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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is Duval County's reading initiative dead on arrival

I am not a reading teacher, though I do teach reading in my classes. So few of my kids read on grade level that for them to have any chance I have to teach them strategies. It is a slow going arduous process but I know if they are ultimately gong to be successful their reading skills will have to improve. So you can imagine my interest in the districts new reading program.

However when I discovered that the main plan is to improve third graders reading, our group that seems to read the best, so as they progressed they would loose less of their reading ability I couldn’t help but throw up in my mouth a little. However not being a reading teacher I asked several of my colleagues, reading teachers, what they thought about the basic idea, and their responses ranged from, really are you kidding me to, that may be the worse idea ever.

It was explained to me that reading in third grade is a lot different than reading in sixth or tenth and that at each level different skills are required. A stringing together of words, leads to vocabulary, which leads to deductive and critical analysis skills and teaching those things before a child is mentally capable of doing them is like trying to potty train a one year old.

The problem may not be children losing their ability to read, it is more likely that they don’t get the next set of skills they need to be successful. Imagine if you were building a house. The first thing you do is put in a floor, well if you don’t have the materials to put in walls and a roof, that’s where you will finish. I bet all my kids even the very poor readers can still read at a third grade level, they didn’t lose that ability as they progressed through the system they just didn’t gain new ones.

We need to figure out what happens between third and sixth and sixth and tenth and try and correct the problems there instead of concentrating our energies on the group that for their level arguably reads the best.

I found it interesting that W.C. Gentry has called for increased Duval County standards. The problem with this is too many kids are already being passed through without the skills they need. Him saying increased standards begs the question, if they aren’t meeting the standards that are already in place now, how do we expect them to meet new harder standards?

The answer is they won’t but undoubtedly we will pass them along and then years from now scratch our heads and wonder what went wrong. If kids make it to high school and they are several grade levels below where they should be, then the system has failed them. Furthermore once they get to high school gains are very slow and incremental; there are no miracle cures. They will most likely be poor readers for life.

I am hopeful that this new reading initiative works though I can’t help but feel it comes on the heels of this program or that and it’s more of Duval County throwing ideas, which cost money against a wall and seeing what sticks.

Chris Guerrieri
School teacher

1 comment:

  1. they do like to throw money at programs...i'm still waiting for a cost effectiveness on Pearson which was the great all-in-one scores at a glance that cost a ton of money and never quite made it out of the bullpen...also, Achieve 3000 was shoved down every one's's a good program, not quite a match to FCAT 2.0, but it cost money, it was "research based" (air quotes), so it should have caused 2-3 years growth easily, right???

    your colleague