Reading Education: A Serious Problem YOU Can Help End

This is about an idea so big that small-minded people do not want even to consider it. This is a challenge to you, dear reader: please do not be small-minded — or close-minded. There is a serious illiteracy problem affecting all 1.4 billion English-speaking people around the world — and there is only one proven solution. This article will prove it to anyone willing honestly to mentally engage with the facts presented. Whether you know it or not — whether you believe it or not — the problem explained here has varying degrees of negative effects on every English-speaking person around the world.

To help you understand, I need to use an analogy. I feel like the medical doctor who has a patient with a serious, eventually fatal medical problem for which he has treated the symptoms with an expensive home-remedy for several years. After offering to explain the simple medical solution to his illness, he only wants to know the cost of the cure. I explain the cost of the cure. I explain that his home-remedy fights the symptoms but will never cure the disease – similar to taking cough and pain medicine and decongestants instead of antibiotics to cure pneumonia. He decides that he will continue with his home-remedy because the cost of the cure is almost the cost of three months of his home-remedy.

This is a very close description of what is happening in reading education. We have been fighting the symptoms of the problem in reading education since 1755, and for various reasons only a very tiny proportion of scholars will honestly examine the problem. It is really disturbing to see the enormous amount of time and money and the multiple thousands of teachers, parents, and literacy volunteers fighting the symptoms of reading education in this country — when the solution is so simple, easy, and quick (less than three months for learners). Half-measures may reduce the symptoms suffered by some of the students, one-at-a-time, but they are not doing what is needed to help everyone at once by solving the problem.

The problem:  it is difficult to learn to read English (as explained below).

The symptoms of the problem:

  1. Almost half of English-speaking students in America (and presumably an equally disturbing number of students in other English-speaking countries) never become fluent readers in English. Almost every U.S. adult can read at least a thousand simple words learned in the first three or four years in school, but they cannot read well enough to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job (as proven below). They do not like to read and seldom try to read. Statistics show that almost half of U.S. adults never read an entire book after leaving school.
  2. Most of those who do become fluent readers need at least two years learning to read well enough that they can continue to improve their reading skills after reading instruction in school ends. Most reading instruction in U.S. schools (other than remedial reading) ends after third or fourth grade. As a result, as teachers who are familiar with teaching reading to students in other countries know and as members of some “think tanks” such as The American Enterprise Institute know, American students are about two years behind the students of the same age in other industrialized nations.
  3. Information in following sections proves the seriousness of the symptoms.

 The first step in solving any problem: find what is causing the problem. You can spend an enormous amount of time and money fighting the symptoms of a problem. If you do not solve the problem, however, it continues to occur — undiminished (often increasing) in intensity.

 Proof that Learning to Read English is difficult:

The English spelling system is NOT a logical alphabetic spelling system. English spelling is more like Chinese writing in which specific shapes in specific positions represent a word. English spelling uses a specific combination of letters in a specific order to represent a word. This came about in 1755 with the publication of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s well-received dictionary. Dr. Johnson, in effect, froze the spelling of words instead of freezing the spelling of phonemes (the smallest sound used to distinguish between syllables and words in a language or dialect), as a logical alphabetic spelling system is designed to do. In most cases, Dr. Johnson used the words as they were spelled in their language of origin. Words were added to the original Celtic from the languages of every conqueror who occupied the British Isles: Norse, Icelandic, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, German, Danish, and French. Since 1755, as explained in Henry Hitchings book, The Secret Life of Words, the English language has adopted words (and usually their spelling) from 350 additional languages.

A logical alphabetic spelling system should have a one-to-one correspondence of phonemes and graphemes (a grapheme is a letter or a specific combination of letters used to represent a phoneme). To read English, a student must only learn to spell 38 phonemes and learn how to blend them into words. There are 26 letters in our alphabet, so we could spell our phonemes with 26 single-letter graphemes and 12 two-letter graphemes. Instead, in addition to 26 single-letter graphemes, present English spelling uses at least the following: 184 two-letter graphemes, 131 three-letter graphemes, 22 four-letter graphemes, and four five-letter graphemes, for a total of 367 graphemes — when only 38 are needed! When more graphemes are used than are needed, that means that many of the graphemes represent more than one phoneme each. In fact, only five single-letter graphemes (B, K, P, R, and V) have only one pronunciation each. The other graphemes (of any length) have from one to eight pronunciations each. Adding to the confusion, however, all but six of the single-letter graphemes (H, Q, U, W, X, and Y) are doubled in some words and not in others — with no reliable way of knowing which is which. Also, all 26 of the letters in present spelling are silent in some words (reAd, deBt, sCent, velDt, havE, halFpenny, siGn, rHyme, busIness, riJsttafel, Knot, taLk, Mnemonic, autumN, sophOmore, rasPberry, lacQuer, suRprise, aiSle, depoT, bUilt, savVy, Write, fauX pas, maYor, and rendeZvous) with no reliable way of knowing if a letter is silent or not. Also, some English words do not spell all of the sounds in the spoken word or the graphemes do not show the proper order in which the phonemes are to be pronounced.

