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Anyone whoâs ever figured a studentâs reading skills are the responsibility of the English teacher would be pleasantly surprised within the halls of Columbia City High School.
Students here get a healthy dose of that first member of the Three Râs no matter whose class theyâre in.
Teachers and administrators at Whitley County Consolidated Schools have been boosting instruction in reading, even in subjects that involve using test tubes, a slide rule or studying the Civil War.
At Monday nightâs meeting of the WCCS board, Columbia City High School Assistant Principal Chris Lagoni explained the schoolâs focus on reading skills in all subjects.
âItâs part of our overall school improvement program,â said Lagoni. âItâs not something new, weâve been working on it for several years.
According to Lagoni, the State of Indiana requires school districts to write a School Improvement Plan each year.
âThe plan was written last year for implementation this year,â Lagoni said.
Lagoni explained the plan as âtrying to use data to improve instruction and learning.â
The reading program is part of the overall planâs three-pronged team approach which includes a problem-solving team, a literacy team and a 21st-Century skills team.
The literacy team, headed by CCHS teacher Melissa Wilhelm, is responsible for the increased focus on reading.
âReading encompasses every content area, so weâre doing a paradigm shift,â said Lagoni at the Monday night meeting. âWeâre in the baby steps of a journey.â
According to Lagoni, increased focus on reading shows dividends.
âThe majority of the students at the high school are reading at or above a high school level,â he said. âWe have about 200 students reading above a high school level.â
The program becomes most important for students who fall well below the high school or college level in reading.
âThis is a challenge, so I have an investment in it as part of my job,â said Karen Jagger, Special Education department head and administrative intern.
âEvery content area needs students to be able to analyze and comprehend the text of the subject theyâre studying.â Lagoni said. âFrom that perspective, all teachers have a buy-in. They want the students to be able to analyze what theyâre trying to teach.â
Working on a pupilâs communication skills under this program isnât designed to take time away from a shop teacher building up that studentâs skills with a band saw.
âWeâre not asking a chemistry teacher to teach phonics,â he said. âThey just need to be able to understand the reading level of the student so they can know how to help them comprehend the material.â
WCCS board president Don Armstrong, a former teacher, gave the presenters of the program a hearty thumbs-up Monday night.
âThis is exciting,â Armstrong said. âYou have your work cut out for you. Those are some exciting goals.â
Social Studies Department Head Kristin Rentschler lauded the program and said she added public speaking to the list of language skills important to students regardless of subject.
âWhat I want from my students is for them to be prepared for the next step,â Rentschler said.
âItâs great if they can read well, but I want them to be able to communicate what theyâve read. The fact that the kids need reading and writing is a necessity.
âBut kids need to be able to respond to a question and, taking what theyâve read, sound educated.â
Rentschler teaches two advanced placement courses.
One assignment she gives involves providing a reading exercise, followed by two essays required in 55 minutes.
âThis gives them a chance to read, then put their thoughts clearly down on paper,â she said. âThey need to be able to process the question and put out an essay quickly.â
The goal â preparing the students for life after the classroom.
âIf they canât communicate well, theyâre not going to be successful at their jobs,â she said.
In other business, the board:
â˘Was lead in the Pledge of Allegiance by Northern Heights Elementary School 4th-grader Mariah Schaefer.
â˘Heard school improvement goals and plans from Jan Boylen, Indian Springs Middle School and Gregg Goewert, Columbia City High School.
â˘Approved field trips to the Columbia Scholastic Press Conference in New York City for the yearbook students and the Future Farmers of America members to Southern Indiana.
â˘Accepted monetary donations from Tri-Kappa, Starlight Instruments, LLC, Target, Robert Lotter, J & K Communications, Old Settlerâs Association, CCHS football boosters, Star Tire & Automotive, Nationwide Textbook Co. and Advantage Cartridge Co. Also accepted school supplies from Parkview Whitley Hospital as well as equipment for the boys and girls soccer teams and the volleyball team from their respective booster clubs.
â˘Approved construction documents for the upcoming Eagle Tech Academy project which is on-going at the former Marshall Middle School. The academy will occupy more than 25,000 square feet of the building. If the $1.96 million project continues as planned, school officials expect the academy to be occupied by July, 2011.