On national tests last year, only 18 percent of black 4th-graders scored proficient or above in reading; the figure for white 4th-graders was 45 percent. For 8th graders, the percentages were 15 and 42 percent. It’s sobering that over half of white students fail to meet the proficiency bar. But the figures for black students should outrage anyone who cares about social justice. These dry statistics translate into greater struggles in high school, lower college attendance and graduation rates, a higher likelihood of incarceration, and generally bleaker futures. And we’re going in the wrong direction: Those abysmal percentages for black students are lower than the figures from two years before.
Want to know something even more outrageous? There’s abundant scientific evidence that explains why our standard approach to reading instruction isn’t working for so many black kids—and others. But educators and policymakers are often unaware of that research; some reject it. Schools continue to double down on the same things that haven’t worked for decades, expecting a different result.