Students used reading software twice a week to improve reading skills.

Tylertown High School is located Walthall County–Mississippi’s primary dairy county. In Tylertown, the county seat, approximately one-third of adults over the age of 25 do not have a high school diploma. Many kids are not encouraged to read at home. There are too many other distractions.

But in high school, students are expected to read, analyze, and use higher order thinking skills. If their comprehension and fluency are not where they should be, they have difficulty in their classes–whether it is in English, biology, U.S. history, or math–and do not do well on state subject area testing. Reading is, indeed, the key to achieving success in all these areas.

When I arrived here at the high school in 2009, I noticed my students had very low self-esteem when they had to read aloud. To help students strengthen their reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, we thought they might feel more comfortable and less intimidated working with technology. So we used Title I funds to purchase a software program called Reading Assistant and began using it in fall 2009.

All seventh and eighth grade students, except those receiving special education services, worked on the software 50 minutes a day, twice a week in the computer lab. The software, which uses advanced speech recognition technology, acts as a personal interactive tutor and allows us to provide individualized, guided oral reading practice for every student.

To improve content-area reading and learning, many of the guided reading selections include content from science, social studies, or literature standards. Students can preview vocabulary, listen to a modeled fluent reading of a passage, and read the passage orally. As students read aloud, they receive real-time corrective feedback, allowing them to recover and learn from their errors. Teachers can also receive assessment reports and listen to audio samples of students.