Where reading theory meets practice The classroom: Teachers, methods, support determine whether students will succeed.

November 24, 1997

ENTER A FIRST-GRADE classroom and all the lofty talk about how children learn to read dissolves into a blur of youthful energy. A master teacher will quickly steer her children's attention toward the tasks at hand. For novice teachers, that challenge will be far more difficult, especially in schools where children bring to class the distractions common to neighborhoods plagued by poverty and crime.

As reporters Debbie M. Price and Stephen Henderson continue their examination of two city elementary schools during this school year, the nature of the challenge facing many teachers will become evident. Readers will also get a better understanding of the crucial factors that affect academic achievement.

A teacher's skill, experience and training are central to every child's success. But so is the support that teacher gets from school officials. Is she using an effective curriculum? Does she have the materials she needs? Is the school itself orderly and under control? Do novice teachers have the support of an experienced mentor? Are all teachers given the continuing training every professional needs? Even the best teacher can flounder if too many of these factors are working against her.

The classroom is where reading theory meets practice. It is also the place where children learn they can succeed or the place they learn to view themselves as poor students engaged in a frustrating, uphill struggle.

Good teachers steeped in effective reading instruction and given the administrative support they need can make all the difference. Without strong teaching and well-supported teachers, no system can reform itself. Neither can it expect its children to become confident readers and successful students.

Pub Date: 11/24/97

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