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Focusing on reading

This sounds promising.

When HISD Superintendent Terry Grier took charge three years ago, he quickly latched onto a troubling statistic: roughly 70,000 of the district’s students were not reading at grade level.

Students who should have learned reading basics by third grade continue to enter middle and high school stumbling over words and struggling with comprehension.

As Houston Independent School District students return to class Monday, some of them – the weakest readers in sixth and ninth grades – will prepare for a crash course to catch them up. The students will take a newly designed reading class daily or every other day in addition to their regular language arts course.

“These children dropped through the cracks during their experience with us or with other school districts,” Grier said.

HISD’s approach, if it works, could serve as a national model for districts trying to help older students who don’t read well, said Marybeth Flachbart, president of the Neuhaus Education Center, a Houston nonprofit that specializes in reading instruction.

HISD has contracted with Neuhaus to train teachers for the new reading classes – refreshing them on phonics and other fundamentals, plus giving them tips for teaching basic skills to teenagers.


Grier and the school board began focusing on improving literacy last year, sending elementary school teachers to training at Neuhaus to try to keep future students from entering sixth grade with reading problems. Since January 2011, the district has paid Neuhaus more than $3.6 million – money Grier said is well spent.

I certainly agree with the emphasis on improving reading scores. As the story notes, students from lower income families, and there are many within HISD, tend to start school knowing fewer words than students from more affluent households. That puts them behind from the beginning, and presents increasing challenges every year. I look forward to seeing what effect this program has on the standardized test scores. I’d also like to hear from anyone who’s had experience with this particular program. Leave a comment and let us know what you think of it. Thanks!

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One Comment

  1. The HISD has now had 18 months in which to determine if their strategy for remedial reading is being successful. Are there any reports with empirical data the demonstrate that the 3.6 million dollars “was well spent”? If such data exists, it should be shared with other educators. If no such data exists, then HISD could be pouring money into a black hole.