 For Reading: The student or writer must know the pronunciation of as many as 367 graphemes — with an average of 2.2 pronunciations each — by memory, for each individual word, because the phoneme that a grapheme represents can (and often does) change from one word to the next. Individual graphemes represent as many as eight different phonemes.

 For Spelling: The student must remember which graphemes — and in which order they occur — for each individual word. This is even more difficult than reading because the spelling of each phoneme varies from only (!) four spellings for two of the phonemes (H as in hat and TH as in then) to sixty or more for the U phoneme as in nut! Professor Julius Nyikos of Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania studied six standard dictionaries and found 1,768 ways of spelling 40 English phonemes — an average of 44 spellings each! Furthermore, no one can learn to read using English spelling rules. There is not even one spelling rule that does not have exceptions – and some of the exceptions even have exceptions! A computer programmed with 203 English spelling rules was able correctly to spell only 49 percent of a list of 17,000 common English words. Most adults cannot do as well.

After reading this you may say, “So what? I learned to read.” Here is the “So what:” hundreds of millions of English-speaking people do not. Does that bother you? It should. Their illiteracy costs you and me money and negatively affects each of us — and our nation — in numerous ways that you have probably never considered.

 Proof That a Phonemic Spelling System Will SOLVE the Problem:

Dr. Frank Laubach spent more than forty years going all around the world teaching thousands of adults in more than 300 alphabetic languages (other than English) to read fluently. He prepared primers for 313 languages and even invented spelling systems for 220 unwritten languages. Here is the proof: His books, Teaching the World to Read and Forty Years With the Silent Billion, never mentions even one student that he was not able to teach to read fluently. Dr. Laubach was able unfailingly to teach students to read fluently in from one to twenty days (!) in 95 percent of the languages and in less than three months in 98 percent of the languages! He was able to do this because the languages in which he taught were almost perfect, phonemically — a one-phoneme-to-one-grapheme correspondence. Confirmation of Dr. Laubach’s findings is given by comparison to the amazing findings of Dr. Rudolph Flesch. He stated on pages 167-168 of his 1981 book, Why Johnny Still Can’t Read, that Russian schoolchildren are taught to read 46 of the 130 national languages of Russia — in first grade! There is no reading instruction, as such, after first grade.

The difficulty of learning to read English is NOT because of the difficulty of the language itself, however. The English language is neither among the easiest nor among the most difficult. Axel Wijk states on pages 56-57 of Alphabets for English, edited by W. Haas, that English is a comparatively easy language to learn for foreigners, “… mainly due to its grammatical structure, which is far simpler that those of most other important languages, particularly so in comparison with French, German, Russian, or Spanish.” Sir James Pitman states on page 264 of his book, Alphabets and Reading, “No other major language possesses such a simple grammar and syntax or combines the following advantages: . . .” The first two of the eight advantages he lists, for example, are: there are no arbitrary genders and agreement between adjectives and nouns is unnecessary. The grammar and syntax of English is easier than that of many European languages, for example. In most European languages, students learn to read fluently in less than three months.

Dr. Laubach stated on page 48 of his book, Forty Years With the Silent Billion, “If we spelled English phonetically, American children could be taught to read in a week.” All those resisting change may insist that we prove it on several thousand American children in a public school. Those objecting to a proven solution are effectively trying to “reinvent the wheel.” Dr. Laubach has quite adequately proven that phonemic spelling systems are easy to learn, and it would be a huge mistake to continue expending enormous amounts of time and money when the solution has already been proven. Education researchers may want to do additional research. The reason is obvious. They will be receiving the work and the money spent on the research. Jonathan Kozol, in his book, Illiterate America, asks the obvious question about ending illiteracy, “Why should we spend additional time and money on research when the researchers will only be confirming what we already know?”

