TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — When school counselor AV Avington went public two weeks ago, for many people what he said was shocking.
"The student came in my office and sat at my desk and told me, 'Mr. Avington, I cannot read,'" he said.
But for a parent named Mary, what he said came as a relief.
"Did his going public make you feel less alone?" NewsChannel 8 asked.
"Very much so," she said.
That's because Mary has a child in Tulsa public schools who is struggling with reading as well. She's asked that we use only her first name with hopes her child isn't bullied.
"He’s in 6th grade and he’s having a very hard time learning how to read, in fact, he can’t read at all," she said.
He attends Memorial Middle School and while she says, he has a lot of words memorized, he doesn't know how to sound out words or the sounds that correspond to letters.
"My child has told me that on most tests that he is guessing the answers. In class, he is copying answers from other students. He is going every which way he can about to not let anybody know that he doesn’t know how to read," she said.
NewsChannel 8 reached out to TPS, emailing, "News Channel 8 has had another parent/guardian come forward to express concerns that their child can't read. Does the district have anyone available to speak on this issue, or advice on where the parents should turn?"
NewsChannel 8 has yet to receive a reply.
"Tulsa public schools is failing our kids," said State Superintendent Ryan Walters.
He says he's seeking the biggest investment in literacy programs in state history, $100 million dollars towards early literacy.
"You know, it is tragic how poorly Oklahoma students read. 34% of Oklahoma students, as of last spring, read on grade level, and in Tulsa public schools 19% read on grade level," Walters said.
Mary has tried to help her son on her own.
"Some people watching this will say has the parent tried to teach?," asked News Channel 8.
"Oh yeah, oh yeah. I’ve tried, my fiancé’s tried. We’ve had him with a couple different tutors," she said.
And it doesn't help, says Mary, when one of TPS's English teachers allegedly told her, "'As long as he’s making an effort and I can see that he’s trying to spell the words correctly I will pass him. I won’t fail him.'"
"That’s not what I want," Mary said. "If he has a failing grade coming, fail him. You can’t just pass him on along, I don’t want my son passing along so he’s graduating and still is illiterate."
Walters says this is an ongoing issue.
"This is nothing new, Tulsa public schools, have some of the worst test scores in the entire state, but also in the entire country," he said. "And it takes dramatic change. We need the administration to focus on student performance and not on woke ideology. We need the administration to listen to parents. And we have to push school choice."
And a choice is what Mary is now considering, with a move to EPIC.
"I’m considering a change yeah. I’ve been requesting, asking hoping, praying, wishing for the last three years that this would get going at some point. It’s not getting going and I’m not getting told it’s going to get going, so, what do you do?" she said.