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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

FAST not backing down in plea to Pinellas to implement reading program

The members of Faith and Action for Strength Together (FAST), a coalition of faith-based congregations throughout Pinellas County, are not going away.

The group plans to stage a press conference today at the Pinellas County school district headquarters protesting what they feel is the district's miscommunication about research on a reading curriculum called direct instruction.

The school board today is scheduled to discuss the group's plea during its workshop. But FAST spokeswoman Haley Grossman said last week that leaders were disappointed that the topic is only being slated for 20 minutes.

FAST leaders complained at the last board workshop that district administrators did not accurately represent research findings into direct instruction in materials sent to school board members. The group has been pushing for years to get district buy-in for their cause.

Below you will find the text of a press release the group sent out this morning. And attached at the bottom of this post, you will also see a recent letter to the school board as well as a page describing what FAST believes the district administrators misrepresented. And while we're doing all that, click here to see the district's response to the charge of misinformation about this research...this document is a part of the materials to be discussed today by the board.

Press release:

May 15, 2012  
What:       Community leaders dismayed by low reading scores call on school board members to visit successful kindergarten classes in Leesburg Florida
When:       Tuesday , May 15th th, 2012 @ 12:00pm
Where:     School Board Chambers
                  301 4th St. SW, Largo FL 3377o
Press contact, FAST Staff  (Haley Grossman 727-465-8765)
Pinellas County –
After a year of expressing anger over low-reading scores in Pinellas County Elementary schools, parents and grandparents will be attending the school board workshop today to push board members to go and speak to experts on Direct Instruction (a research-based reading program) rather than relieing on Pinellas County staff analysis.  Last month over 80 community members attended a school board meeting to point out inaccuracies of information school board staff had previously provided.
“Our great disappointment is that the school board is discussing Direct Instruction at a workshop but they are not bringing in an expert to allow them to make an informed decision,” said Rev. Robert Ward pastor of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. “The school board’s staff gave them inaccurate information on this subject before.  They are not experts.  We are encouraging the school board to visit a school in Leesburg, Florida so that they can speak directly to the experts.”
Over the last year community members visited high poverty elementary schools in Atlanta and Baltimore which have successfully turned their reading scores around using the Direct Instruction reading program.  School board members refused to accompany community leaders on these trips saying that they were unwilling to travel out of state.  Now community leaders are challenging school board members to visit a school in Florida having the same kind of success in kindergarten classes using Direct Instruction.
“I’m disspointed that it looks like we will have another years worth of our kids not learning to read.  I don’t understand why our school board won’t agree to try out core reading programs that have been proven to work in struggling school,” said Flo Young whose nephew was recently moved from Lakewood Elementary school.
Parents and grandparents are working together to improve reading scores through FAST (Faith and Action for Strength Together) a grassroots organization composed of 38 diverse religious congregations in Pinellas County.
For prior information, please contact: Rev. Robert Ward FAST Education Committee
Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, St. Petersburg 727-327-5323     Rev. Glad McCurtain FAST Education Committee
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Clearwater 727-531-6020


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:46am]


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