 Proof That English Spelling Causes Serious Problems:

An analysis of the Adult Literacy in America report and a 2006 follow-up report prove the shocking extent * of functional illiteracy in English. (All asterisks in this article refer to the “Read More” pages in a website that has a link in the last paragraph of this article.) The Adult Literacy in America report — from a five-year, $14 million study — is the most statistically accurate and comprehensive study of U.S. adult literacy ever commissioned by the U.S. government. The Adult Literacy in America study involved lengthy interviews of 26,049 adults statistically chosen by age, gender, ethnicity, and location (urban, suburban, and rural locations in twelve states across the U.S. and included 1,100 prisoners from 80 prisons) to represent the entire U.S. population. These documents prove that 48.7 percent of U.S. adults are functionally illiterate (defined as being unable to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job), proves that 31.2 percent of these illiterates are in poverty, and proves that they are more than twice as likely to be in poverty because of their illiteracy as for all other reasons combined. The inability to hold a good job is the most accurate and reliable indicator of illiteracy because employers have a very strong financial interest in accurately determining a person’s ability to read and write to make sure that they will be a profitable employee. All other methods are susceptible to unintentional (or even intentional) inaccuracies because of the size, time period, and subjects of the data base used and because of the data handling, calculation, and verification methods used.

Jonathan Kozol’s shocking book, Illiterate America, proves the seriousness of the problem. Kozol describes the serious physical, mental, emotional, medical, and financial problems that illiterates must endure every day of their lives, problems that we would consider a crisis if we had to endure them. Functional illiterates cannot read well enough to perform many of the simple daily tasks needed to thrive in our present complex, technologically challenging life — tasks that those of us who are literate take for granted. An informative website about ending illiteracy in English summarizes the seriousness * of the problem of illiteracy.

In addition to the seriousness for illiterates, illiteracy costs every U.S. Adult — both reader and non-reader — an average of more than $5,000 each year. This cost is (1) for government programs that illiterates use (for example: job training, unemployment payments, welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid), (2) for truancy, juvenile delinquency, and crime directly related to illiteracy, and (3) for the higher cost of consumer goods (about $2,200 of that $5,000) because of illiterates in the labor pool (necessitating higher recruiting costs) and in the workplace. You and I both know that if the first two items were eliminated, our taxes would not decrease — the government would find somewhere else to spend the money — but at least that particular waste of money would be gone.

This pales in comparison, however, to the cost of at least two years of public education wasted by the additional time required to learn to read. The English Spelling Society on their website claims that our present spelling requires an average of three years longer to learn than if our words were spelled phonemically. The 2008-2009 cost, per pupil, (the latest available figures) for public elementary and secondary education in the U.S. is $12,643. For the millions of U.S. students, this amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars wasted. You and I both know that if our spelling was perfected, that expenditure would not stop. Instead, English-speaking students would attend school the same number of years, but they would finally be able to compete with students of the same age in non-English-speaking industrialized nations.

The (often-unrecognized) illiterates among us adversely affect our entire nation. Illiterates not only cause large expenditures for their needs, but also their inabilities harm the trade balance with other nations, and result in outsourcing and many other causes of American jobs being sent overseas as explained by Thomas Friedman’s book, The Earth is Flat.

 The Solution to Illiteracy in English:

Based upon Dr. Laubach’s experience, what English-speaking people need is English spelled phonemically. A spelling system known as NuEnglish is phonemically perfect: a one-grapheme-to-one-phoneme correspondence. It has ten beneficial characteristics * that correct all the problems in present spelling. No other known spelling system proposed from the late 1800s to the present has all — or even most — of these beneficial characteristics.

Most people want to know the “cost of the cure” as mentioned in the second paragraph of this article. When people learn the cost of the cure is spelling reform, they may think the cost is too high. This is only until they learn these thirteen important, provable facts:

