Superintendent defends new reading program for LRSD - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Superintendent defends new reading program for LRSD

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- With quite a bit of backlash from parents in the Little Rock School District over a change in the district's reading program, superintendent Dr. Dexter Suggs spoke for the first time about the upcoming change on Thursday.

The "Reading Recovery," program, a system used for about 20 years in the district, will be wiped out.

A new reading initiative set to start for the 2014 fall academic year will completely revamp the way LRSD teaches reading.

Although he wasn't planning to tell details of the district's new approach to literacy until a later board meeting, Suggs said after so much exposure he felt it was appropriate to do so Thursday morning.

"Currently we're only providing service for 13 of our 30 schools, so it's critical that we find a way to provide services needed for all of our students because literacy is extremely important," Suggs said during a press conference at the Little Rock School District office.

According to Suggs, six times the students will receive critical teaching under the new plan, as opposed to "Reading Recovery."

The new plan maps out one reading teacher for each of its 30 elementary schools, but current teachers in the "Reading Recover," program will have to apply for those spots.

"We're changing the job description. Once you change the job description, you just can't automatically insert people into a particular role without giving everyone an equal opportunity to pursue that particular position," Suggs said about retaining the teachers.

The overall makeup of moving away from the program that LRSD has used for about two decades has drawn major scrutiny from community members, with a petition nearing the 1,500 signatures mark.

"Someone told me we had 1,500 petition signatures. I sort of laughed because we can't get 1,500 people to come out and vote in the school board election, but it's funny we can get 1,500 people to vote on a petition," Suggs laughed when asked about the petition.

Parents are expected to give their opinions on the literacy change during Thursday night's school board meeting.