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TIPS' Cover This Week

Reading in Renfroe

An Account of a Reading Intervention Approach

by Dick Fuller
Carl G. Renfroe Middle School

"Reprinted from the Winter '98-99 issue of MIDDLE MATTERS (Vol. 7, No. 2) with permission from the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

I teach at Carl G. Renfroe Middle School in the City Schools of Decatur which is located in Decatur, Georgia. Decatur is a suburb of Atlanta located about six miles due east of the capitol and still within the perimeter. We are a small, urban school with 585 students and a free or subsidized lunch program of about 48.9% of the student population. We are the feeder middle school for seven elementary schools, and we feed into the one high school in our system. All nine schools are located within the four square miles of the city limits.

The City Schools of Decatur is also different in that all of our teachers are required to have a Master's degree within seven years of being hired. Children who are products of the system, entering at kindergarten and graduating from high school, have a distinct advantage here.

I give you this information for two reasons: 1. our demographics demonstrate clearly that we are in an urban setting with all the possibilities, potentials, and problems that can mean and 2: our size allows us to assess our situation easily and to move forward quickly, deliberately, and with great intentionality. Small is beautiful and a blessing.

Reading has always been a cornerstone of the City Schools of Decatur curriculum. A little over two years ago, we found ourselves in a quandary. The student body of Renfroe had been tested in the spring and we found that over 100 students in the school demonstrated reading skill deficiencies two or more grade levels below where we expected them to be. (Grade level is a term used to designate the needed skills to successfully complete academic work for a specific year, the year or grade in which the student is enrolled.) This finding called for immediate attention.

We discovered there was a wide range of reading difficulties. There were students who struggled with the basics of reading - sounding out letters and words - and students who appeared to read rather well and yet had trouble with comprehension and analysis of information. Beginning with the premise and belief that the reading is the cornerstone to all academic success and that all the students need to be successful, the staff began to look for a solidly researched reading intervention program that could address the needs of the full spectrum of problems within the student body.

Concurrently, Georgia State University's School of Special Education, was looking at a similar problem and received a grant to work with SRA's (Science Research Associates) Corrective Reading Program at several schools within the metropolitan Atlanta region. Renfroe Middle School and Georgia State University entered into a collaborative effort and the program was piloted at Renfroe for one year focusing on the reading skill needs of those students at the decoding level.

Continued: Reading in Renfroe

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