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State Uses Comprehensive Approach to Improve Reading Skills

April 12, 2000

A specialized team of educators will soon be traveling throughout the hills and hollows of West Virginia to help teachers and schools improve student reading achievement.  

“Our 38-member Department of Education Reading Cadre is a vital component of the state’s comprehensive reading plan, appropriately titled, ‘Reading for All,’” explained Beverly Kingery, coordinator of Reading/English Language Arts for the West Virginia Department of Education. “The primary goal of the Department’s cadre is to provide teachers and administrators with needed resources and training to improve reading instruction.”  

“When I first began with the Department in 1998, I met with educational representatives from across the state to assess the reading needs in West Virginia -- to determine strengths and weaknesses,” she continued. “After these discussions, we decided that a formal, comprehensive plan was necessary if we were going to make a dramatic difference in the reading ability of both students and adults.”  

Kingery said that the “Reading for All” plan consists of three phases: Learn to Read, for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade students; Read to Learn, fifth through 12th grade; and Read to Succeed, adult education.  

“During this five-year plan, we will initially be emphasizing reading instruction in grades K-4 because this is where students construct their foundation for later reading success,” she noted. “Statistics show that students who are not reading well at the end of the third grade will probably not be reading well at the end of the ninth grade. Statistics also show that a very high percentage of students who drop out of school or who are incarcerated have severe reading difficulty.”  

Kingery said that members of the West Virginia Department of Education Reading Cadre have received extensive specialized training and will receive additional training during the next three years. The cadre consists primarily of classroom teachers assisted by administrators and higher education faculty.  

“This cadre’s goal is to assist counties and schools in planning, providing and implementing appropriate reading instruction,” she said. “The outstanding educators selected for this team have a passion for reading and for helping other teachers learn the skills necessary for student reading success.”  

According to Kingery, West Virginia is also developing an informal reading assessment which classroom teachers can utilize to assess all components of reading, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing and motivation to read. The assessment will be available beginning in the 2000-01 school year.  

“Teachers will be able to use this tool as often as they like with individual students or their entire class,” she noted. “Teachers may use this reading assessment to identify specific areas in which an individual student needs further instruction and assistance. Reading is vitally important for students’ success in school, so it’s imperative that classroom teachers are able to determine how well their students are doing.”  

Kingery said that the state has taken numerous steps during the past two years to improve reading instruction, including sponsoring a statewide Reading Academy, a program in which teachers are provided intensive training on reading instruction strategies; utilizing federal grant funds to improve reading in grades K-3; forming the West Virginia Reading and Literacy Partnership, a statewide advisory group on literacy; aligning all state policies and procedures with current research on best practices in reading; and sponsoring WV READS, an after school and summer school tutorial reading program funded by the legislature.  

“We’re trying to make a difference by coordinating our resources, utilizing federal grants and developing a comprehensive approach to the challenge of ensuring that every West Virginia student can read on grade level by the end of the third grade,” she explained. “By ensuring that every child can read, we’re helping to provide that child with a good start in a school –- a start that will lead to success in life.”

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