete symbol and guess at its pronunciation. They are not taught to decode the phonetic structure of the word. They system is designed to dumb-down the population. From the looks of the Democrat Party, its working very well. Visit

Carmenilla 13 years, 4 months ago

I'm not surprised by 18%. What do we expect when barely half the population picks up a book anymore? When did reading become so passe? As we sit here and type away on our keyboards, imagine a world without books. I, for one, think its a societal shift. We put way too much value on mainstream media to "educate" our children. And the schools are overextended and under funded. We have to get back to responsible choices and parenting. We've always read to our child and she loves books. We don't have TV channels or cable and limit her movie intake at home. There are choices we can make to encourage our children to read. We have to be good examples or what else can we expect.......

Haymaker 13 years, 4 months ago

It's ALL the fault of No Child Left Behind. I mean, decades of apathetic parents and a society of entitlement doesn't have anything to do with it. While our schools aren't perfect, I am guessing that the kids have received sufficient instruction in reading by the time they reach junior high. If they still can't read, even the most detached and self absorbed parent should notice.

Adrienne Sanders 13 years, 4 months ago

I gotta say, does it occur to anyone that these non-reading kids are the product of non-reading parents?

Yes, No Child Left Behind is a bunch of crud, and Yes, kids should be taught phonics, not memorization. But parents are ultimately responsible for a child's upbringing and that includes education... unfortunately we're already more than one generation into the parental attitude that schools should do all the teaching. If parents don't want to take responsibility for teaching children themselves, they will have to demand more from the schools, and come up with a better plan than NCLB.

Adam 13 years, 4 months ago

If they really want kids to learn how to read and write, how about making subtitles mandatory for all tv broadcasts

Lulu 13 years, 4 months ago

I see the problems with teaching children to read everyday.

If more children were forced to go on Ritalin, then their attention spans would improve in order to learn.

Unfortunately, teachers feel inhibited in exibiting to counselors the determination that children who act up and have short attention spans, need medicinal attention. It would be a service for more children to be evaluated. There most likely wouldn't be a problem in teaching children how to read.

The State and Federal Government should get more involved to press for total psychological evaluations of every child in our schools.

I think the Kerry/Edwards ticket realizes the shortfalls of education and they have a plan for real change in our educational system. They want additional funding which is welcome compared to what the shrub has done.

Carmenilla 13 years, 4 months ago

Please let Lulu be fictional.....I do think today's children are in a precarious state of imbalance. Between junk food and fast food, mindless TV and numbing video games, no excercise but a constant bombardment of "you have to be thin" ads, we have created a generation of neglected children. Not all children, mind you, but a lot of kids whose parents work 2 and 3 jobs struggle to get what they need. I think it has moved beyond economic issues and the neglect can also be found in the suburbs. Family has become second to "efficiency".....

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 4 months ago


It's "ridiculous" , not "rediculous".

And having said that, I have to ask you, mrcairo.....

How well did you do in school when you were a kid? Did you fall into that "18 percentile"?

italianprincess 13 years, 4 months ago

Im a single mom with two children ( both boys...ages 16 and 7 ) and I work 12 to 13 hour days. I have taught in the education field since I was 18 and I'm 40 now.l I teach preschool out of my home to get young children ready for Kindergarten.

I have taught both my boys since they were about two and even read to them while in the womb. My oldest is an honor student at Free State and my youngest excells at his school.

It may have alot to do with some parents finding time to sit with their kids and listen to them read or read to them. I always take time for family issues before my mom mode schedule of cleaning starts. My boys are in bed by a certain time, have a limited time for tv watching and homework is always done after school when they both get home. Now my oldest has a afterschool job, so his is done when he gets home from work.

Parents simply need to take the time to nuture their kids before letting them out into the world. Teaching begins at home, but at the same time if a teacher notices something wrong in a subject at school, the parent should be advised about it right away. To many kids are left behind and they conitinue not knowing the simple things in life like reading and writing.,

As far as giving your kids drugs.......Please Not all kids need to be drugged to listen at school. It takes a really good teacher and alot of patience also. Teachers may need to be a bit more patience with some of the kids have trouble.