  1. At present, only slightly more than half of the students become fluent readers. Most of those who become fluent need at least two years to learn to read well enough to be able to keep increasing their reading vocabulary until they become fluent readers.
  2. Learning to read a phonemically perfect spelling system will be extremely easy. Present readers can learn the ten simple NuEnglish spelling rules in less than ten minutes and read NuEnglish at almost the same rate as they read present English spelling. Persons attempting to read NuEnglish material — even before learning the spelling system — were able to read aloud with only an occasional two- or three-second stumble over some of the words. Present readers can easily return to present reading rates with a couple of months of experience in reading NuEnglish.
  3. With proper instruction, the better beginning readers will be able to read NuEnglish fluently in a week, as Dr. Laubach stated. All but the most mentally handicapped will certainly be able to become fluent readers of NuEnglish in less than three months. A month or two after becoming fluent in NuEnglish, beginning readers will be able to read at the same rate as readers who are fluent in our present chaotic spelling system — or more likely: somewhat faster.
  4. No overall statistically significant improvement in reading education in English has been made since our ridiculous spelling system was frozen in 1755. All those who object to attacks on our spelling by claiming that “English is a beautiful language” or “We should not attack our ‘mother tongue’ ” need to get serious! How many immigrants or beginning readers would call English a “beautiful language” while struggling to learn to read our present illogical, inconsistent spelling?
  5. A phonemic spelling system has been proven effective by Dr. Laubach’s work in more than 300 alphabetic languages, as explained in the section, “Proof That a Phonemic Spelling System Will SOLVE the Problem,” above.
  6. Although English-speaking nations have tried a multitude of ways to solve the problem since 1755, correcting our spelling by freezing the spelling of the phonemes instead of the words is the only solution that will ever work.
  7. In the long run, correcting our spelling will save money rather than costing! We will not have to replace the reading textbooks every five or six years when the “new and improved” teaching method comes out that addresses the symptoms of the difficulty of reading without solving the problem causing the difficulty. We will only replace textbooks when they physically wear out; and the reading textbooks will be much smaller and easier to prepare. Most of the content can simply be children’s classical literature (much of which has exceeded the copyright date) transposed into English spelled phonemically by use of a computer program.
  8. All reasonable objections * to spelling reform have been thoroughly debunked by reputable, respected scholars.
  9. Numerous benefits of finally correcting our spelling system far overbalance any objections (even the unreasonable ones) that persons resisting change may have.
  10. Dozens of scholars for the last 250 years or more have recommended spelling reform.
  11. Thirty-three nations, both smaller and larger than the U.S., both advanced and developing nations, have simplified their spelling.
  12. The need for a higher literacy rate is greater than ever in our increasingly complex world. Very few of today’s jobs do not require literacy. International trade is making most jobs increasingly competitive.
  13. Appropriate to unlucky thirteen, however, here is the kicker: comprehensive spelling reform has never been attempted in English! There are two significant reasons why this is true: (1) there are several reasons why most people do not know * the seriousness of the problem — as you now know, if you have read the “Proof That English Spelling Causes Serious Problems” section above.  (2) Most people, familiar only with the difficulty of learning present English spelling, have difficulty understanding that students can quickly, easily learn to read * with a perfect phonemic spelling system. For those who may have disbelieved the facts about the seriousness of the problem or the ease of implementing the solution, the website below addresses both of these reasons. Due to the seriousness of the problem of functional illiteracy in English, you are challenged to prove to yourself whether what is presented here is factual or not.

 What Must Be Done to Ensure Success in Ending Illiteracy in English:

No humanitarian project — no matter how worthy — can succeed unless enough people know about it. Publicity is essential for the success of almost any project. There are more than 1.3 billion English-speaking people around the world. An estimated 600 million English-speaking people around the world — more than 93 million in the U.S. alone — are desperately hoping that you and I will help them end their functional illiteracy in English. All that is needed to begin the process of definitely and permanently ending illiteracy in English is to publicize the proven solution to illiteracy. If enough people know about the seriousness of the problem and the ease of solving the problem, the problem will be solved. Otherwise, how can anyone claim to have any compassion whatsoever for the problem?

Bob Cleckler, has been working passionately since 1985 to help end illiteracy in English. A careful, honest evaluation of his ending illiteracy in English website will take only six minutes. The proofs in six of the “Read More” pages mentioned above are as follows. The shocking extent * of functional illiteracy in English (page 2), why we do not know * the extent of the problem (page 3), the seriousness * of the effects of illiteracy (page 4), the characteristics * of NuEnglish (page 8), how to quickly, easily learn to read * NuEnglish (page 10), and objections * to spelling reform (page 11). There is a “Media Page” link on our website, in the left-hand column, with an informative video about our humanitarian project. There are five blogs on ending illiteracy, all of which are available by clicking “IMPORTANT LINKS.” Gary Sprunk, M.S. English Linguistics, prepared the website that has the Respeller, a computer program — with a database of more than 617,000 traditionally spelled English words — that will quickly transpose up to 25 pages of traditional spelling into NuEnglish. Cleckler wrote the latest version of his award-winning book, Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, in 2012. To allay any suspicions that his passion is only to make money on his book, rather than an earnest desire to help hundreds of millions of people, this second revision is a 265-page e-book in PDF format that is available at no cost or obligation of any kind in the left-hand column of the website. It has 164 pages of text, 8 Appendixes in 46 pages, 178 extensive notes and references, a Glossary, an extensive bibliography, an index, and other features. This book proposes a plan for implementing NuEnglish, and it will answer any of the questions that our website does not answer.

Teaching Reading: Are You Resisting An Improvement?

