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Parents Speak Out for Literacy for All

Over 20 community members shared with Everyone Reads T/E that they sent letters to the school board supporting a policy for a Literacy Committee.

Not one letter was mentioned when the Board struck down the Literacy Committee Policy on Tuesday. Below is one letter.

Ask your board members to share the other letters. Until we are all transparent we cannot be sure all students are learning to read to the best of their potential in T/E.


Dear School Board,

I’m writing to you as a parent of children that attend the schools at this District .I was recently aware about a District plan to start a Literacy Committee. I would like to share my feedback on this matter.

When moving to PA 5 years ago, I’ve relied on available data to make an informed decision on which school district I would like to live. Some strong points that made me decide for TESD are contained on its mission: to inspire a passion for learning, personal integrity, the pursuit of excellence and social responsibility in each student. Other points were its rankings and overall numbers. Hopefully you had the chance to review the PSSAs scores for 2018. I did and can share some facts with you:

For our Elementary Schools, out of 987 3rd/4th grade students who took the test for Language Arts, 6 of them scored below basic. The first impression with this number is that it’s good news, as it gives the sensation that 981 students are doing fine. Well, the definition of Basic level, the next score at the PSSA, is actually daunting: Marginal performance. Partial understanding and limited display of skills required. Basic to me sounded you have the necessary, but reading the PSSA definition of it, it clearly shows that is not the meaning. As it says: “There is need for additional instructional opportunities”. Not “good to have” NEED. There is need. I could also find that Proficient Level, the 3rd one in the score ranking, is considered as passing grade.

So I believe you will agree with me that we need at least the passing grade - proficient level.

Going back then to PSSA results, we have:

Out of 987 students in Elementary school that took the test - 102 students are on levels Basic or Below Basic. That is 10%.

Out of 2098 Middle school students that took the test - 217 students are on levels Basic or Below Basic. That is 10%.

For High schoolers, I went to Keystone Exam - literature:

Out of 493 students that took this test - 40 are on levels Basic or Below Basic. That is 8%.

In summary: in 2018, out of 3,578 students that took State tests in our district, 359 students didn’t reach the passing grade. That’s 10%.

In 2016, the numbers show quite the same results: on average, 10% of students taking the test didn’t reach a passing grade level.

Considering there are roughly 7,000 students enrolled in the District, it’s a simple statistical analysis to say that 700 students have not the English Language Arts skills required by the State.

Seven hundred.

Let’s review the School District’s mission one more time:

to inspire a passion for learning, personal integrity, the pursuit of excellence and social responsibility in each student.

Pursuit of excellence in each student. We are failing 700 students every single year. English Language Arts is not a nice to have. We are not talking about ceramics class, or the next Hemingway. We are talking about being able to read and comprehend a text. Literacy is not a luxury. It’s not an experience that you take as much as you put effort on it. Literacy is a right. A children’s right. And this is not my opinion:

Literacy is a right. It is implicit in the right to education. It is recognized as a right, explicitly for both children and adults, in certain international conventions.

It is included in key international declarations: 1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1966: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1960: Convention Against Discrimination Education 1975: Persepolis Declaration – ‘Literacy is not an end in itself. It is a fundamental human right’. 1979: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1989: Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly recognizes literacy not just education 1990: The World Declaration on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand) 1993: Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action emphasizes the use of human rights – informed education as a means of combating illiteracy. 1997: Hamburg Declaration: ‘Literacy, broadly conceived as the basic knowledge and skills needed by all in a rapidly changing world, is a fundamental human right’ (Resolution 11, UNESCO) 2003: UNESCO round-table report Literacy as Freedom: literacy must be understood within a rights-based approach and among principles of inclusion for human development 2005: UNESCO B@bel Initiative

According to UNICEF, “Every child has the right to learn. Schooling does not always lead to learning. Worldwide, there are more non-learners in school than out of school.” Also: “All children have the right to go to school and learn, regardless of who they are, where they live or how much money their family has. Quality learning requires a safe, friendly environment, qualified and motivated teachers, and instruction in languages students can understand. It also requires that learning outcomes be monitored and feed back into instruction.”

State tests are showing us there are hundreds of students at TESD that NEED additional instructional opportunities in English Language Arts. I highly expect you consider this an emergency. I highly expect you take action.

A literacy committee, an emergency task force, any and everything must be done to make sure all students have their right for literacy fulfilled. We have to talk about this as a community and we have to act on this.

Each one of you is in charge to make sure we don’t violate our basic students right to literacy.

Each one if you is accountable for this mission.

Our community cannot accept, we cannot go to bed tonight in peace knowing that 700 students need us to take a series of actions now. They NEED us to achieve their human right to READ.

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