They all want real change, but it’s just more of the same

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Joined: Fri Apr 24, 2009 4:51 pm
Location: Missouri

They all want real change, but it’s just more of the same

Post by nschaben » Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:43 pm

Hello! I haven’t posted on this forum in quite some time. My little red headed boy in the picture is almost 14 now! I have kept up on this forum because the knowledge and strategies that I have gained here has always been more useful than my graduate courses in reading instruction. A little recap on my background:

1. I live and work in Mid-Missouri, USA
2. My undergraduate degrees are in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, and an endorsement as a Reading Specialist that has just expired. I am working on my Masters in Reading at the University of Arkansas online and will finish in the next 10 months. I did not choose this university for its quality of reading instruction classes; it was the quickest and cheapest route.
3. I have been a Title 1 Reading teacher (Reading Specialist) for 8 years in public schools.
4. After graduating in 2001, my training was in Balanced Literacy and Reading Recovery. I changed my theory of beginning reading instruction after years observing many of my students fail to become proficient readers with strictly guided reading as an intensive reading intervention. My goal was to independently research what reading methods/programs/strategies were utilized in other countries with much higher literacy rates. In short, that led me to this forum and soon an enlightenment formed after secretly using synthetic phonics within my guided reading groups.
5. Due to a heart condition, I have been running my own reading clinic the past 3 years. I’ve had some fantastic results with students of all ages and varying degrees of reading difficulties. All interventions that I have chosen to utilize in my clinic were based on synthetic phonics. I’ve never had a student NOT excel with Debbie’s program or resources. So, I am forever grateful to Ms. Hepplewhite!

After a successful heart surgery this past summer, I have decided to go back to working as a Reading Interventionist in a nearby public school district. There were too many students that needed help at my reading clinic that I didn’t have the time to reach them all. So, it seemed logical that I start working in the schools in hopes of helping other teachers implement research based intervention so that students wouldn’t have a chance to fall so far behind.

My medical team wanted me to be on disability for the next 6 months, but I feel fine. I accepted a reading teacher position with less hours and responsibilities and my doctor was fine with that. My new job is in a district I have never worked in before. Within this district, there are there are 17 public schools serving 8,991 students. It is a large city in our state, so I assumed that the chosen reading instruction methods would be more advanced. That is, based on sound reading research for effectiveness. At the interview, I was honest about my views on reading instruction and the administrators said that I would be a good asset since the district was only at a 50% literacy rate. Many consider this a success since it is much higher than previous years. I was incredibly curious about the infrastructure of their reading program.

During commencement, I learned that the district’s new three year goal was all about bringing up that 50% literacy rate. It was all quite exciting because it felt like I was going to be part of something new and above the rest of the stuff I had been trained to use in the past.
Well, that wasn’t the case at all. After 12 years of strictly using Reading Recovery as the districts intervention (the district had over 20 Reading Recovery teachers), they decided to drop it. This should be a good thing, since students are much better off synthetic phonics instruction. The problem was that I kept finding that everyone was still brainwashed by Balanced Literacy and Reading Recovery methods. What’s more, the districts reading curriculum adviser chose Jan Richardson’s Next Step in Guided Reading as the new program reading model, instruction, and assessment. It’s really just more balanced literacy and Marie Clay strategies. The assessment is just the same as the DRA. I’m not sure why they spent so much money on something that was pretty much just the same. I keep thinking it has something to do with the good ties the district has with the publishing company.

We are almost finished with the beginning of the year assessment and it is quite sad. Half of all fifth graders are reading two or more years behind grade level. It's like that in many grades, really. Am I the only one that thinks that this may be a simple issue of having no phonics instruction whatsoever? They don’t use phonemic awareness in grade K-2, either. It is not a lack of reading specialists, we actually have more than enough to help this large number of students lagging behind. Then again, this district has always had a large number of reading specialists employed in the schools and yet they still had less than 50% reading on grade level. They don't want letter sounds to be introduced in Kindergarten until December. So, the focus now is on memorizing letter names. A practice that I have never taught, but now I have to do. I have always taught letter sounds first and the kiddos just kind of "picked up" the names of the letters on their own for the most part.

The worst of it is the fact that I have to be careful with my questions, what I suggest, and what skewing I do of my interventions. That, and the fact that I chose to have a lower ranking reading teaching position because my doctor thought it would be less stress. I find the opposite to be true.

Can anyone else relate? Suggestions? My family thinks that I should just be thankful for a paycheck and just go right along with it. If my job is to help students become proficient readers, then why shouldn't I employ what I think (based on research and my own experience) will help them reach that goal?

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