Saturday, July 2, 2011

Editors praise literacy gains by Charleston's educators

On the upside, in a note published in yesterday's Post and Courier of Charleston, editors praised the work being done by Charleston's classroom educators to improve literacy in the area. On the downside, the editors didn't actually bring themselves to mention that Charleston's classroom educators were doing the work. An otherwise terrific editorial rings tinny for that deficiency.

The editors begin with a little context; it seems no balm can be appreciated without first administering the sting.

For years, area employers have lamented the sorry reading and writing skills that all too many job candidates have exhibited. Things appear to be looking up.

A better introduction might have read, "The nation's earliest advocates of an informed citizenry and voting electorate recommended a system of free public schools to promote universal education. Despite bumps in Charleston's record of promoting literacy among its youth, we now appear to moving toward the enlightenment that early American heroes suggested." After all, an overweening reliance on the sensitivities of corporate interests has yielded the culture we have; it is the status quo against which many educators struggle.

Nonetheless, the editors see progress, and progress is always good.

They celebrate:

A new report shows that Charleston County public school students who have received special reading instruction have made significant improvements in literacy.

Yet the praise is faint and streaked with self-congratulation.

It also suggests that the problem isn't just students who have difficulty learning, but that for years the schools have been approaching the problem in the wrong way. It was after The Post and Courier in 2009 reported on devastating literacy problems in local schools that the Charleston County School Board wisely made it the district's number one priority to address literacy.

Ultimately, Superintendent Nancy McGinley is the subject of the editors' appreciation. Again, it might have made a more graceful editorial, had the editors highlighted the education professionals who work with children daily to overcome the stresses and impediments that life in Charleston provides to children needing the additional aid, but those rank-and-file educators in South Carolina have long been used to toiling without recognition.

A healthy local and state economy demands an educated workforce. And it is encouraging that the district is searching for, and finding, ways to fill that need and to give students tools to make their lives more meaningful.

Dr. McGinley's literacy program is working because it is mandatory and has consequences for those enrolled. Students reading below grade level must participate or they will not be allowed to go to the next grade.

It isn't punishment. It's the opposite. Punishment is what the district had been doing: allowing students who couldn't read on a first grade level, to pass to the second grade where they were even more at sea.

The bump in literacy shows what a coordinated effort involving teachers, parents, school administrators and board members can produce. The district's literacy policy tells students that they can, and must, learn to read.

No exceptions.

Well-put by editors in America's first, and most consistent, city of exception.

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