My Reading Crusade, Part 4

The chemistry teacher and I had both written separate articles about the effectiveness of using programmed instruction materials to assist students in science learning. After the articles had been published, we were both invited to make presentations at a science teacher’s convention in East Lansing, as I recall.

I presented my experience of writing a programmed instruction resource to boost reading and writing skills. I explained that I discovered, quite by accident, that my linguistic program did more to raise student reading comprehension than the regular materials I was furnished to teach reading did.

As part of my presentation, I posted on the blackboard the first name and final reading score of the top eight students in each of two reading classes. One class, the lowest ability group of seven groups in the school, was allowed to use my program in the little steel boxes. The other class, the sixth lowest group of seven groups did not use my experimental program at all.

It was the lowest ability group that scored highest (by two years) when the end-of-semester standardized reading test was given.

After my presentation, the floor was open for questions from the audience. One gentleman stood and announced his name, stated he was the principal of Western High School, and proceeded to tell me that the improvement I claimed was impossible. This principal had a Doctorate, by the way, a PhD. I responded, “If you come up after this session, I will furnish the last name of each of these top scorers, and you can check the results for yourself, because all of these students now attend Western High School!”

He did come up, and took down the names.

Not long after–a matter of a few weeks, the principal of Western High School called my principal at Cass Technical High School, requesting to have me come to Western High School to present the information to his teachers that I had shared with the science meeting.

The principal at Western High School explained to me that he did indeed check out the names of the students I had listed as making such dramatic reading improvement. He discovered they were doing exceptionally well as students at Western High School. He decided to establish a Programmed Instruction Laboratory at Western High School, and had several of my former students help out in running it.

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