Franklin pilot program will focus on reading

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Frank Schultz
Thursday, May 30, 2013

— Eighth-graders will learn reading instead of family and consumer education at Franklin Middle School starting in September.

If successful, the pilot program could become a regular part of the curriculum and be copied at the city's other two middle schools, Marshall and Edison.

Franklin's family/consumer education teacher is retiring, so there's an opportunity to try something different, Franklin Principal Charlie Urness told a school board committee Wednesday.

"Typically when kids get to eighth grade, their reading growth levels off," Urness said about nationwide test data.

Franklin students show the same trend, he said.

Only 40 percent of Franklin eighth-graders scored as proficient or advanced in reading on last fall's state tests. The same statistic was 53 percent at Marshall and 42 percent at Edison.

Performance in reading is becoming more important as the state moves to a new testing system in 2015 and adopts new academic standards know as the common core, and as Janesville's high schools increase academic rigor through their Project Redesign, Urness said.

Now, family and consumer education, commonly known as FACE, is required in eighth grade in Janesville public schools. FACE in a previous generation was known as home economics.

Reading is required from elementary school through seventh grade, but not in eighth.

Communication arts is taught throughout middle school, focusing more on writing and grammar than reading, Urness said. Reading includes strategies to increase fluency and comprehension as well as exploring the different kinds of reading.

The eighth-grade reading course will be taught every other day, alternating with health. FACE is also taught to sixth-graders, and students have the option of taking FACE in ninth grade, Urness said.

The plan is to monitor students' performance on internal and state tests to see if the course improves students' performance, Urness said.

Board members reacted favorably.

"Let's get the data and do this at Marshall and Edison sooner than later, because I can't imagine this is going to go bad," said board member David DiStefano.

Last updated: 10:31 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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