Americans can’t secure the American dream unless all young adults in our country can read and write, but according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Programs report card, 62 percent of America’s high school seniors are not proficient in reading and 73 percent are not proficient in writing.
These students simply do not have time left in school to close the learning gap in reading and writing. Young adults who lack a mastery in these foundational subjects will likely also struggle with other areas of study, such as math, science, and history.
This knowledge gap leaves students who go from high school to work at a permanent severe disadvantage. After all, being unable to do calculus is one thing. But being unable to read basic instructions or write a sentence has negative consequences for almost any job or career.
Such students who go to college need extra help. About 40 percent of college students require remedial courses “to relearn what they failed to master in high school,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
This challenge has turned into an economic liability. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, “a persistent gap in academic achievement…deprived the US economy of as much as $2.3 trillion in economic output” in just one year. In other words, if this problem gets much worse, America is headed for a massive, hidden, and unexpected tax on families and businesses.
Plus, there is no silver bullet – no one-size-fits-all curriculum – that will boost reading and writing proficiency for every child. Children are individuals who learn in different ways and create their own molds.
To overcome this national obstacle, let’s empower parents to find solutions for their individual children. Let’s expand school choice.
By pairing students with schools that best meet their needs, we can make a sizable dent in our nation’s reading and writing deficit, while respecting and embracing the individuality and uniqueness of every child.
When children are matched with schools that reflect their interests, talents, skills, and needs, they feel more comfortable, more motivated, and more inspired to learn. That is why nearly every large-scale, scientifically reviewed, independent research study on school choice – whether in the public or private sector – has demonstrated that when parents have and exercise educational choices for their children, students learn more in key subjects like reading and writing.
In statehouses nationwide, elected officials from both parties have recognized the promise and benefits of expanding school choice. As a result, more parents are actively choosing schools for their children than ever before – a fact that will be widely celebrated during National School Choice Week, which started yesterday and will continue through the end of the month. This year, the observance will break records as the largest celebration of educational opportunity in U.S. history, with 11,082 events nationwide.
But despite the growth, there’s still incredible demand for even more education options. In a recent public opinion survey, more than 60 percent of parents expressed a desire for more school choices for their children. These parents know that, without choices, their children will have a difficult time mastering important subjects like reading and writing.
If we as a nation want to secure our economic prosperity and preserve the American dream, we need to listen to the parents of America and the messages of National School Choice Week. We need to celebrate school choice, and then make sure every child can benefit from the gifts of reading, writing, and learning.
Andrew Campanella is the President of National School Choice Week.