Inside Stories

Crisis in Early Childhood Education – Part 2

by Bill Haddad 

“A child who reads will be an adult who thinks” – Author Sasha Salmina

In the first part of this series, I spelled out the troubling MCAS results showing how many of Lowell’s 3rd graders cannot read at grade level, and how that affects their education going forward.

What are some of the city’s educational leaders saying in response to this troubling data?

Over the past six years I have spoken to or reached out to most of the leaders in Lowell, who have all told me or have said how important Early Childhood Education is to them.

One, who shall remain anonymous, told me “there are several data points to celebrate. For example, more Lowell schools improved rather than declined their percentile ranking compared to schools across the commonwealth.”

I do not know how you celebrate anything when 76% of your third graders are not reading at grade level.

Another stated: “I’m excited to transform Lowell into a great place for education – the kids in this city really are our future.”

I did find one who more accurately stated “I believe that we are doing a disservice to the students by passing them along at a time when students can be 3 or 4 grades levels below where they should be.”

But despite all the talk about how important ECE is, to all of them, I have yet to find one influential person who will step up and take the leadership role to address this issue.

Children from low-income families who cannot read at 3rd grade level face a daunting and unhappy future. Bottom line – many, if not most, of these children face one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Dropping out of school
  • Becoming dependent on welfare
  • Winding up in jail
  • Suffering a drug addiction
  • Ending up homeless

At best, they’re likely to end up working in an endless series of minimum wage jobs.

Twenty years or more down the road many of these children will be clients of one or more of the many non-profits helping the disadvantaged in Lowell. While these organizations are needed and do a lot of excellent work, most are dealing with the symptoms and not the root cause, which is poor education/reading skills, and it starts the day these children are born.

The inability to prepare children from low-income families with the critical skill of reading proficiency by the time they complete 3rd grade is to deny them the opportunity for a future full of hope, a fulfilling career, and more importantly, an independent, good personal life.

There is no better gift that all of us can give to children than providing them with the fundamental reading skills that will give them the best opportunity to have a successful career and personal life.

As Frederick Douglass noted, “once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

In Part 3 of our series next week, I’ll tell you about On the Move and what we’re doing to combat this crisis and increase the learning potential of young children from lower income families.

(Bill Haddad is the Executive Director of On the Move, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping close the reading preparation and achievement gaps between children from low-income families and their middle and upper income peers)

2 responses to “Crisis in Early Childhood Education – Part 2”

  1. Ryan Faria says:

    I think helping people improve their reading skills is a no brainer investment at all ages. The ability to read and comprehend translates into so much opportunity as children progress into young adults and adults. Additionally; financial education is another pillar that public schools need to improve their curriculum on so that kids can have basic financial understanding by their teenage years.

  2. Ellen Andre says:

    Great article emphasizing the concerns and problems our children are facing. It’s concerning that you’ve tried so many ways, met with so many influential people and no one will take a leadership role in addressing what is already a crisis. It was challenging enough to bring kids up to the proper level before covid but now they are grades behind and the learning loss gap widens. Thank you for all you do.

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