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Concerned about direction of school literacy program

June 5, 2012
Karen Donahey, Marshalltown , Times-Republican

As the bells were ringing on the last day of school, 12 long-term district employees were told their services were no longer needed. They were explicitly told that this was not a budget issue, but a program one. As one of those Literacy Intervention Tutors, I am disappointed in the decision and very concerned about the children we have served. At Anson Elementary alone, three of us served 177 students this past year. Many of them receive free and reduced lunches, an indicator that they are likely to be at risk academically.

Once students were identified as being below grade level, LI Tutors who were trained in intervention strategies helped them fill the gaps. We did so with caring, hard work and dedication. Assessment scores indicated we made a difference. Our requests for professional development to make us even better fell on deaf ears in recent years.

The district is now in the process of implementing a new literacy program. So far, its evolution has been a minus. Three Title I reading teachers have been training to implement Reading Recovery, a well-known, respected, intervention program. These teachers are required to fill half their days with one-on-one interventions instead of small groups for contact with a third or fewer of their usual students. More certified teachers are to be hired and trained to provide more single-student contact.

My concern is for 177 students, and others throughout the district, who will lose this numbers game. Who will intervene to help them with reading skills when their classroom teacher needs to keep the rest moving at grade level?

I understand it costs the Marshalltown School District about $52,000 in salary, benefits, etc. for a new teacher, including those yet to be hired and trained in Reading Recovery. Initially, this will be covered with grant monies. Grants don't often provide funds forever, usually have strings attached and, when they end, people lose jobs or budgets are more strained.

Instead of celebrating that our district is unique in having a group of educators bringing years of effective experience to the table, the administration has chosen to discard us.

Instead of treating 12 long-time employees with the kindness and respect that would have allowed them to be prepared for life-changing job loss and to say good-bye to students, the administration chose to call them to a lay-off meeting on the last day of school, just as final bells rang.



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