Citizen Comment – Bambi McGaha – May 19, 2016

Huntsville City Schools – The Problem Is Deeper than Discipline

I admit it. I was one of “those” parents – the parents who were highly upset at the fact that a group of “bad” kids were being sent into our school and causing classroom disruptions and discipline issues. I let my anger get the best of me a few times before I stepped back and started to really dig into the weeds of the issue. Then I began to see that our issue in HCS is much deeper than we even imagined. We don’t have a discipline problem. We have a reading problem of astronomical proportion.

I was fortunate enough Tuesday night to attend the Community Update on Huntsville City Schools at Harrison Wellness Center and when I left that night, I left with a broken heart. That was the night I discovered the magnitude of our problem. Friends, we have a large portion of children in our community who CANNOT read.

Yesterday, I decided to dig a little deeper and look at some of the numbers myself. At McNair Junior High School in District 1, according to ACT Aspire testing for 2014-2015, only 3% of all 8th grade students read above grade level. Now you might think, well that’s okay. Those are numbers for kids reading above grade level. Let me go a little deeper. Only 18.03% of children in 8th grade at McNair read AT grade level. This means that almost 79% of 8th graders at McNair either need a little or a whole lot of help to get to grade level reading.

Another thought to ponder: If these children can’t read, they cannot complete math word problems or science problems or history problems on a test.

Let’s dig even deeper. A friend posted a video chat on Facebook after the meeting at Harrison Center the other night. He made a statement that really struck a bell with me. To paraphrase, he essentially said that it is much easier for a child to cause a disruption in the classroom than it is for a child to admit in front of a classroom of his peers that he can’t read. There hasn’t been a truer statement. We have a big problem, friends. It is so much deeper than discipline and the BLG.

Our teachers have spoken to this. HCS Board of Education – your beloved testing is proving this. You and city leaders are ignoring this. Shame on you. This concern effects not only the present, but the future of our great city. Our children are the future. The new Behavioral Learning Guide is not going to fix a reading problem, and my friend hit the nail on the head, because yes, it is easier for these children to act out, than it is to be ridiculed.

That being said, yes we have some students who are truly unruly children. However, I would put money on the fact, that if we addressed and brought remedy to our reading problem in Huntsville City Schools, the discipline issues would level out.

For those who are like me, for those that don’t see that our issues are much deeper than you want to admit, I challenge you, before you overreact, before you decide that we have too many “bad” kids, please dig a little deeper into the weeds. Our problems at HCS are big. They are REAL and they are not always the same on a personal level, but every problem is a part of connecting the dots to the bigger issue. I’ve started to connect the dots. Some of it can be solved by simply teaching our children to read.

– Bambi McGaha