Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Software Substitutes for Tutors Some Lament Cuts in Reading Program

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Software Substitutes for Tutors Some Lament Cuts in Reading Program

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Software and Web-based learning programs can affordably help schools tutor students needing an extra boost in the classroom, according to state officials, but some argue technology can't replace personalized tutoring.

Under expansive school reform laws, school systems are stretching budgets to meet new requirements and forced to better identify struggling students and offer them remediation. Meanwhile, the recent state attorney general's decision regarding state funds and religious institutions has yanked Reading Challenge, a popular reading program, away from 1,001 students in need of such tutoring.

"There are going to be a lot of children who won't be getting the reading help they need this fall," said state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko during an interview earlier this month. "In some cases those private, religious-based organizations were making bigger strides than the [public] schools offering the program."

But if teachers make use of new technology, those children might not fall through the cracks.

Companies have released a myriad of programs and software designed to improve student scores in subjects ranging from math to reading. Drills, interactive games, online discussion groups, homework exercises are just a smattering of what teachers can use to help students lagging behind their classmates.

"They know they have students who are low performing in reading and they can adopt some software to help them," said Linda Whitacre, director of Georgia Learning Connection. "Do we want them to base all their teaching on skills-based software? Absolutely not."

Georgia Learning Connection provides an online database of resources and state-mandated curriculum requirements so teachers can easily determine whether different programs and software meet the standards. Since 1997, they've trained 12,000 teachers and administrators to not only use computers, but provided strategic ways to infuse different technologies in lesson plans. …

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