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Franklin Regional plans to revise literacy curriculum this summer

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By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Franklin Regional officials are trying to find a way to meld fact with fiction.

English and reading teachers plan to rewrite the district's literacy curriculum during the coming months to include more nonfiction reading. But fiction still will make up a large portion of reading requirements in all grade levels, including elementary classes.

“I want our children to learn to read for pleasure,” school board member Roberta Cook said. “They learn that in elementary school.”

The teachers will revise the district's literacy curriculum to require that 40 percent of readings assigned to elementary students is nonfiction. The current curriculum requires 30 percent non-fiction.

The amount of non-fiction read by students should continue to increase as they get older, middle school English teacher Karen Sinning said. But that poses a challenge for many teachers.

“We don't want to give up the classics of literature that we're using now,” Sinning said. “We'd like the students to use their literacy skills in other classes.”

Part of how that could be accomplished is by buying new English anthologies at the middle and high schools.

At the high school, anthologies haven't been replaced since the 2001-02 school year, teacher Kristin Giron said. With the purchase, which is slated for approval later this month, all high school teachers would be using the same textbook, Giron said.

That's not the case now, she said. While teachers will have the same collections to choose from, each teacher will be able to focus on other readings specific to their tastes, she said.

“We want to come together as a department and all be on the same page,” Giron said. “This way, we can look at literature through the same lens.”

Despite what teachers describe as a need for changes, Franklin Regional students fare well when tested on their literacy skills.

On the 2011-12 state standardized tests, about 88 percent of students in grades three through eight and 11 met or exceeded state standards. Of that group, about 56 percent tested as “advanced.”

During this year's literature Keystone Exam, 90 percent of Franklin Regional high schools students tested met state standards.

District officials want to improve those numbers. One proposed solution is the implementation of the “Journeys” program in the middle school to help students who are struggling with basic literacy skills. The program already is in place at the high school, Sinning said, and has been successful there.

In 2010-11, 31 freshmen students were placed in the program.

The following year, 20 students continued in the course. Of that group, 12 passed the literature Keystone Exam this year as juniors.

Sinning said she hopes to see similar success when the program is extended to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders as early as this fall.

“Some students struggle with reading across the curriculum,” Sinning said. “We need to help those kids — we've tried everything we know, and it just hasn't been enough.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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