Teachers Boost Literacy in Young Students

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An urban school district is providing special training to help teachers boost literacy in young students.  First graders who arrive at school unable to read, write, or recognize their names or some letters of the alphabet will now receive help to accelerate literacy from the Reading Recovery Program.

This year, Detroit Public Schools has sent 29 of its teachers into training at Oakland University’s Reading Recovery Center, where they will become certified Reading Recovery teachers.

These teachers are employed in 16 of the district’s highest priority schools, and their training is being funded with part of a five-year, $48 million Investing in Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Under the grant, Oakland University is receiving $4 million from 2010-15 to train 250 certified teachers in Michigan schools.

The need for literacy programs is great in Detroit and across the state, school officials said. A recent national test found that only 7 percent of Detroit’s fourth-graders tested proficient in reading. Statewide, as many as 34 percent, or 37,750, of Michigan’s third-graders weren’t proficient in reading on last year’s Michigan Educational Assessment Program.

Teachers Boost Literacy in Young Students

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“These are the kids that, without an early intervention, they are guaranteed to fail,” said Mary Lose, director of Reading Recovery Center of Michigan and an associate professor of education at Oakland University. “We have the best chance of making a difference when we get them early.”

Regardless of poverty or affluence, children who cannot read or write are in every first-grade classroom. Proficiency rates vary in Michigan, but even affluent districts such as Troy, Bloomfield Hills, Rochester and Birmingham are using Reading Recovery to reach their bottom 20 percent of performers.

Students selected for the program meet with their Reading Recovery teacher for a 30-minute lesson each day for an average of 15-20 weeks, with the length of the program based on each student’s progress.

The teacher must constantly reassess each child and increase the rigor of instruction until the student reaches grade-level reading.

Laurie McCarty, assistant superintendent of learning services in the Bloomfield Hills School District, said the program has produced results. About 55 students are in the program every year, she said.

“As you see them grow day after day, the confidence is built and success is there. The teachers are trained to meet the student where they are. There is a connection with the home because books are sent home every night,” McCarty said. “When a student is discontinued after 15 weeks, our hope is they are in the middle of the class they are going back into and they can be there without the support.”

From DPS, Jan DeRossett and Nicola Turner are training to become certified Reading Recovery teacher leaders. The pair were selected to take part in a rigorous, yearlong program that involves one-on-one teaching sessions with first-graders. When the pair complete their training in June, they will train more Reading Recovery teachers for Detroit Public Schools this fall, school officials said.

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