Sunday, May 4, 2008

Let's Improve Reading at Plano ISD

My daughter is a Junior in high school now. Since she entered PISD in elementary school, the district has told the children to guess the meaning of words instead of telling them to look up the words in a dictionary.

Her elementary school teachers told her to guess the meaning of words. When she was in Jasper High School her English teacher was giving her advice on guessing the meaning of words. My son is in elementary school now and PISD still does not give vocabulary the attention it deserves.

The Plano school district needs to change its ways and help our kids develop a better vocabulary. We should not have to pay for Kumon. I respect Kumon, but it should not be a substitute for a weak PISD program. Kumon should be used to help children needing help, not to help a school district overcome its problems.

I did use the DISTAR system to teach my son to read. I knew not to rely on the schools for something that important, but teaching vocabulary is not as complicated as teaching reading. PISD really can succeed in setting vocabulary standards for the different grades. You and I should not have to figure out what vocabulary our children need to master every year. Why do we pay administrators to work on curriculum if we parents have to do their job for them?

In addition to improving vocabulary, the school district needs to set higher standards for the reading material it puts in front of our children. The material given our children to read can be more challenging. When my daughter was in 10th grade I told her English teacher the newspaper article our children were given to analyze from the Dallas Morning News was too poorly written to give to our students. I suggested the New York Times as a source for better articles. She said the Dallas Morning News was written at an 8th grade level and the New York Times was written at a 12th grade level. I think that is exactly the point. We should not give a 10th grader something written at an 8th grade level.

Our children can do better. The Plano administrators tell the teachers what to teach. The Board of Trustees needs to tell the PISD administration to improve the caliber of the reading program, starting with elementary school and rolling the improvement all the way up to high school.

Our students will be more successful in school as their reading skills improve. They will get higher SAT scores in reading, and their improved reading skills will make them more successful in college.

Robert Canright

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