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Armstrong School District students take a '180' turn in reading program

Maria Boltz is plowing through the book "The Blind Side" with no problem.

It's just one improvement the seventh-grader's mother, Sherri Boltz, has seen this school year.

"I've seen a huge, huge difference from sixth grade to seventh grade, she said.

Boltz attributes an improvement in her daughter's grades and reading ability to Read 180, a program that was introduced into the Armstrong School District curriculum in the fall for students in seventh- through ninth-grades. The program is for students needing help in reading as demonstrated by past test scores.

Sherri Boltz said her daughter is taking an interest in reading now as well as bringing home better grades from Kittanning Junior High School.

"I think it's teaching her better study skills," Boltz said.

Teacher Frank Fabian said the skills being taught in the Read 180 classrooms can translate into other subjects.

"What we're working on here is comprehension, decoding and fluency," he said.

Fabian co-teaches Kittanning Junior High's Read 180 classroom with teacher Sue Bower. Both teachers said many students have grown in their reading ability throughout the year by spending 20 minutes at three learning stations. The class meets one period every day, but it takes at least two meetings to get through all of the stations.

"Everything works off that time," Fabian said. "Some of the kids we have just need that structure. It keeps their attention."

Bower explained that the stations involve independent reading, the use of a computer program to better spelling and vocabulary skills and a group session reading about current topics. Participation in Read 180 involves a lot of assessments and tests to determine improvement, she said.

Maria Boltz is one of those students whose reading ability has improved, Bower said.

"She has shown consistent growth with each evaluation," she said.

Read 180 is funded federally, said Michael Glew, coordinator of special education and pupil services. In the district, 250 students participated this year.

The program will be expanded to fifth and sixth grade next school year because of the improvements seen with current students, said Matthew Pawk, coordinator of special education and psychological services. A January analysis of the program showed that district students participating in Read 180 gained about one year of reading ability, Pawk said.

"The kids get to move within the classroom," he said. "It's actually fun because it's technology-based."

Additional Information:

Read 180

• Seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders in all four secondary schools had improvements in their reading ability

?93 of 250 students gained one or more years in reading ability

?34 of those 93 students had two or more years of reading growth

Information from ASD's analysis of the program's first semester.

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