LRSD reading program changes draw scrutiny from parents - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

LRSD reading program changes draw scrutiny from parents

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- It may be out with the old and in with the new for a reading program in Little Rock schools.

For about the last two decades the Little Rock School District has used a first-grade Reading Recovery program to improve literacy.  It's a strategy many researchers and parents consider successful, so you can imagine there's some push back as superintendent Dr. Dexter Suggs intends to change it.

In some cases this reading program mentors kids throughout all of elementary school, but it may come to a sudden end around Little Rock, where parents aren't the least bit happy about it.

"I sat in this building at Central High School last week, and the principal told me she's got kids in there that are reading on the fourth, fifth and sixth-grade levels. These are seniors, juniors and sophomore," said frustrated parent, Jim Ross.

Ross is not only voicing his frustrations over Dr. Suggs' plans to change the Reading Recovery program, he's making it known online through a petition. The page has gained more than 1,300 signatures since Friday.

At the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, literacy director Dr. Linda Dorn continues to study Reading Recovery, saying it's one of the most successful in the nation across all races of children.

"You know here's this history of effectiveness, and this history of support. Now suddenly we're drastically dropping that. We're starting to invest in something that has no research behind it," Dr. Dorn said, speaking about Suggs' new plan.

Dr. Suggs was unavailable to speak on-camera Tuesday, but said the district would not be eliminating the reading program, rather restructuring it so more students at all schools would benefit.

He released this statement to Channel Seven:

"The New Little Rock School District's plan for reading teachers is intended to meet the needs of struggling students by providing an extension of the research-based, LRSD Elementary Literacy Integrated Core Curriculum. The plan for LRSD reading teachers isn't new; it is an extension of the core curriculum and instructional design for elementary literacy. Through extension of the core curriculum, reading teachers will work with groups of students with similar needs to improve literacy performance and achievement."


That may not be enough proof to parents, until his concrete plan surfaces.

"If they won't keep this program in place, we're going to stay on them day and night. If we see them continuing to slip into ‘Let's save money instead of helping kids,' then we're going to move as quickly as we can to replace board members, superintendents and assistant superintendents," Ross added.

Latest numbers from 2012-2013 show 175 students at LRSD were taught Reading Recovery by 21 teachers. An additional 549 students received help during the second-half of the day following Reading Recovery.

Parents plan to voice additional concern at Thursday's school board meeting.