This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
To the editors:
I am writing in response to your Winter 2003 article "District gets an earful about new curriculum." One inherent difficulty with the new mandated curriculum for teachers seems to be the "guided reading groups," during which the teacher needs to work with several simultaneous groups on different levels while also managing the classroom as a whole.
As your article indicates, this situation is more manageable when there is another experienced adult in the classroom.
So far this support has been provided only sporadically, either through the presence of a Literacy Intern Teacher or by rearranging the schedules of other staff members. I wonder if the District could develop a program to train literate senior citizens from the community to supervise small reading groups and place them in lower-grade level classrooms during the guided reading time. Ideally such a program would offer, at minimum, a small stipend for participating seniors.
If children were learning to read with an older person from their neighborhood, this could help to connect the school with the community, as well as assisting teachers through the presence of another mature adult. It might make sense to test the idea with a pilot program in a small cluster of schools that already have strong connections with community associations in their area.