August 13, 2007 — Berkeley, Calif. — Elementary school students in the Anchorage, Alaska public schools are making impressive gains in their reading test scores, the school district and the Consortium on Reading Excellence (CORE) have announced. In a new program used by ten elementary schools during the 2006-2007 school year, 83 percent of participating classrooms saw students´ reading scores improve, district officials report. This is more than double the improvement shown in the same classrooms during the preceding school year.
Describing how the striking improvements came about, district officials credit their collaboration with CORE and CORE learning consultants to fully implement the district´s research-based reading curriculum. "CORE has a highly evolved implementation plan," states Patricia McRae, Executive Director of Elementary Education for the Anchorage School District. "It is well thought out and based on years of experience and success. It´s an effective plan," she says. She describes the CORE consultants in her district as "very helpful. They´re ready for anything."
McRae first worked with CORE when it provided consulting services to six district elementary schools that were designated Reading First schools. She was struck by the reports of the six school principals, who told her that their students and teachers "would not have made the progress they did without the CORE consultants." So when the district was ready to implement a new reading curriculum in ten low-performing schools, it turned to CORE. "Our new curriculum requires changes in instruction and assessment practices. Teachers have had to adjust to 90-minute instructional blocks and learn how to utilize the results of reading assessments as they relate to reading instruction and the curriculum. The CORE consultants helped at every step of the way," McRae says.
The Special Challenges of Serving Diverse Learners
The Anchorage School District is one of the most diverse in the nation. In fact, according to census data, Anchorage is the nation´s second most ethnically diverse city (behind Los Angeles). More than 90 different languages are spoken by the city´s residents. This results in enormous challenges for the district´s 60 elementary schools, especially when it comes to teaching reading. The Houghton Mifflin Reading program includes useful assessments, says McRae. "With our new program, we ask our teachers to look at the facts–to analyze assessment results and use them to meet students´ needs," McRae notes, adding that "it´s a challenge, and our teachers have done an outstanding job–as shown by our results. Each year an increasing percentage of students in our school district are learning to read by the end of third grade."
Results of the new program are encouraging. Implemented in kindergarten through sixth grades at each of the ten participating elementary schools, the program has helped a significant number of students make major strides in reading achievement. Some classes saw gains as high as 28 percent over previous-year scores. Across all grades and classes, score increases averaged 8.6 percent year to year. McRae says that credit is due to teachers, the reading program, and CORE´s assistance. "Fidelity of implementation is very important to the success of this reading program. That´s where the CORE consultants made a huge difference for us." Overall, she says, "I know that all kids can learn to read. We´re seeing that now and it´s exciting."
CORE was founded in 1995 by Bill Honig, President, and former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. CORE serves as an advisor to K-12 schools, school districts, and states on the implementation of literacy instruction validated by scientifically based reading research. Through technical advice, professional development, and on-site implementation support, the company builds the capacity of its clients to achieve sustained literacy achievement. For more information about CORE, please contact Linda Diamond at 888.249.6155 ext 101 or visit: www.corelearn.com.