Officials predict results by 2013 or 2014

Full implementation of a new literacy program in seven Forest Grove schools will take time, but administrators are willing to wait for the expected payoff: higher reading and writing scores on standardized tests.

It could be 2013 or 2014 before the controversial Reading Street curriculum - which cost the district $552,000 at a time of severe budget cuts - to produce desired results among the district's K-6 students, superintendent Yvonne Curtis said Monday.

But a limited rollout of the program last spring and 'listening sessions' to hear teachers' concerns about imparting the lessons in English and Spanish should bump kids toward the goal, she noted.

'Right now we're in an implementation dip ... a kind of disequilibrium,' Curtis said, adding that some teachers have 'angst' over what lessons to teach and tests to administer from materials provided by the curriculum's New York publisher.

With adequate professional development, Curtis added, 'you start to see improvements by the second year, and by the third year you see really strong implementation.'

Teachers who piloted the program in their classrooms last school year have 'a significant level of competence and comfort' with the curriculum, said assistant superintendent John O'Neill, while others are skittish about the change. 'We've heard a common theme: teachers need time for grade-level specific discussions about what's working and what's not,' he said.

Three teachers on special assignment, whose salaries are paid through federal Title I funds, are working with Curtis and O'Neill to bolster reading instruction across the district. But Curtis acknowledged that demographically diverse schools will continue to have specific learning challenges even while using a common curriculum.

Twenty-two teachers at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School piloted Reading Street last year to give students a leg up on passing federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks in reading, which they missed two years in a row.

The district could have been ordered to set aside $341,000 for tutoring services had the school failed for a third year, one reason Curtis pushed for the purchase of Reading Street.

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