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Compounding ANNUAL surtax for failure to teach reading

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The Education Consumers Foundation (ECF) has developed a calculator which reports projected local, state and federal spending for welfare, healthcare and public safety on behalf of students who have not mastered reading by grade 3.

State (Nebraska State Accountability NeSA) and Federal (National Assessment of Educational Progress NAEP) reading scores vary by a wide margin. Using different tests changes the perception of student proficiency (see illustration). The State and Federal “hidden annual surtax” associated with reading failure is reported separately below.

Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) 2011 NeSA reading scores breakdown used for the spending calculator:
3,041 third grade students
9.2% reading at BASIC level
7.8% reading at BELOW-BASIC level
71% of those Basic and Below–Basic readers, 368 third grade students, are projected to drop out of school or become an unprepared graduate.

The projected costs for those 368 students not taught to read well, amounts to:
State/local $5,247,236
Federal $11,685,620
Total cost of dropouts and unprepared graduates in this class alone is $16,932,856. Nearly $17 million projected additional spending for welfare, healthcare and public safety over their working lifetimes. Link here for the LPS calculation details.

Nebraska 2013 NAEP reading scores breakdown used for the spending calculator: (NAEP reading scores have remained virtually unchanged for decades.North Platte Schools in Lincoln County was the sample district used for statewide cost analysis)
22,428 third grade students (Grade 3 and 4 proficiencies are virtually the same)
34% reading at BASIC level
29% reading at BELOW-BASIC level
71% of those Basic and Below–Basic readers, 10,043 third grade students, are projected to drop out of school or become an unprepared graduate.

The projected costs for those 10,043 students not taught to read well, amounts to:
State/local $142,939,883
Federal $319,636,438
Total cost of Nebraska dropouts and unprepared graduates in this class alone is $462,576,321. Nearly a half BILLION dollars is projected in additional spending for welfare, healthcare and public safety over their working lifetimes. Link here for the Nebraska calculation details.

Phonemes have been the root of language for over 50,000 years. Phonics reading instruction had been successful for centuries. (Reading in the Brain, Dehaene 2009) Restricting reading instruction to phonics has been largely abandoned in the last fifty years in favor of words as pictures (word flash cards), whole language or a balanced approach.

Australian Education Minister Christopher Pyne has turned back the clock and reintroduced phonics-based reading curricula. Following successful implementation in Aboriginal communities, Direct Instruction is set to be adopted nationally. (Jamie Walker, The Australian 7/2/14)

We don’t have to go to Australia. Direct Instruction was developed by Siegfried Englemann in 1964 at the University of Illinois. As part of the largest educational study ever conducted in America, Project Follow Through, DI was found to be the most effective model in education.

In a prior column (link) I reported on Gering, Nebraska’s successful implementation of phonics-based Direct Instruction (DI). As a result of DI, all kindergartners in Gering were reading by Thanksgiving. (Video link)

Other than bureaucratic and public union self-interest, reading failure is unnecessary and harms our country’s future.

“…the fate of our nation is in serious peril. Not because of what others have done to us, but because of what we have done to ourselves.” William J. Moloney former Colorado commissioner of education

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