I have been working at St. Anthony’s School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin since the 1996-97 school year. I began as a classroom teacher in the 7th and 8th grade teaching Science, Reading and Religion. In 2004, I accepted the position of Reading Coordinator for the school. Our school participates in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and has been educating children since 1872. Over the last 4 years, our school has grown from 420 students and 27 teachers to 974 students and 50 teachers.
In our school, you will hear administration and classroom teachers saying, “We are here to teach students what they need to know to help them further their education.” A large majority of our students come from Spanish-speaking backgrounds and Spanish-speaking homes. They enter an English-immersion school with low oral English, comprehension, writing and vocabulary skills. Some students come right from Mexico with little to no speaking, reading, or writing abilities in English. Needless to say, it was a challenge for classroom teachers to teach reading to a student who did not speak English before the fall of 2004. In the 2004-05 school year, we had 3rd graders who had been in our school 2 years, and were not close to reading at grade level. Today, we have 3rd graders who have been in our school for 2 years, and are reading at a 4th grade level.
So what changed? As the application process for the federal Reading First grant was underway, our K-3 staff and administration starting looking for a SBRR (scientifically based reading research) program to implement to make the difference for our students, targeting kindergarten, first, second, and third grade students. After presentations from different publishers, it was SRA’s Direct Instruction program, Reading Mastery, that was chosen by our faculty to be the program to