In just two months of practicing their reading using a curriculum called Reading Plus, the 20 students have improved their reading abilities by an average of two grade levels. One student even increased his reading by six grade levels.
“Everyone who has been involved with the program has seen some sort of improvement of which I am just blown away,” said CEO teacher Shelley Medina. “I have used a couple of different reading programs before, but I’ve not seen the level of quality of work and achievement and improvement in a group of kids as much as I’ve seen over the last two months with our CEO students. And I’m very impressed, thankful and proud of the work that they’ve done.”
Medina said that her students’ reading ability varied greatly, but most required basic fluency development and needed silent reading intervention as well. Many of the students could read with fluency but needed to build their comprehension and vocabulary in order to access more complex content.
“A lot of us can read, we simply cannot read fast enough to get through the material in testing situations, like with the ACT,” Medina said of her students. “Being able to read and understand is fantastic but you have to be able to read fast enough.”
When CEO students began using Reading Plus they set goals for themselves in terms of total words read, average words read per student, average comprehension rate, words per minute and improvement in grade levels. To see success in Reading Plus, students have to be effective and efficient readers who must demonstrate speed and comprehension.
They not only met, but exceeded every goal.
In two months, CEO students read a total of 1,241,132 words with each student averaging 50,000 words. The average comprehension rate for the class was 85 percent. Silent fluency increased by over 100 words per minute with over half the class reading at or above his or her target rate.
“These are significant achievements in just two short months,” Medina said. “This is testimony to the time, diligence and effort these students have put forth.”
Students are experiencing positive side effects as well.
“For me, I can tell a difference in what it’s done for me. I would never read a book. I never got interested. This program gives you more information and now I like learning about different things,” one student said. “For example, Morris code. I read a story about that and I had never known anything about it or how it worked. So I ended up researching it and learning more about it.”
Medina credits the program with providing engaging topics for students to keep them interested in reading more. She said that students were actually talking to each other about what they’ve read in class, and one student shared that he had talked about his reading lesson with his family.
“It builds your background knowledge on stuff. I was talking to my grandma the other day in the car and we ran out of stuff to talk about and it got real boring. So I told her about one of the stories I read about how the city of Chicago was made mostly out of wood then it caught on fire and burned.”
The students also understand that reading better will help them succeed in other aspects of their lives now and in their lives after high school.
“It’s been really useful for me because it includes the vocabulary section, because that will help you in the real world like in a job so you’ll know what you’re talking about,” another added. “In the real world, people expect you to know how to read. If you go for a job and they ask you a question and you can’t answer it, you might be the last person they look at for the job.”
CEO Director Richard Hardy thinks reading is the most essential and most fundamental skill students need to gain in order to even have a chance at success in school and beyond.
“Clearly this program has helped the students with their reading ability and skills and all that goes with it,” Hardy said. “Since the formation of schools in this country, the expectation is you come out of school with some basic skills. Being able to read at the appropriate level is one of them. If you don’t read well, it handicaps your ability to be successful in this world.”
“We read every day of our lives,” a student observed. “There’s all kinds of things that tie into reading, and if you don’t know how to do it, you’re going to struggle.”
Now that students have completed the two-month trial period with Reading Plus, Hardy asked them if they wanted to continue with the program. The result was a unanimous decision to keep going – to keep getting better at reading. And to maybe even learn how to enjoy reading.
“It's definitely changed my perception. I was one of those kids who liked to read. I would like stay up at night with a flashlight reading. That’s how much I used to like reading,” said one student. “But in my teenage years, I’ve kind of just let that go. But this program has like sparked something. It’s lit a flame that was almost completely out. Now I’m reading in my free time.”
The Center for Educational Options is the district’s alternative school; a program of choice with an emphasis on self-growth. CEO provides an alternative education setting for behaviorally or socially at-risk students who, for a variety of reasons, are not successful in a traditional school setting.