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Community forum to focus on FCAT reading scores in low-income schools
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Community forum to focus on FCAT reading scores in low-income schools

Pinellas County, Florida – In response to historically low reading scores in 20 elementary schools from south St. Pete up to Dunedin, the Education Action Committee of the FAST organization is hosting an Education Forum to urge the community – and the Pinellas County school board – to insist that our district implement Direct Instruction (DI) as a core curriculum.

The Education Forum will be held on Monday, August 19, from 4 - 6 p.m. at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church (13225 118th St. N., Largo).

The organization has received confirmation of attendance from School Board Members Linda Lerner, Robin Wikle, Terry Krassner, and Lew Williams, as well as district staff and community members.

FAST members have children, grandchildren, other relatives, and congregation members in many of the 20 target schools. They are urgent about turning these reading scores around so their children will have a better chance of graduating years from now.

Last fall, while researching into the root cause of low graduation rates, especially among Black males, the committee – comprised of parents, grandparents, clergy, and other concerned lay leaders from FAST member congregations – brought attention to the very low reading scores in 20 Title I schools, and highlighted that there is no district plan to focus on increasing reading in these particular schools. The common characteristic of these schools is high poverty, as well as a high minority population in most. All but two of the schools on this list did not meet annual yearly progress (AYP) this past school year.

The purpose of next Monday’s forum is to give school board members, district staff, and the community a thorough look into why Direct Instruction will turn the tide on low reading in these low-performing schools if expanded from intervention and supplementary curriculum – which is how it is used in some Pinellas County schools – into core curriculum. DI has been accelerating the reading skills of low-performing students, and advancing the skills of readers who are on-track, for over 30 years. After much research into this and other strategies, FAST believes that implementing it will be a long-term solution in greatly improving reading skills at the 20 target elementary schools. It has been successful at increasing reading skills in several Florida schools, including Alta Vista Elementary School in Sarasota.

After the forum, FAST members plan on having further conversations with school board members to insist on it being implemented in the 20 struggling elementary schools for the 2012/2013 school year.

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