Data from Florida’s Department of Education found that Black Florida students fall lower in reading levels compared to white students, reported News4Jax. The data shows a gap of 29 percent between the two groups statewide, however, the gap is even larger in local districts.
Per the Florida Department of Education website, white students report 63 percent success and Black students 34 percent in the measuring of English Language Arts Achievement statewide. In counties such as Duval, Alachua and St. Johns, the gap is reported to be even wider.
Local Jacksonville news reported Alachua County Public Schools had the highest outstanding disparity between Black student and white student reading levels. Black students were reported at 25 percent achievement and white students at 72 percent.
An Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman told me the gap is so wide because the white students are reading at a level above the state average while Black students are reading below the state average.
The district is working to address the reading levels of Black students with a handful of programs including a partnership with the University of Florida that targets early readers in kindergarten through second grade and, the spokesperson said, it is already seeing “dramatic results.”
Read USA, a Jacksonville-based nonprofit, is making an effort to close the reading gap by promoting book fairs and tutoring programs for elementary students, reported News4Jax.
“The reading level can mean that there are certain jobs, you can’t apply for. Certain levels of life, you just will never get to. And as we know, through the research, it could mean jail time. And that’s how they’re building our prisons based on how well you’re reading by a third or fourth grade,” said Read USA CEO Tia Leathers. Read USA has also created a summer project featuring small groups and one-on-one tutoring, according to Leather.
However, there are many factors beyond the need for a tutor that lead to Black students showing up low on the academic achievement charts such as equal access to education. Even the ways in which curriculum is taught reveals a layer of systemic racism that needs to be addressed to ensure Black students have a equitable learning experience.