Generally speaking, people resist change — often resisting even a change which would be an obvious improvement. People often prefer to keep courses of action with known disadvantages rather than gamble that the unknown disadvantages of a new course of action will outweigh the known, obvious advantages. That being the case, people often overestimate the difficulty of making a change as a way of resisting the change.

Does that describe you when considering solving our very serious educational problems in English-speaking countries? As any teacher will probably tell you, reading ability is the foundation of all learning because there are few, if any, subjects in school which do not require reading for class-work, home-work, and testing. When considering the education that their children are receiving, most parents are — or certainly want to be — optimistic about their children’s schooling. They may read about educational problems, but they believe that their children’s school is doing a good job.

If, however, the statistics prove that 48.7% of U.S. adults read and write so poorly that they cannot hold an above-poverty-level-wage job — as the most comprehensive and statistically accurate study of U.S. adult literacy ever conducted proves in a report titled Adult Literacy in America — what are the chances that your optimistic assessment of your child’s school is a little too optimistic? More importantly, if there is a proven way of improving the teaching of reading in English-speaking schools, are you overestimating the difficulty of implementing that teaching system?

The website of Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc., two non-profit educational corporations, will convince even the most skeptical observers that the problem of functional illiteracy in English is both more serious than most people realize and can be solved more easily than most people would dare to dream. The reason this is true is that if people do not know how to solve a problem they have a natural tendency to downplay the problem’s seriousness, and if people learn that the simple, easily-implemented solution is spelling reform, they may immediately think of objections to spelling reform and wrongly judge that changing the spelling would be much more difficult than it really is.

Functional illiteracy in English not only causes serious physical, mental, emotional, medical, and financial problems for an estimated 600 hundred million of English-speaking illiterates around the world (including more than 93 million in the U.S. alone) but also costs every U.S. adult — reader and non-reader alike — more than $5,000 every year. Due to the seriousness of the problem of ending functional illiteracy in English, you are challenged to carefully examine the problem and get an overview of the solution. The details of the solution are in the breakthrough book about ending our very real literacy crisis.

The Only Proven Solution to Our Educational Problems

This very important blog concerning ending English functional illiteracy with a very much more efficient method of teaching fluent reading can be accessed with this link. It is not posted here because of Search Engine Optimization downgrade of duplicate posts.

The Biggest Waste of Government Resources Since the Pyramids?

While people are complaining about government waste, most people do not want to cut the funds going to education. Those most aware of the deplorable state of American education, in which American students often rank near the bottom in international scholastic competitions, know that teaching students to read fluently is the foundation of all learning — reading ability is required for class-work, homework, and testing in almost every subject taught in school. What most of these same people do not know, however, is that our present method of teaching reading is a colossal waste of taxpayer money, considering the fact that there is a much more efficient way of improving the ability of students to learn to read.

Arthur W. Heilman, Ph.D., an internationally known expert on reading instruction, ended his 1968 book, Phonics in Proper Perspective, by saying that continuing to attempt to teach every student to read English with the present teaching methods “is the most conspicuous consumption of a nation’s resources since the building of the pyramids. Unfortunately for many children, the belief is still widely held that our economy can still afford this cruel waste.” Heilman, and many others have advocated the solution to English functional illiteracy that Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc., two non-profit educational corporations, have discovered and perfected. The details are presented in a factual explanation of how the very real English literacy crisis can be definitely and permanently ended.

Should We Spend More Money on Education?

The U.S. spends more on education per pupil than any other nation except Switzerland, and yet our students have ranked near the bottom in recent scholastic competitions with other industrialized nations. English functional illiteracy is a much more serious problem than most Americans realize. Although almost everyone involved in education, as well as many politicians, want more money spent on education, spending more money is not the solution. Several of the states in the U.S. which spend the most per pupil have the worst student performance and several of the states which spend the least per pupil have the best student performance. Statistics also do not support the belief that a smaller class size will guarantee improved educational performance. See Chapter 4 of William J. Bennett’s book, The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, for the details of our literacy crisis.

Educational scholars know that reading is the foundation of all learning; learning to read is needed for success in class-work, home-work, and testing in all, or nearly all, of today’s school subjects. Dr. Frank C. Laubach, who is arguably the world’s foremost authority on teaching reading — he taught adult illiterates around the world in over 300 languages — found that in 98% of the languages in which he taught, his students became fluent readers in less than three months. Laubach’s books, Teaching the World to Read and Forty Years With the Silent Billion, never mention even one student whom Laubach failed to teach to read fluently. About half of U.S. students do not become fluent readers — they can only read a thousand or so simple words learned in the first three grades in school — as shown by the fact proven in the Adult Literacy in America report that 48.7% of U.S. adults are functionally illiterate (defined as being unable to read and write well enough to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job).

