Network puts focus on teacher strategies

School systems send representatives who study reading research

April 04, 1999|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Spreading sound strategies and current research about reading is the mission of a loosely knit group of 200 Maryland teachers and principals known as the Reading Network.

Formed in the summer of 1997 in response to then-flat reading scores across the state, the network brings together at least three people from each school system -- a teacher and principal from one school and an administrator responsible for reading instruction.

The group focuses on reading during a weeklong summer camp and at one-day meetings held several times during the school year.

"In 1996, when it seemed reading was kind of stagnant, the Maryland State Department of Education was brainstorming about how to help," said Mary Jo Comer, the group's coordinator from the education department, where she works on the English high school graduation test.

Comer said the state agency established the network hoping that its members would become catalysts in their own schools and school districts.

"We are not the answer, but we are part of an answer" to better reading instruction in Maryland, she said.

The camp and the one-day meetings usually feature an outside speaker, followed by small-group discussions or work sessions. Every school represented has put together a reading improvement plan.

Linda Dudderar, principal of Banneker/Loveville Elementary in St. Mary's County, credits the network with helping her staff focus on reading and improving instruction and scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests.

The Banneker team adopted one speaker's book as a text -- one that staff members read and talked about in book-club fashion for staff development sessions.

"The staff development was clearly the piece that changed the picture for us," Dudderar said. "If you are going to impact your students' reading, you have to start with the instructors."

Last year, the first network members looked at reading in kindergarten through second grade. This year's group is focusing on third through fifth grades, Comer said.

In this age group, "the biggest concern is content reading. What you do to read for information is a different strategy" than reading stories, she added.

One of this year's network members is Edward Cozzolino, former principal of Fullerton Elementary in Baltimore County, who says it has given him "understandings and insights regarding reading that I didn't have before."

As an administrator in the professional development department of the county schools, he is able to share what he has learned with the 17 new principals he oversees.

Comer is generally pleased with how the network has been operating and spreading the word on reading.

"Everyone who has participated has benefited in some way," she said. "It's a growth opportunity for all."

Pub Date: 4/04/99

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