This article was written by author Kenneth Campbell before Great Leaps was officially incorporated but it was being implemented for the first time ever in North Marion Middle School where Ken taught.
North Marion Middle School
1. Great Leaps was designed because of a great need. Upon my return to North Marion Middle School I was absolutely shocked at our high number of non-readers. I was also frustrated at my inability to impact. I had all the skills necessary to teach reading – yet because of a myriad of reasons I could not within the context of my classroom meet the needs of my students.
There is no magic in teaching reading. But to teach reading to these dysfunctional readers there must be a plan – there must be methods available. With adolescents there must be a measure of respect and privacy. A one-on-one is almost demanded by the situation.
And yes, I know as well as you do that we cannot afford the $40k plus necessary to have me. So, I’ve tried to put what I know and have learned into a reading program. Our data indicates this was done.
One out of ten – perhaps one out of every five of our students are completely dysfunctional readers. It’s difficult for me to watch these children move from 6th grade non-readers to 8th grade delinquents to 9th grade dropouts. Reading is a key.
2. Great Leaps incorporates a number of reading and behavioral theories. The majority of the research supporting the program comes from precision teaching. In conjunction with precision teaching comes a strong belief that decoding skills (phonics) are an essential tool for dysfunctional readers. A reading tactic called “the neurological impress method” refined by precision teachers into something called “read reread” is utilized.
The program is designed to be reinforcing, not punitive. In reinforcing, then demands (or consequences) can prove effective. When the students are motivated – and ours are – success follows.
Great Leaps generates its own data from which decisions are made. We are in the midst of re-designing the sight word element of the program into a sight phrase format. This is a data-based move.
Finally, much of this is based upon my own experiences – successes – failures.
3. To enter the program there must be a critical reading problem and unfortunately, there must be room. We serve 40 to 50 students and have a least this many waiting.
For the most part, those in our program have oral reading proficiency rates at a first-grade level or lower. But we also served a young gifted student – we achieved our goals rather efficiently; with the results being noticed by her gifted teacher within two weeks.
4. Great Leaps tests daily. We believe in mastery learning – and demand extremely high percentages of accuracy coupled with a demand for fluency and speed.
To my ability I have tried to build the decision-making process into the materials.
To analyze long-term success, we compare present performance levels with the student’s original reading diagnosis. This is updated annually on all our students served in the program as well as upon many students who have not been served.
5. I have designed much of what we are and have adapted the rest from materials on hand. At present this makes it virtually cost free.
In a self-contained program no additional costs – short of training – would be required. To implement this at a school for all students, there would obviously be other costs. Administrators know the details of this better than I.