A headline in a Metro section article Wednesday about a Montgomery County schools' report incorrectly referred to the program for gifted children. The article dealt only with the report on the nontraditional reading and language arts curriculum.
Elementary school teachers in Montgomery County have failed to adequately use the nontraditional reading and language arts program adopted by the school board, and students who are in the bottom third of their class are being particularly ignored, a school report released yesterday concluded.
The report, which cost $60,000 and is one of the most expensive studies undertaken by the school district, was released at a meeting of the Board of Education, which adopted the curriculum program in 1981.
The curriculum stresses that teachers lead the class in reading lessons rather than having students study individually during class time and it advocates that teachers have students spend time reading more sophisticated children's literature, rather than the basic Dick and Jane series textbooks.
The curriculum also is intended to increase the time spent on exercises, such as reading sentences or whole stories, in order to improve students' ability to think critically, to comprehend concepts and to reduce the amount of time students spend "decoding" isolated letters and words.
The curriculum is considered innovative, even radical, for its emphasis on trying to get students to think critically, rather than the traditional method of teaching students by rote memory. In explaining why teachers had not more fully adopted the system's program, the report noted that some teachers were not convinced that it worked well with low-achievers and had not received adequate training. In the study, students in Montgomery County are classified as low achievers if they perform in the bottom one-third of their class.
According to the report, "One area staffer noted that teachers do not expect lower achievers to be able to handle comprehension skills, so they don't teach them. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy when the students do badly on comprehension tests."
"Rather than continue with the 'dribble' approach to program implementation that has been characteristic to date, it is time to take a more systematic approach to the problem," according to the report, conducted by the Department of Educational Accountability. Instead of the adhoc implementation that exists, teachers' responsibility and requirements should be spelled out as soon as possible, the report says.
The study, which surveyed teachers and observed first- and fourth-grade classes in 20 elementary schools during the 1981-82 school year, found that the low achievers spent more time on individual study than in teacher-led instruction.
The schools are "littered with kids in bonehead remedial programs that don't go anywhere," said Ted Schuder, coordinator for the system's reading and language arts program and the principle developer of the new curriculum. "There is no question in our mind that it would be . . . a mistake to condemn them to a basic skills program."
The report advocates a comprehensive teacher training program and more support materials such as books and reading guides.