Although students are required to attend school under compulsory school attendance laws, schools are not required to teach students to read and write. Anyone with a basic understanding of education knows that literacy is a fundamental skill required for anyone to achieve basic success in society. However, many schools within the state of California have failed to teach students these basic sets of skills, especially when it comes to our low income students of color. This population of students is amongst the most vulnerable and deserves the basic right to learn to read and write. If schools are not teaching our students the two most fundamental life skills, then what are they doing?
In a ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos, the court will gather evidence as to how the state is failing thousands of low income students of color by not adequately teaching them the basic skills of reading and writing. In a recent article published on the matter by the LA School Report, Mark Rosenbaum, the Public Counsel attorney stated, “This ruling allows us to have our day in court to prove how California is failing these students by depriving them of the right to literacy. Literacy is the key that opens doors, provides opportunities and gives our kids a fighting chance at success in life.”
As an immigrant to this country, I remember being a voracious reader in my attempts to learn English quickly and to be able to excel in school. I was fortunate enough to have teachers who believed that literacy was that key to success, the one I needed to accomplish the educational dreams they knew I was capable of.
All students can excel if met with these high expectations and support in the love of reading. As a high school English teacher, I have students enter my class with reading grade levels as low as third and fourth grade. This is criminal. Low income students of color are constantly getting the short end of the stick when it comes to opportunities available to them and denying them the basic skills of reading and writing continues to push them further down. Students in wealthy school districts have access to reading programs and enrichment activities from a very early age, we owe it to our students of color to do the same for them. An educated generation of young people will ensure that families in California can thrive and that as a state, we increase our impact on the country. California is often praised for being a trailblazer when it comes to civil rights issues, and we need to reexamine whether or not we’re doing that for our own residents. Students deserve the right to literacy in schools, anything short of that is a step in the wrong direction.
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