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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: Bridge Reports On "Promising Signs" For Reading In West Michigan


Every subject area in school depends on reading. That’s part of the reason that many districts in West Michigan are part of an initiative to boost reading scores. 

Bridge Staff Writer Nancy Derringer says the state is also putting more emphasis on reading with a new law that could require students to repeat the third grade if they don’t reach grade level, or close to it, for reading. Derringer says reading scores in Michigan are bad, and have been sliding for the past decade or so. Studies shows they are headed even lower if something is not done.

Derringer says educators believe third grade is a crucial point, because at fourth grade students stop “learning to read and start reading to learn.” But She says educators don’t like to retain or hold back children unless it’s absolutely necessary.

The Reading Now Network is now in place in the intermediate school districts that cover 13 west Michigan counties, including Allegan and Barry Counties. Derringer says it requires more time spent on reading each school day (90 minutes to 2 hours). She says that block of time is devoted to a variety of activities. But Derringer says the districts are not using new techniques. She says they looked at schools that were “overachieving” in reading according to poverty level and tried to take “best practices” to other districts. 

Interview with Nancy Derringer - web version

The sharing of best practices is known as the “heart attack protocol.” Derringer says it’s basically the idea if someone figures out a better way to treat a heart attack, it’s shared throughout the entire field, even with competitors. Derringer says now that idea is being used to improve reading.

Derringer says the data in these school districts still has to be verified by outside analysis. But the early results are promising. Some concerns have been raised about taking time away from other subjects to focus on reading. But Derringer says other subject area’s test scores have not suffered so far.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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