Ranjini Govender, Executive Director of Stand Massachusetts, was recently featured in the Boston Business Journal for her team's work on improving literacy in MA.
Here are some highlights from the interview:
"As you see it, what’s the No. 1 reason why we’re seeing low literacy rates in some areas of Massachusetts?
Literacy rates are a mirror to high poverty rates. When we look at communities across Massachusetts, we tend to see that low-income communities have lower early literacy rates. So in Massachusetts, it’s really an issue of the haves and have-nots.
What’s the top priority, as you see it, in terms of programs that need to be implemented, to reverse this literacy problem?
First and foremost, the state has to make a commitment to saying 'We are recognizing this to be a critical issue for Massachusetts. We are going to draw a line in the sand and say that investments in early literacy are the most important investments we can make at this time.'
You’ve talked to people in the business community. How are they viewing this problem?
From a business perspective, one of the most important and most valuable things is your workforce. The business community has done a really great job of elevating issues like vocational education and making sure we’re getting really good K-12 education in place. But I think (early literacy) is also a workforce issue. Seventy-five percent of employers have difficulty finding people to fill open positions. We’re hearing more and more from the business community that it starts at a very early age — that the achievement gap starts at a very early age.
Did your parents’ experience, growing up in apartheid South Africa, impact your life and education?
I would say it was the single most influential factor in my own education and in my perspective on life. My parents grew up in apartheid South Africa, and my father by law could not go to the same schools as his peers who were white. How politics actually trickle down to education was something that I learned at a very early age from my parents.
Did you have an education mentor, for lack of other words, during your early years?
I was really lucky to go to a fantastic school district, and I had some fantastic teachers. In high school, in particular, I had an advance-placement American history teacher who really brought some pretty complicated subject matters to life. I wouldn’t say that’s why I got into education. But it was important."