Lake Teachers Called on to Improve Reading Scores Officials Want Better Blending of Popular Types of Instruction
Korecki, Natasha, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Natasha Korecki Daily Herald Staff Writer
As reading scores in Lake County continue to decline, school districts are grappling with ways to help teachers improve reading instruction.
In the Woodland elementary district, teachers can enroll in a master's program in reading instruction.
Libertyville elementary schools have in-house teachers who help keep instructors current on reading instruction.
And Gurnee elementary schools continue to emphasize two literacy programs - Partners in Literacy and Reading and Recovery - aimed at helping teachers deal with difficulties of teaching reading.
Although scores for nearly all Lake County schools hovered above state averages in the Illinois Goals Assessment Program, some slipped. It's a drop that has Lake County educators re-examining teaching methods, especially the use of "whole language" vs. "phonics" - two commonly used ways of teaching reading.
In September, state schools Superintendent Joseph Spagnolo released a plan to improve reading scores, including stressing a better integration of phonics and whole language.
Phonics, the more traditional approach that includes sounding out words and practice drills, may be lacking in some curricula because of a recent emphasis on the whole language teaching style, Spagnolo said.
Whole language stresses the importance of literature, allowing students to figure out words through context.
The Lake Zurich unit district is one of many districts that shifted toward an emphasis on whole language approach about eight years ago, before almost immediately shifting back.
Sharon Kramer, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said schools quickly discovered using one approach over another created an imbalance.
"You wouldn't send your child to a piano lesson ... without practicing first," Kramer said. "You need to find a balanced approach."
Lake Zurich Unit District 95 soon embraced both methods and integrated them into its reading programs, a step most Lake County districts since have taken.
"I think phonics got de-emphasized in the last 10 years, but I don't think anyone ever abandoned it," said Mark Friedman, superintendent of Libertyville Elementary District 70. …