My Reading Crusade, Part 5

During the time I was developing and validating my reading program, various publishers of programmed instruction resources were entering contracts promising great success to schools who would use their materials. I noticed that most programs did not live up to the “hype” of those promoting them.

The use of programmed instruction may have brought about wider attention to the importance of specifying the goals of instruction and stating how it would be possible to demonstrate that those goals had been reached. There were more calls for “accountability,” and in my experience at least, the whole culture of education and teaching changed, not for the better, but for the worse. Teachers who know their subject and understand how students learn were less free to develop strategies and materials of their own to meet the needs of the students they taught.

Programmed instruction was no longer the latest fad in education and gradually fell out of favor. The Programmed Instruction Laboratory at Cass Technical High School was dismantled and discontinued. Its books were transferred to the school’s science library. Mrs. Malik and I were given other “duties” that did not involve our talents and expertise to help students. I was assigned the duty of monitoring a large study hall.

About this time, I received a call from a former college classmate of mine, Dr. Carl George. He asked me how I was doing, and what I was doing. I mentioned that I was continuing to help students boost their reading comprehension with a programmed instruction resource I had written and carefully tested. Carl invited me to visit him over the Thanksgiving holiday, and paid my air fare and otherwise took care of every detail. Once I was there, he asked me to speak to his church for the Sunday evening service. I had not expected to do any preaching! But I presented a message about the reliability and divine inspiration of the Bible. After the service many people came up to welcome me and told me they appreciated my message. Then Pastor Carl George came to me and said, “You are hired.” The church board had just met and approved me to be hired as a teacher at the Heritage Christian School.

Carl explained that the students who had been in the school from elementary through high school were doing very well. Students who were entering the school at the junior high school and senior high school level were depressing the school’s overall achievement in reading according to the standardized tests that were regularly administered. The school was doing very well in mathematics and science, but they found it difficult if not impossible to solve the reading issue.

I applied for a leave of absence from the Detroit Public Schools and was able to come to Florida. I developed yet more units of my reading program while there. The whole school used my reading program. When the end of semester standardized tests were given, the whole school improved dramatically. Carl told me his school was now as high in reading achievement as the school had been in mathematics and science.

Due to unforeseen economic circumstances involving school and church bond issues, I decided it was best for me to return to teaching in Detroit so as to not lose my teacher tenure there and pension benefits. When I moved back, the Detroit Board of Education claimed they had not received my notice of desire to return, and said I no longer had a teaching position in Detroit. I challenged their claim, for I had sent my notice early, and had sent it by registered mail, signed receipt requested. Therefore, I had their dated signature as proof of receipt of my request. Then I was told I could not be returned to teaching at Cass Technical High School because of the “racial balance policy.”

Instead, I was placed at Southeastern High School to teach social studies, world and American history. Southeastern was quite a difference for me, being a neighborhood school, and I experienced undreamed of difficulties when I took my position as a teacher there. I’ll tell that story next.

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