Other Voices

What can you do about literacy?

Students in a visual literacy class.
Students in a visual literacy class. Angela Thomas

Only one in three students in the FWISD is reading well enough in third grade to predict success in the remainder of their school career, and, in 17 schools, that number is below one in five.

Yes, the crisis is real, but it doesn’t feel like a crisis, does it? These statistics have been basically unchanged for years, so we, the good people of Fort Worth, simply accept them as normal. We have become desensitized.

It is heartbreaking and unacceptable that we — and by “we”, I mean all of us — are failing to teach all Fort Worth students to read.

Surely it is not controversial to think that every child should be taught to read well enough to succeed in school. We owe it to our children and to the future of our city.

There are numerous excellent economic arguments about why it is important to our city to have a well-educated workforce. Take a few moments to think about how dramatically our city would change if students were so successful in every FWISD elementary school that no family would have to pick a specific neighborhood, move to a suburb, or consider a private school, to seek an excellent education for their children. What quality of businesses could we attract? How would our neighborhoods change?

However, isn’t it more basic than that? Can we have pride in our city if we are failing to educate our children?

So, what could you do to help our children?

There are over 800,000 of us living in Fort Worth. There are about 27,000 students in kindergarten through third grade in the FWISD. That’s a ratio of 30 citizens for each K-3 student. Surely that’s enough manpower to ensure that every child in our city is reading well by the start of fourth grade. We all need to take responsibility to help our children; we cannot expect our hard-working teachers and administrators to succeed without our help.

A.J. Crabill is Deputy Commissioner of Governance at the Texas Education Agency. I have often heard him make the following statement: “Your system is perfectly aligned to achieve your current outcome.”

Ouch. We, the citizens of Fort Worth — not just the FWISD employees and school board, but all 800,000 of us — are perfectly aligned to send 4,000 FWISD students to fourth grade every year without having provided the most basic skill needed to succeed in school: the ability to read.

We know how to teach children to read, and we have abundant resources. The fundamental question is do we have the will?

We need a new alignment. What will you change?

Robert Rogers is a local physician and an early childhood literacy advocate. He encourages you to go to readingpartners.org to volunteer as a tutor with Reading Partners.