I cannot believe that it has been twenty-five years when I first started teaching developmental reading courses at the college level. I had trouble accepting the reality that developmental reading was actually needed at the college level back then. I wondered what had happened to SAT and ACT scores. I remember thinking that there had to be some kind of mistake.
Still today more colleges find that an increasing number of students enter college with a seventh grade reading level or less. Community colleges may be getting the larger amounts of students with minimum skills in reading, writing and math. I still ask myself what happened to using SAT and ACT scores as the criteria for acceptance to a two or four year college. School districts across the country are required to measure the proficiency levels of their high school graduates. Many of these standardized assessments are high stakes tests that determine whether or not a student receives a diploma. So, why are we still enrolling students into college but unable to place them in college level classes?
NCLB (No Child Left Behind) should have helped to make school districts more accountable for meeting literacy and numeracy standards. Twenty-five years ago, we tested students with reading comprehension assessments and enrolled in college reading improvement courses. We hoped that neophyte freshmen would somehow read and understand their college textbooks. I do not know how many of those students actually made through and received a college degree.
I cannot tell you how upset I get when I find that some of my students today still read below a seventh grade level and cannot write a comprehensible sentence to respond to text. Too many students lack the reading study strategies to get through a biology or humanities text. They rely on their news from listening to the news. Many have not read some of the classics in literature.
On the other hand they are ambidextrous and text message in a language that is global to some and foreign to others. Our students claim to be able to have the ability to multi-task and drive and text message friends while listening to their IPods at the same time.
What worries me most is that many of my students declare from the moment they walk into my course that they hate to read. This of course my job a tad more difficult. I refuse to play the blame game by pointing fingers at parents and elementary school teachers.
Twenty-five years later, I do not know what methods of teaching reading work best because it all depends how quickly i get to know them as individual readers and learners. I hope to help them build on their strengths and to help them identify their learning styles. I use the technology that they understand and try to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I think that parents should be aware that colleges are requiring that students meets standards before they are allowed to move to college level courses. I hope that they are also aware that some of the developmental courses do not count towards the degree required credits.
Twenty-five years later I continue to seek ways to keep the students enrolled in the reading courses that becoming active readers is very important to success in college.