West Ashley High ninth-grader Erika Wesolek works on a grammar lesson Thursday.
A reading program given a trial run last year at West Ashley High School has been so successful that other Charleston County and neighboring Dorchester 2 high schools have taken notice and may begin using it.Here in my town, it's common knowledge that the kids are gaining all their knowledge of grammar from foreign language classes.
In Charleston, the curriculum had been used exclusively with special education students. School Principal Mary Runyon saw those students' reading scores improving and decided to experiment and see whether it also would work for students who didn't have a disability.
The research-based curriculum, Language!, teaches English as if it were a foreign language; it breaks down its rules and explains them to students. The class focuses on the five components of reading -- from identifying sounds in words to developing vocabulary -- and the goal is to give students the foundation they need to become better readers.
Dorchester 2 Deputy Superintendent Barbara Stroble took a group of her high school teachers to West Ashley High last week to observe the program and get a better understanding of the way it works. Although Dorchester 2, which includes Summerville area schools, is one of the state's higher-performing districts, nearly 13 percent of its freshmen can't read better than a fourth-grader, according to an analysis requested by The Post and Courier.
"It's the old way we used to teach English," Stroble said. "A kid who's having difficulty in reading and he or she doesn't know the rules of the game, they get lost."
Freshman Amber Armstrong is in the West Ashley High program this year. She always thought her reading was fine, but after being in this class, she said she feels more confident because she's learning skills that none of her previous schools taught her.
She used to skip words she didn't know, but now she tries to figure out what they mean. It's easier for her to skim through notes and pick out important points, and vocabulary isn't as much of a challenge, she said. She doesn't use slang and she uses correct verbs when speaking. She said she'd like to take the course again next year.
by Diette Courrege
The Post and Courier
Monday, February 22, 2010
Not from "ELA."