Furthermore, most of the slightly more than half of U.S. students who do become fluent reader require more than two years to become fluent readers. In simpler times, there were many manual labor jobs which could be held successfully by functional illiterates; very few, if any, of today’s jobs can be held successfully by functional illiterates. Those who are functionally illiterate have serious physical, mental, emotional, and medical problems as well as financial problems due to their illiteracy and their low-paying jobs.

If most of us had to endure the problems that functional illiterates must constantly endure, we would consider it a crisis. For the sake of an estimated 600 hundred million of English-speaking functional illiterates around the world (over 93 million in the U.S. alone), for the sake of every U.S. adult (both reader and non-reader) who must spend well over $5,000 every year because of illiteracy, and for the sake of our nation in world trade competition, we very badly need to end English functional illiteracy. Those who carefully evaluate this website will want to take the simple, easy action to bring a permanent end to our very real literacy crisis.

An April 2008 Example of Hiding America’s Dirty Little Secret

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A very damning report on American education was issued in April 2008 by the U.S.Department of Education, titled “A Nation Accountable.” For many years I have read the newspaper and watched TV new every day, and I saw no reference to this report. The report may have circulated in some governmental circles, but the report was apparently never shown to the American public. Unless you carefully examined this report, the seriousness of the problem of American education — particularly the problem of teaching reading — you probably do not know that the twenty-five year follow-up to the 1983 A Nation At Risk report showed no overall statistically significant improvement. This blog will quote some of the highlights of the report so you can better understand our present problems with American education. You are urged to follow this link to see the entire 25 page report.

“Executive Summary: “If we were ‘at risk’ in 1983, we are at even greater risk now. The rising demands of our global economy, together with demographic shifts, require that we educate more students to higher levels than ever before. Yet, our education system is not keeping pace with these growing demands

. . . . We simply cannot return to the “ostrich approach” and stick our heads in the sand while grave problems threaten our education system, our civic society, and our economic prosperity. We must consider structural reforms that go well beyond current efforts, as today’s students require a better education than ever before to be successful.”

Introduction:  In the spring of 1983, the National Commission of Excellence in Education issued A Nation At Risk — its eye-opening report that indicted education officials, school leaders, and the American public for complacency. The university presidents, eminent scientists, policymakers, and educators who made up the Commission refused to paint a happy face on the eroding quality of American education. They said that we had become self-satisfied about our leading position in the world and ‘lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling, and of the high expectation and disciplined effort needed to attain them.’

1. How Far We’ve Come: Curriculum Content: . . . by 2005 almost 65 percent of high school graduates were taking the recommended course work — four times the rate that students took the recommended course work in 1983. Yet, while we have coma a long way, it is a national shame that nearly a third of our high school student still do not take the rigorous program of study recommended in 1983 for all students. . . .

“The Commission was disturbed by the easy courses and ‘curricular smorgasbord’ available to high school students. Unfortunately, this has not changed greatly. Both easy courses and this smorgasbord still remain, with diluted content now hiding behind inflated course names. . . .the reading scores of 20 students born in 1983, who turned 17 in 2000, would have been the same as those of a similar group of students who turned 17 in 1984. . . .

A Nation At Risk anticipated that our secondary schooling deficiencies could eventually threaten the quality of the entire K-12 system, and this [No Child Left Behind] legislation has generated data that, unfortunately, confirm this threat.

1. How Far We’ve Come: Standards and Expectations: {T}eaching materials that are demonstrably effective are still rare.

        “1. How Far We’ve Come: Time: In 1983, the Commission was concerned that American children spent less time in school than children in other countries. . . . However, our children do not spend more days in school than they did in 1983, save for those in some charter schools or in a few state or local pilot programs. . . . Nonetheless we are spending fewer hours per week on academic subjects and have a shorter school year than many other industrialized countries.

“1. How Far We’ve Come: Teacher Quality: While most teachers have taken steps necessary to meet their states’ Highly Qualified Teacher definition, there is little evidence to conclude that his provision has led to notable increases in the requisite subject-matter knowledge of teachers or to increases in measure of individual teacher effectiveness. . . .

        “Progress has . . . been made on recommendations that required real change, if they were supported by powerful political groups in education, especially teachers’ unions. . . . Virtually no progress has been made on recommendations that required real change if they were opposed by the same interest groups. For example, merit pay for teachers remains negligible, and the school year has not lengthened.

