Reading curriculum piloted at Downtown Brooklyn School shows promise

September 26, 2012 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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An experimental reading curriculum developed by an NYU professor was piloted at an Urban Assembly school in Downtown Brooklyn and the results have been encouraging.

For the 2011-2012 academic school year, the “Learning Cultures” curriculum developed by Cynthia McCallister was piloted at The Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women (UAI) on Adams Street. About 75 percents of students attending the school are low-income, and roughly 60 percent of these students enter below grade level.

On a test administered mid-year, more than 80 percent of these students showed improvement, with 6th graders realizing gains twice the national average, 7th graders at three times the national average and 8th graders at five times the national average.

One technique of the curriculum is called “Union Reading.”

“In Unison Reading, students read in sync until one student breaches or stops the group,” McCallister said in a statement. “Maybe it’s a word that he or she doesn’t know, or a concept that’s difficult to understand. The student can knock on the desk or simply say, ‘stop.’ The conversation then turns to addressing the breach. The reading can’t continue until the breach is resolved. Students have to work together to ensure that everyone understands before moving forward.”

According to McCallister, when students are made aware of high learning expectations and given responsibility, independence, and autonomy in pursuing goals, they are more intent on success and likely to succeed.

Urban Assembly says it intends to expand the technique throughout the network. “The Urban Assembly school leaders, teachers and staff, along with our NYU partners, are working together to prove that dramatic growth is possible in even the most challenging public school classrooms,” Urban Assembly Founder and CEO Richard Kahan said in a statement.

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