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HISD’s volunteer reading army

HISD’s number one priority is, or at least needs to be, improving reading performance. I really hope this will help.

Leaders of the Houston Independent School District turned to the community on Thursday, launching the district’s largest volunteer recruitment effort in recent years – all to help solve HISD’s intractable literacy problem.

The nation’s seventh-largest school system put out a call for 1,500 volunteers – business professionals, retirees and others – to work weekly with first-graders across the district who are struggling to read.

The volunteer effort is part of Superintendent Terry Grier’s latest literacy plan, which sets a goal that all students will read on grade level by third grade. Last school year, only one-third of HISD’s third-graders hit the state’s recommended level on the reading test; about two-thirds met the easier minimum standards.

“This is a big, big issue, and together we’re going to be able to do this,” Grier said at a news conference at Garcia Elementary, addressing the business and nonprofit executives helping to fund and coordinate the volunteer effort.

Relying on volunteers to read with or tutor students is not a new concept – HISD already has a smaller program targeting male volunteers. Studies have shown such programs can be beneficial, although the quality varies.

“It sounds so wonderful – a way for people to be involved in education – but education is complicated and, especially, teaching reading is complicated,” said Jo Worthy, an education professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

We learned from the Apollo program that focused tutoring can improve math performance, but reading has proven to be a tougher nut to crack. Given that there doesn’t seem to be one silver bullet to solve this problem, I’m fine with taking a multi-pronged approach and seeing what works best. There are other efforts going on as well, so hopefully we will see some results. If you want to get involved, the first thing to do is to go to the HISD Volunteers in Public Schools page and sign up to help. I think we’re going to need as many hands on deck as we can get.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for the support. The place to learn more or to sign up for Read Houston Read is http://www.readhoustonread.com.