“1. How Far We’ve Come: Leadership and Financial Support: [T]he Commission stressed the importance of providing the resources such a system would require. As they noted, ‘Excellence costs. But in the long run mediocrity costs far more.

        “II. What Has Been the Result of These Efforts and, More Importantly, Are We Still At Risk? In 1983, we faced a grave risk of losing our leading position in the world, the Commission warned. We had little idea of how we were doing, and we were happily complacent in assuming that we had, and would continue to have, the best schools money could buy. The report challenged this illusion and forced us to recognize the profound deficiencies in our educational system. In the last two decades, policymakers have worked to develop measurement systems that obviate the need for another such surprising report and that keep the country aware of the challenges we face

“As a result of No Child Left Behind, we now have annual test score data on students in reading and math from the third grade through the eighth grade and one in high school. We are able to see how well each of the approximately 96,000 public schools in our country is performing, not just overall but also for each group of students a school serves, such as minority students, students with disabilities, and English language learners. We have transformed ourselves from a nation at risk of complacency to a nation that is accountable and at work on its education weaknesses. We now know the daunting scope of the problem — and must enlist everyone to address weaknesses if we are to make progress up the mountain. . . .

“American education outcomes on international comparisons have not improved significantly since the 1970s. International tests show that the United States is, at best, runing in place, while other nations are passing us by.. Many countries now match or exceed us, not only in the number of years their children attend school but also in how much those children learn. The United States was the world leader in high schoold completion, but among our 25-34 year olds, it has now slipped to 10th place, falling behind such countries as Canada, Switzerland, and South KOrres. It may fall farther behind yet. The same is true for achievement. On most international tests, the United States is standing still while others are gaining ground. With performance like this, it’s no wonder that most foreign children studying in the United States find our schools easier than the ones they left back home — despite the fact that Americans spend more money per student than almost any other country in the world.

“III. Remaining Challenges: On a strictly domestic level our performance at the high schoollevel is as alarming s it was at the time of A Nation At Risk, if not worse. Of major concern here is the number of students dropping out of school before getting their high school diplomas. States and districts have used a varietyof way to measure graduation rates, pointing to the need for more accuracy and consistencyin these calculations. Some of these methods are misleading, and result in numbers near 90 percent. :However, a more accurate measure is the percentage of student who graduate after starting ninth grade four years earlier — which is only 70 percent for the class of 2006.

        “The situation is even more troubling for minority students in the inner cities. Half of them do not graduate from high school on time — a staggering fact. . . . It is sobering to realize that iin 2006, nearly 60 percent of high school dropouts over the age of 25 were either unemployed or not participating in the workforce at all.

“Educational quality directly affects individual earnings, and dropouts are much more likely than their peers who graduate to be unemployed, living in poverty, receiving public relief, in prison, on death row, unhealthy, or single parents. High school dropouts, on average, earn $8,100 less per year than high school graduates, and about $1 million less over a lifetime than college graduates. On an annual basis, the median income for those with a college degree was over $51,000 in 2007, while for high school dropouts it was only $22,000. [precisely: dropouts: $22,256, high school graduates: $31,408, college graduates: $51,324]

“But the tragedy is not a burden of the individual alone. High dropout rates also affect our communities and the nation because of the loss of productive workers and the higher costs associated with increased incarceration, health care and social services. A report noted, ‘Four out of every 10 young adults (ages 16-24) lacking a high school diploma received some [sort of public relief] in 2001.’ This report also noted, ‘. . . a dropout is more than eight times as likely tob in jal or prison as a person with at least a high school diploma.’

“IV. Looking Ahead: While we are no longer complacent or idle, we continue to face many challenges, several of which did not even exist in 1983. The standards and accountability movement has resulted in new transparency in student achievement — by grade, subgroup, and subject, and by school, district, and state. While we are finally capable of defining our difficulties, the full solutions to some of them have not yet been found. Where solutions have been found,  they have not been put fully in place because not everyone is willing to accept and make the changes that are necessary. . . .

        “Schools today must not only keep pace with rapid advances in technology (which are slowly changing the way students and teachers learn and interact) but also work to address increasing threats to school safety. . . . We know, from emerging research on schools in Illinois and Florida, that students who attend charter middle and high schools have been substantially more likely to graduate with a standard diploma and attend college than their counterparts in traditional public schools. . . .

“Furthermore, the magnitude of our problems in secondary education is becoming increasingly clear. Our high schools have not improved enough since A Nation At Risk. . . .

        “Education makes not only the individual better off but also the society.”


