Word's Spreading about Reading Four Years after It Was Implemented at Neuqua, Reading Workshop Class Is Coming to Waubonsie
Sneller, Beth, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Beth Sneller Daily Herald Staff Writer
High school students with reading problems often are depicted in movies or on TV struggling through sentences, barely able to decipher words with more than two syllables.
That portrayal couldn't be more wrong, Lance Fuhrer says.
More likely, such lower-achieving students might read the actual words relatively well. But ask them to explain what they just read, and you'll get a blank stare.
It's comprehension that's their problem, he says, not decoding.
For the past four years, Naperville's Neuqua Valley High School - where Fuhrer serves as English department chairman - has been teaching students reading comprehension strategies through a class called Reading Workshop.
Next year, sister school Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora plans to offer the extra class, too.
The point behind Reading Workshop, teachers and administrators say, is to give struggling students tools to meet state standards.
According to the schools' state report cards, which were released in December, 32.9 percent of Waubonsie juniors and 25.7 percent of Neuqua juniors did not meet overall state standards on last year's Prairie State Achievement Examination, which includes the ACT.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires each student to meet specified standards by 2014.
That means Waubonsie and Neuqua - along with virtually every other high school in the state - have a lot of work to do.
Administrators say reading is the obvious place to start.
"Reading is such a key piece of the ACT, which makes it a key part of the PSAE," Waubonsie Assistant Principal Jim Schmid said.
Schmid and reading specialist Sandy Krickeberg have been working for several months on a program to help students who are falling behind.
They still are ironing out details of their program and how much staffing they will need. But they know they probably will ask 10 percent to 15 percent of incoming freshmen, and about 10 percent of sophomores, to participate. Half of those will be special needs students.
Waubonsie will use standardized tests from seventh and eighth grades to identify underachieving students who might benefit from extra reading help.
The difficulty, Schmid said, will be in trying to convince the students - who aren't too excited about reading in the first place - to give up an elective class for the program.
"That's the challenge for us - how do we allow them to take electives they like and plan for the future and still meet the state standards?" Schmid said.
Some parents may not want their children to give up an elective, such as business or applied technology, and Waubonsie won't force the issue, Schmid said.
"I don't really feel we can mandate them to take this course," he said.
Fuhrer said Neuqua hasn't experienced much resistance to the program, which is targeted mainly at freshmen.
Some parents worry their children will miss out on electives, Fuhrer said. But the most common electives freshmen take are business and foreign language and they easily can take them later on, he said. …