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Literacy program implementation nearly complete


Principals tell Forest Grove board students are learning Reading Street lessons in English, Spanish

A new literacy curriculum, criticized for its expense at a time of deep budget cuts two years ago, is now well on its way to being fully implemented in the Forest Grove School District, the school board learned Monday night.

The Pearson Reading Street program, which is being taught in English and Spanish in grades K-6, cost $510,000 in 2011-12, a year during which $7.5 million was sliced from the district's budget.

Dozens of citizens turned out at school board meetings that spring to protest the move, which Superintendent Yvonne Curtis defended, saying it was necessary to boost reading comprehension.

Reading Street was piloted at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School that fall and has since been put to use at K-4 elementaries. Principal Melissa Carter of Joseph Gale Elementary School updated board members about progress toward district goals related to Reading Street lessons in English, while Principal Perla Rodriguez of Echo Shaw Elementary School did the same for the Spanish portion of the curriculum.

This year, Carter noted, teachers are working to "understand current literacy research and identify the most effective instructional strategies" as part of their professional development time, placing extra focus on vocabulary, spelling and comprehension instruction.

By 2013-14, she said, small group instruction "to meet the needs of all students based on assessment data" will be the norm.

Dual literacy — otherwise known as Two-Way Immersion, or classes taught in English and Spanish — and Spanish literacy students at Echo Shaw are benefiting from a staff focus on what and how reading is taught, said Rodriguez.

"What do we do if they don't learn it, and what do we do if they already know it?" she asked.

Curtis noted that a logistical change — consolidating the TWI program at Echo Shaw Elementary — might eventually be a good idea and allow the district to hold it up as a model for other districts. TWI classes currently operate at three of Forest Grove's six grade schools: Echo Shaw, Cornelius and Fern Hill.