Literacy, learning and Common Core standards …

I’m really conflicted in the debate re: the Common Core and its higher standards of learning.

As I argued in a prior post, I’m all for giving students a more rigorous education, but wonder if the emphasis on standards is just a diversion from fixing fundamental problems.

See Common Core: Is the problem really standards?

Said differently, it’s really easy to print & mail higher standards, but … what good are they if students aren’t achieving lower standards because of their capabilities, their environment or the educational delivery system. 

Case in point: U.S. literacy rates.

My hunch: all states have standards that say, at a minimum, “students should be able to read”.

Still, Google “U.S. Literacy Rates” and you get linked to articles with titles like:

The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn’t Changed In 10 Years

Broad-scale studies indicate that less than 15% of the U.S. population reads proficiently.




Think about those findings for a moment …


Despite a gazilion dollars spent on education, we haven’t been able to budge literacy rates.

As a result, “America is the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less educated than the previous one.”  Source

Geez, what good are higher STEM standards if students can’t read?

And, the social implications are monumental.

Here are a few stats that put the situation in context:

  • Students who don’t read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school.
  • 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.
  • Teenage girls between the ages of 16 to 19 who have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than girls their age who can read proficiently.
  • 75% of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of literacy
  • Over 70% of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.

What’s the problem?

I don’t think it’s low standards.

Again, my hunch: all states have standards that say, at a minimum, “students should be able to read”.

If that’s not getting done, can higher standards be achieved?


Demographics: I was a bit surprised to see the demographic breakout.

Stare at the data for a moment and draw your own conclusions …




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