As a former reading teacher for the Richmond County Board of Education, I have been following the Voyager Universal Learning reading program controversy in which board officials have been embroiled. (Editor's note: Local teachers have complained that Voyager is too inflexible, and that its rigidly scripted lesson plans offer scant opportunity to adjust teaching methods to suit individual pupils' learning needs.)
THIS CONTROVERSY has brought back my recollection of the wonderful reading series that I used when I taught reading to eighth-grade students. I taught reading from the Ginn Reading Series, which I considered to be the best of the best of reading materials during my teaching tenure.
This reading series was the essence of reading fundamentals. This fascinating and comprehensive reading series was designed to teach reading to students who were one or two years below the eighth-grade reading level, as well as advancing students who were on and above the eighth-grade reading level. Actually, it was a blessing and pleasure for me to have been exposed to such spectacular reading resource that prepared students to excel at a high level of reading competency.
Of course, because of the manner in which the Ginn Reading Series was structured, it was an absolute that students advance their reading skills. This sophisticated reading material made students challenge themselves, even when they weren't aware that they were being challenged. That was the beauty of this series.
In many instances, it was necessary for me to work with three reading-group levels in my classroom. But because of the book's simple, structured components, it made the teaching of reading terrific and exciting.
NOW, I DON'T want to paint a rosy picture that all of the reading students at my school were 100 percent successful in reading comprehension. But it's safe for me to say that approximately 85 percent of the eighth-grade students met the basic reading competency standards when they took the state of Georgia's eighth-grade standardized reading test. For me, this defined success.
In spite of the reading success that the Ginn Reading Series brought to my school, there were some twisted high-level school officials in curriculum development who took this masterpiece of a reading out of circulation in the Richmond County school system. Of course, this sensational reading series was replaced with an inferior Houghton-Mifflin reading series. At that point, I was convinced that many of the high-level curriculum directors and coordinators who OK'd this decision were truly out of touch with reality; these individuals hampered significant reading progress for students.
What were these educators thinking? Did they have a problem comprehending and accepting the fact that the Richmond County school system had a good thing? Maybe they were angry because teachers didn't have to depend on them to accomplish reading success for students. It has been my experience working in the Richmond school system that many high-level educators are like children because they must be the center of attention. And if they're not getting this attention, they will do whatever it takes to get that needed attention. Trust me, because I've seen this with my brown eyes.
THE TRUTH OF the matter is that, a couple of years later, eighth-grade reading students started regressing in reading and standardized reading test scores started declining rapidly. It was my belief that these students were used as guinea pigs as a means for high-level school officials to advance their personal educational agendas. Yes, educators do use students for their personal gains and advantages. As I said before, I've seen this with my brown eyes.
When all of this mess occurred, I formulated a theory in my mind as to why these high-level school officials wanted to impede the successful progress of students. Of course, this isn't the appropriate time for me to elaborate upon this theory, but it's quite fascinating. And when I see what's happening in public education today, I'm convinced that what I considered a conspiracy theory is now a reality in public education.
It is my desire for current board of education trustees to investigate the Ginn Reading Series and see if it would be feasible, appropriate and possible to again have this essential reading material become apart of the public school curriculum of the Richmond County public school system. Trust me - this reading book series is a winner.
(Editor's note: The writer is a former Richmond County public school teacher with 31 years of teaching service. He lives in Augusta.)