As you may or may not know I have a daughter in 3rd grade. My sweet miss Rachel!

Her teacher this year was on maternity leave until just this month (February) and so there was a substitute for the first half of the year teaching my daughters class. She was doing a fine job as far as I am concerned (especially as a substitute) and I was worried when the switch was happening that Rachel (and the other students) would not adapt well to the change mid year. My concerns were put to rest last night when the new teacher invited the parents of the class to a mid year “meet the teacher” night. It was a great idea and a nice opportunity to be involved in the change the kids went through. She was very nice and I can see why Rachel was so excited to meet her.

The reason I have told you all of that unnecessary info is because while the new teacher (Mrs. Yorke) was telling us about how she runs her classroom and what we should expect to see home from the kids she was saying that she is spending the next couple weeks learning more about the kids and especially their reading ability. She said that she will know soon who can read and who can’t and I stopped hearing her after that because my thoughts got so loud I thought someone might hear them outside of my head. There are third graders that CAN’T read??? How did they make it to third grade? Are their parents/family paying attention at all? What a devastating thought process to be having sitting in a classroom full of parents.

Now my family does not live in an urban area. This is not the inner city. I grew up in Detroit. I know what poor looks like and Toms River is not poor. I am sure that there are families living here that are having rough times. Who among us has not seen an empty bank account 2 weeks too early? However, I can tell you that according to the August 2010 issue of Money Magazine (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2010/snapshots/PL3473110.html) Toms River’s median income is $81,318. That was 2 years ago! I am sure it has gone up a couple thousand since then. So this is not a poor town. Why can’t our third graders read?

I believe one of our first steps should be to make Kindergarten mandatory. Why would you not send your child to kindergarten? If anyone has a good reason why keeping a child from attending kindergarten is in their best interest then please speak up. I actually heard just this morning on the news that the head of the NYC Council Christine Quinn is proposing that kindergarten be required for all 5 year olds in NYC. Why is this not a federal law?

I can tell you that in our family Ben not only went to kindergarten but he also went to preschool the year before that and he was already reading by the time kindergarten started. Preschool was so successful for Ben that we actually sent Rachel to preschool a year earlier. So she started school when she was 3. Part time the first year and then full time the second year. By the time kindergarten started she was bored! Our children read high school level books at third and sixth grade because we made an effort (and took on the financial burden of 3 years of preschool) to make sure that not only could they read proficiently but that they love to do so.

After going to this impromptu back to school night to meet Rachel’s new teacher I am actually concerned that she is not being noticed for how well she reads because she is already doing what is expected of a third grader. And I am very concerned that she is being held back by low expectations.