Tulsa Public Schools is reporting progress in helping children learn to read, especially in the critical 3rd grade level. One tool they're using is a system that matches lessons with the ability of individual children.
Kendall Whittier Elementary has 94 students in this program, but it's been rolled out in schools all over the district, 60 children in 3rd grade at Hoover Elementary spend part of their day in a special reading class that's helping them catch up so they'll be ready for next year.
In the 3rd grade classroom at Hoover Elementary, the lesson is clear and simple. It's all reading, all the time. Children read to the teacher, they read by themselves, and they read into a computer; a computer that can check their pronunciation.
It's called System 44, and it's one of the two programs Tulsa is counting on to help struggling readers get ahead.
"They have really improved, their fluency has improved, their comprehension has improved, they have confidence in what they're doing," said 3rd grade teacher Rebecca King.
And according to the district, the program is working. Tulsa Public Schools has 1,700 3rd graders in the program. On average, they advance their reading skill by a grade level in 6 months' time. Overall, 38-percent of the students have advanced by a grade level since Thanksgiving. At Hoover Elementary, 50-percent of students in the program jumped ahead that far, that quickly.
"I love it; it's so structured, organized that the kids love it," said 3rd grade reading teacher Liane Evans.
Each student spends 20 minutes a day on the computer, the rest is group work. 9 year old Preston started the program this year.
"You have to do these stations, spelling, you have to do fluency, find the word a certain amount of times, you have to do a lot of stuff," Preston said.
Tulsa Public Schools has used the computer programs before, but never to the extent they are using them this year. It's part of the effort to get Tulsa's 3rd graders reading so they can pass a reading test, and pass on to the 4th grade, where the curriculum shifts away from learning to read, to reading to learn.
But Tulsa's 3rd graders still have a ways to go. The district believes if the test was given today, about 600 children would fail. They've got another month, and summer school if needed, to reach grade level so they can pass the test.