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Program helps students improve reading skills

December 18, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A new computer-assisted reading program, Read 180, has helped about half the students who have used it this year, school officials said Tuesday.

The Washington County Board of Education released success rates from the first year of Read 180, a grant-funded computer program the school system bought last year to help students who have trouble learning to read.

Between September and mid-November 394 sixth- through ninth-grade county students using the program were monitored for progress, Sherry Purkey, supervisor of secondary English and language arts, said at the School Board work session Tuesday.

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Of those students, 49.7 percent showed a significant gain in reading levels, 34.8 percent maintained their reading levels and 15.5 percent dropped in their reading levels, Purkey said.

The program works by breaking up a normal 90-minute class period with computer, independent and teacher-driven learning.

Students use Read 180 computer software to build reading skills, vocabulary, spelling and comprehension during three separate 20 minute sections of the class period. The other 20 minutes of class involves teacher-driven activities.

Schools Director of Secondary Education Boyd Michael III said the results are positive because most of the students in the program have been struggling with reading most of their lives.

He said that 61 students, or 15.5 percent of students whose reading levels dropped, were under a lot of emotional stress at the time, according to teacher reports.

Purkey said students are monitoring their own progress by re-reading material for comprehension and by getting absorbed in the computer program.

"Kids are improving. Maybe not in leaps and bounds, but we can't expect that," she said.

She said students who work well through the Read 180 program typically go on to take Soar to Success, a reading comprehension program.

Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said Soar to Success has been used in county schools for several years at various grade levels.

The school system is also looking to further literacy education through sound recognition programs and corrective learning programs, said Patricia Abernethy, deputy superintendent of instruction.

She said reports to the School Board on ninth-grade students using the Read 180 program will be made again in February.

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