I always try to make learning a fun process and to keep the kids attention as long as I possibly can.

Its a parent / teacher issue here, but the real learing process of life begins at home........

Richard Heckler 13 years, 4 months ago

NCLB creates more paperwork, turns children into testing machines, according to what I'm told, and was not fully funded. It likely will be rewritten.

Italian Princess makes some very good points as does Larry.

Too much is expected of teaching staff regarding behavioral problems and maybe teaching and not enough money going into the teachers pockets or the classrooms(supplies etc.) Teachers should never have to purchase any teaching aid without 100% reimbursement.

Do some parents feel it is the total responsibility of a teacher to get the children through school? We were advised during parent teacher conferences that generally parents whose children are performing well is who they see during these confererence periods with a few exceptions. This tells me that the taching staff is available if parents would seek them out.

The larger the class size becomes makes things evermore difficult. Lawrence has done well but it may not continue forever if we continue to place expanded responsibilities on fewer teachers.

Tamara 13 years, 4 months ago

There is no single person to place the blame on, its everyone. A big part however, is the "No child left behind act" which prevents them from being held back, but doesn't really teach them anything. As a special ed. teacher at Oskaloosa Elementry, I worked with a child who was in the 5th grade, still wore a diaper, and couldn't even talk. She had the mental capacity of a one year old. Yet the next year she would be moving up to Middle school. How is that right? And Lary, I agree with you also, its attention that children need, reading for 20 min. before bed would easily solve this problem.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 4 months ago


Could you go into just a little more detail about that girl? What were the circumstances surrounding her? And how was it that she made it as far as the fifth grade? I'm curious.

Larry 13 years, 4 months ago

Tamara -There is NOTHING in NCLB that prevents a school from holding a child back. That is a State of Kansas law, not federal. School districts in Kansas now require parents to sign documents stating that "the parent was informed that the school district recommended that Johnny or Susie be held back, but the parent would not allow it." School districts do this as a legal precaution so that when Mommy and Daddy figure out that Johnny can't read in high school, they can't come back and take legal action against the district. Sad, but true!

Jane - I agree that too many students are being drugged - especially boys. However, I beg to differ that it is the teachers pushing the drugs. I know a few that do, but the vast majority would rather be able to DISCIPLINE the child than put the child on drugs. It has been my experience that the school psychologist and/or the family doctor are the main pushers. Not that all doctors and psychologist are like this as there are many good ones too!

As for kicking students out for a day or two. That would be fine and dandy except that many of the students who are creating the problems have IEP or 504 plans. With an IEP or 504, the school district legally has their hands tied. They are only allowed to boot a kid for a certain number of days. If they wish to exceed that number of days, they have to go through a manifestation hearing (where as they must prove with documents that the expulsion is due). It has to get pretty bad before a school district will go there.

I watch parents let their kids run, run, run at ball games, at the mall, at the movie theater and I wonder when and how these children ever learn to sit down. When I was a young lad, my parents made me sit right beside them at school functions, walk right beside them at the mall and I had to sit up straight in my chair at formal gatherings. I was never a problem at school because I knew that if I were to earn a spanking, my Dad and Mom would have asked me one question. How many swats? After my reply, I would have received twice that total from my Dad. He was also a principal within our school district, so hiding a spanking was not an option. Parenting has changed drastically since those days.

Good night all! I turn in early so I can get up early and get a good start on the new day for which the Lord has blessed us. God Bless!

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 4 months ago

Two Masters Degrees, mrcairo?!

Holy Cow!

me 13 years, 4 months ago

How about placing some of the blame on the kids? It's nearly impossible to teach someone who has no desire to learn. Kids these days are spoiled, angry, high, horny (well that's always been the issue) and lazy. They have no respect for their parents, peers, school administrators, teachers, etc. They tend to have horrible attitudes, whether it be hateful or just aloof and I would be hard pressed to not strangle them if I had to deal with them on a daily basis (thank heavens I don't!). My hat is off to you teachers!

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