“Failing Our Students,” an excellent article written by Diette Courrégé, a reporter for the Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, examines how a sixteen-year-old made it all the way to high school without ever learning to read beyond an elementary-grade level.
“Ridge is 16,” she writes. “He spent more than 10 years in some of Charleston County’s inner-city, low-performing schools. His teachers and principals learned early on that he had an average IQ and could learn to read. Many of them latched on to the quiet, well-behaved and kind child, but no one taught him to read well.”
Courrégé writes that Ridge’s decades-long battle with reading began in kindergarten, where he had difficult understanding vocabulary and concepts and did not articulate certain sounds. As a first-grade student, Ridge could not master basic skills such as memorizing his phone number or speaking in complete sentences. Consequently, school officials decided that he would repeat the first grade.
The following year, Ridge was promoted to second grade, then to third grade the year after that, but his reading troubles remained. In third grade, he could not sound out unknown words or draw conclusions about what he read. At the end of the school year, Ridge took the state’s English test for second graders because of his reading difficulty, but he still scored below the second-grade level. Even with his low test scores, Ridge was administratively promoted to the fourth grade and, the following year, he was administratively promoted to the fifth grade, then the sixth grade, then the seventh grade.
In middle school, Ridge began skipping school and “finished most of his lessons by copying answers from a textbook rather than thinking analytically,” Courrégé writes. At the end of seventh grade, Ridge scored near the bottom of students nationally for reading and language use, but he was promoted to eighth grade. The following year, he was administratively promoted to the ninth grade. By the end of the first semester of his freshman year, Ridge had racked up eleven days of in-school and out-of-school suspension, and he missed more than ninety class periods. By the end of the year, Ridge had failed all of his classes and was not promoted to the tenth grade.
The following year, Ridge skipped class every day. Courrégé writes that he was arrested in late October for an in-school assault and was suspended for the remainder of the school year. Less than two months later, he was arrested again—this time on armed robbery charges, which was later reduced to attempted armed robbery. He avoided jail time and his family moved to North Carolina, where Ridge rarely left the house other than working a month-long stint on a construction site.
At the end of the article, Ridge is seventeen and has a one-year-old baby boy with his girlfriend. He took GED classes in January and attended about half of the twenty-three classes during the first session, but did not reenroll for the second session in March.
Read the complete article at http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2009/may/03/ridge80910/.