Campus: CSU, Sacramento -- September 21, 2000

Program Strives for Better Reading Results

Honesty may be the best policy. It may also help California children become better readers.

The Reading Results program, developed by experts in the California Reading and Literature Project or CRLP, is training teachers to work together to improve the reading instruction process in their schools by taking a hard look at what works for their students and eliminating what doesn't.

The project - with headquarters at California State University, Sacramento - pairs groups of inexperienced, under-prepared teachers with experienced teachers to "fix" the system in their school.

CRLP's Reading Results teaches teachers from low-performing schools how to assess student performance and, more importantly, how to use the data to improve instruction. The program's reach has been impressive. They assessed 1,300 and collected data on students in the first year, 1996-97. In subsequent years they tested 10,000 kids, then 20,000 and this year 100,000 kids.

"What we bring is reality," says Lynda Peddy, statewide director of the K-3 component of the program. "It's a teacher-led project, true to the reality of the everyday teacher in the classroom."

Contrary to what policy makers might believe, "Reading is rocket science, if we want all kids to read," Peddy says. "There isn't any one program that can work for every child."

"Nothing replaces a knowledgeable, caring, reflective, inspired, motivated teacher," she says.

Peddy and her cadre of teachers designed Reading Results to incorporate assessment training and leadership development with curriculum instruction. The professional development combination is usually not available to elementary school teachers. They work with CSU and UC faculty, including Nancy Cecil and John Shefelbine from CSUS teacher education, to help refine the curriculum.

The key, Peddy says, is getting the teachers to look at the entire community of students at their school as "our kids," not my students, her students, his students. That's unique in education, she says.

One of the biggest leaps to overcome is the reluctance on the part of teachers to share their kids' performance results with other teachers. If they're not talking, they can't help each other, Peddy says.

Reading Results encourages team members to look at performance honestly - and not to take the results personally. Once the teachers take a non-judgmental look at what the students actually know, they are in a position to consider solutions such as additional training or resources.

The California Reading and Literature Project works offers training programs at 12 CSUs and UCs statewide in an effort to help schools meet state requirements that children will read at their grade level. And with recent increases in state funding, next year the number of universities participating in the program will climb to 17.

This year Reading Results offered two types of trainings at the regional sites. First-year participants are selected from schools with low SAT 9 scores and high percentages of children on reduced fee lunches and limited English speakers. Their California Professional Development Institutes focused on teams of experienced and inexperienced teachers, instructing the groups on the best way teach reading, hold team meetings and analyze data.

The California Reading and Literature Project also held a Leaders Institute, which brought back team leaders from each school site for a second session to do more advanced work. In addition, the regional office at CSUS offers a variety of other programs to K-12 teachers throughout the academic year. For example, this fall regional teacher-leaders will provide training in such topics as developmental spelling, comprehension, professional readings and the art of teaching Shakespeare. Karen Sarafian-Hames, CSUS CRLP regional director, says each workshop provides theory as well as hands-on practical training. And, she adds, the teachers love it.

Both Peddy and Sarafian-Hames agree that they can't always expect that the state will have the money to fund programs like the Reading Results Professional Development Institutes. They say it's critical to develop leadership at the schools so that efforts to make students better readers will continue even if funding for professional development becomes less available.

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