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NCLB Outrages

C.E. Perry chosen for reading program designed to improve student ability

Here's a press release traveling as a news
item. There's absolutely no mention of the politics/
chicanery surrounding Reading First, not to mention the
controversy of skill-drilling kindergartners.

by Brian Flynn

ROSEBORO — In the public school system, success always
takes a lot of hard work. Since the No Child Left Behind Act
was signed into law in 2002, standards for success have been
raised higher, in turn creating a lot more hard work for
educators around the country. For schools that are struggling
to meet those standards, like Charles E. Perry Elementary
School, the Reading First program was created to help get
students reading at grade level by the end of third grade. For
many teachers at C.E. Perry, the program has proven to be a
mixed bag of better funding and increased work load.

In 2004, the faculty at C.E. Perry learned that they were
eligible to receive a grant from the state’s Reading First
funds. The Reading First program provides federal funds to
schools that have a large percentage of students reading
below grade level. The goal of the program is to use
scientifically based reading research and faculty development
during early reading development to bring students at grade
level in reading by the end of the third grade.

The faculty at C.E. Perry worked to prepare the grant
application, and were awarded a grant of approximately $1
million over five years. The school began administering
Reading First to grades K-3 during the 2004-05 school year.

C.E. Perry is the only school in Sampson County and one of
about 100 schools across the state participating in the

The curriculum focuses on five essential components of
reading identified by the program: phonetic awareness,
phonics, fluency, vocabulary development, and text
comprehension. According to Pam Tew, reading coach at C.E.
Perry, teachers spend 90 minutes a day on uninterrupted
reading instruction. In addition, there is also 30 minutes a day
of “intervention programs” for children who “specifically
demonstrate reading difficulty and are performing below
grade level”. Because the program is federally funded, the
curriculum must meet rigorous federal standards.

In addition to the amount of instruction time, teachers have to
meet standards of accountability set by the program. On a
daily basis, teachers use the Texas Primary Reading Inventory
to asses a student’s reading performance. The teachers
record student responses using a Palm Pilot, and the software
automatically assesses the responses and generates reports.
Students also have to take formal assessments to measure
their progress.

“Even though they are overwhelmed, they work diligently to
keep the Reading First goal a top priority with their
instruction and assessments,” says Tew.

If it seems as though instruction and assessment take a lot of
time, teachers also spend time outside of class on
professional development. Teachers take training classes
online and in group sessions to learn how to apply the
scientifically based instruction in the classroom. “The most
valuable part is the professional development teachers get,”
says Pam Westbrook, Sampson County Schools director of
federal programs. “Good staff development makes better
teachers and better scores,” she says.

Training, provided through the programs funds, is not the
only benefit C.E. Perry has seen from the program. The school
has been able to buy much needed books, book cases, tables,
and instructional materials.

It is still a little early to measure the success of the program,
according to Tew. As of yet, no group of students has taken
the end of course test after being in the program since
kindergarten. However, Tew says it is worth noting that third
grade reading scores have shown significant improvement
since the school started Reading First

“We are very excited that the students are going to start
experiencing success in reading, we want every child to be on
grade level,” says Tew.


— Brian Flynn
Sampson Independent


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