SMCPS, Univ. of Md. Join Forces to Analyze, Improve Adolescent Reading Skills - Southern Maryland Headline News

SMCPS, Univ. of Md. Join Forces to Analyze, Improve Adolescent Reading Skills

24.2 Percent of St. Mary's 8th Grade Students Are Below Proficiency In Reading

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (Dec. 20, 2007) - The St. Mary's County Public Schools (SMCPS) is the beneficiary of a $2.8 million grant awarded to the University of Maryland's College of Education by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) for the purpose of improving adolescent reading skills in the school system. Through this partnership, the University of Maryland will administer the grant while SMCPS will select a middle school to serve as a research center.

Nationally, reading achievement and reading motivation among adolescents are declining with 69 percent of 8th grade students reading below the proficient level, say school officials. In SMCPS, 24.2 percent of 8th grade students are below proficiency in reading. This project will support SMCPS in meeting their achievement goals of helping all students gain proficiency in reading.

Partners in this research will design interventions for struggling readers in middle school to increase their achievement and motivation. The instruction will emphasize the four C's: Connections in books and real life, Choices that give students ownership of reading, Competency that gives students confidence in reading, and Collaboration between students to boost their enthusiasm for gaining knowledge from text. Studies will compare the instruction with the four C's to traditional instruction to determine the effectiveness for these innovative teaching practices.

Additional intervention investigations will explore the power of instruction to teach history and literature. Computer technology will be used in these innovative teaching interventions to help students find books and test their comprehension of reading materials in science or social studies.

University of Maryland Professor John T. Guthrie is the principal investigator, accompanied by Dr. Allan Wigfield, who chairs the Department of Human Development. University of Maryland staff will work with Ms. Linda Dudderar, SMCPS chief academic officer, and Ms. Liz Cooper, SMCPS supervisor of reading instruction, to implement this project.

During the 5-year study, professional development opportunities will be provided for teachers. In the beginning, new tools for locating books that are aligned with the curriculum and matched to students' reading needs will be provided for teachers. Multimedia resources, including streaming videos and authentic documents, will be available on Web-based computer systems.

The project provides teachers with professional development in research-based classroom practices. Leadership for this professional development will come jointly from Dr. Guthrie and the investigators at the University of Maryland, and the leadership of SMCPS.

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