City's Future Is at Stake in the Battle against Illiteracy

By Littlepage, Ronald L. | The Florida Times Union, June 29, 2004 | Go to article overview

City's Future Is at Stake in the Battle against Illiteracy


Littlepage, Ronald L., The Florida Times Union


Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

People, look at what's going on around us.

According to Jacksonville Community Council Inc., 47 percent of the city's adults are functionally illiterate, meaning they read below the 10th-grade level.

Then there's this:

Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores released earlier this month showed that only 9 percent of the sophomores at Ribault High and 15 percent of the sophomores at Raines High were reading on or above grade level.

Take a moment to chew on that. Horrendous.

Yet, that shocking news, plus the announcement that three of our middle schools joined Raines and Ribault as voucher schools because they scored so poorly on the FCAT, was met with hardly even a whimper of alarm from the community at large.

Jacksonville is facing a crisis, and Mayor John Peyton recognizes that the city's economic future depends upon solving it.

He campaigned hard as a mayoral candidate on a pledge to attack the literacy problem, and last week he announced a comprehensive literacy plan.

As it should, it provides money -- $7 million from the city and $3 million from the state -- for reading programs.

As it should, it calls for a cooperative effort from city and state agencies, from civic and faith-based groups, from businesses, and from the community as a whole.

As it should, it focuses on providing avenues for all of the city's 4-year-olds to get a head start on reading skills so they are prepared for school. …

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