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Reading enrichment:

Stephen Krashen Letter to Editor:

Why is this news?

Oceanside High’s new remedial reading program for ninth and tenth graders who read below the ninth grade level was worth a major story in a major newspaper (“Reading enrichment, “ Dec. 25). Why is this news?

The big story, in my opinion, is that there is no mention of the most obvious step, one supported by common sense as well as research: Making sure students have access to interesting and comprehensible books to read. Instead, the approach is an expensive commercial program that requires special teacher training.

High school students who are “behind” in reading are typically those who are economically disadvantaged, and who therefore have little access to reading material outside of school. About half of Oceanside’s students are classified as economically disadvantaged
and a glance at the State testing data shows that their reading scores are significantly below those of the other students. In fact, non-disadvantaged students at Oceanside score above the state average (admittedly not a major accomplishment; California consistently ranks last or near last in the US in reading).

The money spent on the new commercial program might be better spent on books for the school library.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
Rossier School of Education, USC

By Sherry Saavedra

OCEANSIDE – Identifying teenagers who read at an elementary school level and giving them a daily two-hour dose of language-arts instruction is the cornerstone of an academic reform package for Oceanside High School.

The campus recently landed on a list of state-monitored schools that are required to address the needs of students who aren't making adequate academic improvement. The program provides more than $1 million in state funding for the effort to boost test scores.

Changes include buying a new remedial-reading curriculum program for ninth-and 10th-graders, training teachers how to use it, and buying new software that allows teachers to quickly ascertain which skills students are struggling to learn. The measures will be implemented next fall.

Principal Kimo Marquardt said the program, recently approved by the school board, will give Oceanside High additional financial resources to better reach students with the most serious reading deficiencies.

"Students who can't read a ninth-grade text are struggling in all their classes," Marquardt said.

The school made the list by failing to meet growth targets on the Academic Performance Index, which crunches test scores into a single number ranging from 200 to 1,000, with 800 being the state's target for all schools. Schools are expected to meet certain growth goals each year toward reaching 800 – schoolwide and among various subgroups such as Hispanics and blacks.

While Oceanside High's schoolwide API score gained 38 points for the 2002-'03 school year, and 27 points the following year, it dropped 18 points to 659 for performance during the past school year. Caucasians failed to meet their growth goal two years ago, and all subgroups fell short of their benchmarks last year.

Juli Stephens, who will oversee the intervention program, said Oceanside High has shown substantial gains on the API in recent years, despite the recent dip.

"An incredibly dedicated staff has worked really hard to change the culture of this school to a college-going culture," she said.

Stephens said the new effort should increase the API scores at the school again. The state is providing $345,000 annually for three years to improve performance, and veteran teachers will be tapped to mentor colleagues.

Oceanside High administrators worked with the San Diego County Office of Education to design the program. A major part of the plan is a focus on providing resources for struggling readers.

The latest results on the California Standards Tests show that 64 percent of Oceanside High's ninth-graders scored less than proficient in language arts, while 79 percent of the 10th-graders failed to demonstrate proficiency.

Oceanside High School will purchase "Read 180," a language-arts intervention program adopted by the state Board of Education for students who are reading at a sixth-grade level or below, Stephens said. Next fall, these students will be enrolled in two periods of language arts instead of one.

Low-performing math students will enroll simultaneously in algebra and a math support class. State-adopted algebra materials will be purchased for classes that don't have them.


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— Sherry Saavedra and Stephen Krashen
San Diego Union


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