Mandarin High Brings High Tech to Literacy Training

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN SCANLAN

An all-encompassing approach to improve the reading abilities of every student at Mandarin High School kicked off last week with a demonstration of its technology to teachers.

The school's media center is the core of the new Literacy Initiative. But a high-tech facility called the Distance Learning Lab -- a two-way video link between Mandarin High School and the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership -- will let students and teachers at other schools be involved as well.

School standards coach Linda Griffith says the project will radiate like spokes on a wheel to encompass teachers in every class.

"Every single one of our teachers -- drama, art, P.E., wood shop -- have learned that literacy is not just about reading novels. It is reading diagrams in wood shop, graphics in our graphics classrooms, looking at art and being able to discuss and write about what you see."

The program will also bring parents into the facility to help their children improve reading skills.

"We need to educate the parents so they can help," said Brenda Hall, president of the school's Parent/Teacher/Student Association. "We have workshops scheduled for the next six weeks on Monday nights, the first two on FCAT and math."

Even though Mandarin High School received an "A" grade from the state Department of Education after last year's FCAT test results, its administration decided to start a literacy program because the scores showed fewer than half the students read at grade level. The high school created a hub of "literacy focus" where teachers can develop, implement and monitor programs to improve student reading levels. The program should close the gap between the students who read at or above grade level and those who read below.

"We really have a lot of work to do with those kids who are under level 3 on the FCAT and struggling to understand what they read. That means they may have difficulty getting into college, understanding job descriptions, a manual or their tax return," Griffith said.

The teacher training center has a library where staff can learn new methods to incorporate literacy improvement into their subject classes, and parents can learn those reading strategies to "reinforce what we teach students at home," said Griffith. …