Like a hurricane roaring across the Gulf of Mexico in August, the rhubarb in Raleigh over the ‘Read to Achieve Program’ appears to be building strength rather than waning.
A couple of years back, Senator Phil Berger drew a line in the sand by passing a bill that stated a simple principle: Children in the third grade had to learn to read before they could be promoted to the fourth grade.
In addition, Senator Berger gave local school boards $72 million to set up ‘Reading Camps’ to help struggling children.
All that was simple enough – and made common sense.
But, now, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson says that holding a child back just because he or she can’t read is just plain wrong – that it is “a 20th-century artifact.” And that we should promote children even if they can’t read.
Here we have a clear philosophical divide, and a pretty wide one. If a third grade child can’t read, should they be promoted?
The easier path is the one Secretary Atkinson is advising. But is it the best path?
Personally, I agree with Phil Berger. Let’s get children who’re having trouble reading extra help, but let’s stick to our guns – requiring third graders to read is the tougher path but in the long run it’s the better path.
How this debate will be resolved will tell us something about the future of education in our state. Will politicians and bureaucrats continue to talk a lot about standards – but let the education establishment off the hook ? Or will we require responsibility and accountability from the people who educate our children?
Contrary to much of what passes for public debate these days, this topic has an unusual degree of clarity. So pick your side and join the debate. Every leader should speak out. I’ll start by paraphrasing the late Senator Jesse Helms and asking the leader of the Democratic Party, Where do you stand Roy?