Aimee Orta

Aimee Orta

Aimee Orta is the mother of two struggling readers in Chicago Public Schools. She says despite the best efforts of teachers, outdated literacy curricula and practices are keeping the district from effectively teaching children to read. In 2022, 70% of CPS third through eighth graders could not read at grade level.

“One of my children was coming home from school frustrated, emotional and explosive. I asked the kindergarten teacher if she was seeing any issues at school. She said, ‘No. Everything is fine.’”

“Three years later, I met a literacy expert who was able to organize my kid’s benchmark information in a way I could understand, and immediately my reaction was, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ The scores showed that this reading instruction had been ineffective from Day 1.”

“What I learned was that the benchmarks I was getting only compared my student to other students in the district, which is nonsense when Chicago literacy scores are below the state and national norms. I’m not looking for my kids to be scholars, but it’s not okay that my child is barely getting by in a district that appears to also be barely getting by, according to The Nation’s Report Card.”

“You have to be a diligent and proactive parent to understand what your child’s benchmark handouts truly mean. I would highly recommend parents research the assessment tool their school is using. Ask questions and advocate until the education jargon is clear and the situation makes sense.”

“We paid for tutors, but they were not ‘science of reading’ [curriculum] tutors and they got no results. None of the ‘balanced literacy’ tutoring did any good.”

“Being the parent of a struggling reader means investing extra time, money and emotional support into your child outside of school. This isn’t possible for all Chicago families. Implementing a full ‘science of reading’ curriculum with fidelity at the school level would mean more equitable learning opportunities and stronger literacy scores for all CPS students.”

“Even though CPS teachers have the right to refuse curriculum according to their contract, I know they would fully support a curriculum that is proven to be more effective. The teachers and staff truly want what’s best for their students. They just need instruction on the curriculum and access to the support needed to implement it with fidelity at the school level.”

“At one point we had an amazing teacher who knew that statistically 20% of their students would struggle with literacy. But this teacher was saying, ‘I wish we could hear what the best practices are from the experts at the literacy specialty schools like Redwood or Hyde Park Day.’”

“One great thing that’s happening is the CPS Dyslexia Steering Committee. District employees meet with us parents on a monthly call to troubleshoot our kids’ literacy issues every single month. That’s been phenomenal and something I would not have expected in such a big district like Chicago. God bless these people who are willing to sit down with us and listen.”

“But right now, there’s no transparency about how our conversations are being communicated to the school level. There is an urgency to update the school’s literacy curriculum and practices because our kids are falling more behind with each passing month. Getting things paved for the families behind us is the least we can hope for.”

Aimee Orta
Craniosacral therapist, CPS parent
Chicago, Illinois

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