When Sammy's teacher asked him to read aloud, he'd often struggle to pronounce the words.
Like many kids in America, Sammy was not reading at grade level. In fifth grade, his reading comprehension was that of a first-grader.
Sammy tells his story in I Am Education: Kids Tell All, a five-part video series about the state of public education in America. In the videos, we hear from the actual kids whose futures are at stake.
Sammy, for example, knows he is at risk of not passing. "I thought I was going to be left behind," he says in the video.
When kids are this off-pace with their peers, it is extremely difficult for them to catch up.
According to researcher Richard Allington, "By fourth grade, one- or two-year lags are common. By sixth or ninth grade, three- and four-year lags in reading achievement are far too common. In these cases it will usually require several years to catch up these struggling readers even if we can triple their reading acquisition rate."
For kids like Sammy, special attention and a new approach can make all the difference.
His school, Micheltorena Elementary in Los Angeles, California, started a pilot program called Read 180, which is working well for Sammy. He also was given more one-on-one attention from his teacher and studied with a reading coach.
While this was helping, Sammy ultimately knew it was up to him. "Nothing will ever change if you don't change it yourself," he says.
With a lot of hard work, Sammy's reading comprehension dramatically improved. Now, he says, "When I read, it feels really awesome because I understand the book!"