Note that although reading is the foundation of all learning in schools — it is required for class-work, homework, and testing, in almost every subject — the graph above shows that the reading scores of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds have been essentially flat from 1984 to 2004 while the cost per pupil has gone from $5,896 to $9,116.

America’s Dirty Little Secret, II

This important link gives a very good introduction to the humanitarian project of Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc. (two non-profit educational corporations) to permanently end English functional illiteracy. It is not duplicated here for SEO purposes.

How Resistant to Educational Improvements Are YOU?

Unfortunately, we humans often prefer to endure the problems and inconvenience of things and ideas that we know, rather than take the risk of implementing the obvious improvements of the unknown. In short, many of us are resistant to change — even change for the better. As a result, it often takes a large number of facts to induce us to change. Perhaps the over-riding fact is that if hundreds of millions of English-speaking people around the world were aware of the good you could do them, they would beg you to investigate.

Every present reader who has any compassion for the problems and suffering of illiteracy (and the $5,000 or more that each person, reader and non-reader, must spend because of the illiteracy in our nation) badly needs to investigate their opportunity to help end English functional illiteracy. No one can predict how many facts are needed to induce you to — at long last — solve our very real literacy crisis, instead of merely continuing to fight the symptoms of the problem as we have been doing for almost a century. What we have been doing educationally for the last 90 or more years is equivalent to taking pain killers, decongestants, and cough medicine to fight the symptoms of pneumonia instead of taking antibiotics to cure it.

The symptoms of our present system of teaching reading are: almost half of our students never become fluent readers (they can read about a thousand simple words they learned in the first three grades in school, but they read so poorly they cannot hold an above-poverty-level-wage job) and most of the students who do become fluent readers require at least two years to learn to read well enough to increase their fluency by additional reading. Nearly all students in other languages learn to read in less than three months. You may also need the much more authoritative and comprehensive facts available in the breakthrough book, Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, Second Revision, to convince you to spend a few minutes to help promote the humanitarian project of ending English functional illiteracy discovered and perfected by Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc. (two non-profit educational corporations). This breakthrough ebook is available as a no cost .pdf download from the website linked in the second paragraph. One thing is certain: the totality of facts in this website and book will convince even the most confirmed skeptic who will carefully, honestly evaluate all of the facts. The facts prove that we can definitely — and permanently — end our literacy crisis. And this book shows us how.

The Extent and Solution to English Functional Illiteracy

Scholars will tell you that the ability to read is the foundation of all learning. It is required for successful class-work, home-work, and testing in almost every subject in school.

Over two million high school graduates or drop-outs are added to the rolls of functional illiterates in the U.S. every year. Although almost all Americans can read at least a thousand simple words they learned in the first three grades in school, if that is all they can read, they are functionally illiterate. The most accurate definition of functional illiteracy is the inability to read well enough to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job.

A large portion of high school or elementary school dropouts have quit going to school because of the frustration of trying to “keep up” without being able to read very well. A small, but shocking, number of high school graduates are functionally illiterate and cannot even read all the words on their diploma. They graduated because of teachers over-looking or ignoring the fact that they have never heard them read aloud correctly and passing them on to the next grade, hoping their next teacher will be able to teach them. Some students graduate from high school — or even college (!), see the book, The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read, published by Focus on the Family Publishing in 1994 — with the help of classmates who help them cheat.

The problem of functional illiteracy is much worse than most people realize; chances are good that several people you know are functionally illiterate without your knowledge. The shocking extent of functional illiteracy is hidden because of the following. (1) Illiterates are very good at hiding their illiteracy with numerous coping methods. (2) There is a certain amount of natural separation of readers and non-readers because of zoning requlations for housing — functional illiterates are less likely to live in the more expensive homes — and because of the separation in the workplace according to job duties. (3) Illiterates usually have another adult in the family who is employed and — if literate — can pull the family above the poverty level, and (4) because most low-income families receive assistance from government agencies, family, friends, and charities.

Even though functional illiterates may be hidden, they must constantly endure serious physical, mental, emotional, medical, and financial problems — problems we would consider a crisis if we had to endure them. The good news is that there is a proven solution to functional illiteracy. The End English Functional Illiteracy Now website gives many of the details and proven facts about the problem and its solution. For a much more authoritative and comprehensive explanation, the breakthrough book, Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, Revised Edition, gives the results of 27 years of research and writing by Bob C. Cleckler, CEO of Literacy Research Associates, Inc. (a non-profit educational corporation) and the valuable contributions of Gary Sprunk, M.A.English Linguistics, President of NuEnglish, Inc. (a non-profit educational corporation and a 509(a)(2) public charity, see “About Us” in the End English Functional Illiteracy Now website).