Education Opinion

Building a Reading Program

By LeaderTalk Contributor — June 29, 2009 2 min read
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Now that I’m a ‘seasoned’ administrator (I have two years in already!! :)), I’ve decided that instead of trying to fix everything, I’ll pick a few goals to really focus on this next year (see how much smarter I’m getting?!?). I want to focus on literacy in our school, especially reading. We are an alternative school, K-12. Our students have come to us, for the most part, because their behaviors got in the way of their learning in their home school and so they were sent here. Many of our teachers are young and inexperienced. The new principal I hired a year ago, just completed his first year in administration. We are trying to build positive relationships with our students and change the negative behaviors that occur. That has been our main focus and we now have many positive classroom and school-wide incentives in place. I now want to focus on reading.

I want us to know the reading level of every student. I want us to know it when they come to us throughout the year, and I want us to know it when they leave. I want us to do more formative assessments so we can do interventions and help students with their reading skills. I want us to look at the data and make informed decisions based on that data. I want us to start a library. I want us to have software for our computers to help with reading skills. I want us to have audio books and podcasts for kids to listen to while they read along. I want to build time in the schedule where everyone reads.

So, what’s the problem you ask? Well, I’m not EXACTLY sure where to start. I don’t have a reading specialist to rely on and I don’t have a curriculum director to plan with and because we are a small school, we have classrooms with multi-grades and abilities. I want to make sure that I’m not burning out the new teachers as we try to meet the state reading standards for each grade and prepare for the statewide reading tests (let alone the other subjects with state standards and don’t forget working on those inappropriate behaviors that got them here in the first place}.

What would you do? If you could give me one piece of advice on how to set up a quality reading program, what would it be? You are starting with no K-12 reading program, curriculum or series in place. There are no classroom libraries of books. There is not a building-wide library. You do have enough computers for students, but little, if any, software programs for reading. You have state reading test scores and you now have a more formative assessment that you will administer three times a year for benchmarks and monthly, as needed, for progress data. What would you suggest next? What has worked for your school? I appreciate any thoughts, ideas or strategies that you are willing to share. Thank you!

Reggie Engebritson

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