LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As students gear up to head back to school, the superintendent of the Little Rock School District is gearing up for what he says is one of the most pressing issues facing students in Arkansas.
“We know we have a literacy crisis,” LRSD Superintendent Jermall Wright said.
The issue is a national one. In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders campaigned on it and promised to help students improve their reading levels through measures in the Arkansas LEARNS Act.
“Any additional support you can get on top of the things we are already doing in the school district will be beneficial for our kids,” Wright said.
Wright said on top of the new statewide law, the school district has implemented its own program called Ignite Reading.
Last year, the program was intended for kindergarten and third grade, though they extended it for some fourth and fifth graders and saw improvement.
This school year, they said they are tripling the number of students in the district who will get that extra help.
“We knew looking at our data that we needed to do something drastically different,” Wright said.
The superintendent said ACT Aspire data shows between 65 to 70% of LRSD students K-12 are behind reading level for their grade.
The factors vary, from challenges students face with their learning style to even their economic status.
Wright said 5 to 10% of his students struggle with things like dyslexia and need to learn to “crack the code.” Additionally, students who come from poverty face their own challenges.
“We know that when kids are impacted by poverty that it has lots of impact on other areas,” Wright said. “A lot of times when kids come to us in kindergarten, they may not have developed language fully.”
The superintendent said just Wednesday he met with state education leaders to discuss how parts of LEARNS will play out in terms of literacy. He said at this rate, with state and local efforts, he is confident the upcoming school year will show an improvement on kids’ literacy.