Hillsborough County School District leaders are moving on two distinct tracks to try and get more students reading on grade level.
An audit, commissioned near the end of the last school year, is nearing the end of its first phase. A report is expected in late August, reflecting information from surveys and focus groups, chief academic officer Deborah Cook told a School Board committee on Tuesday.
And plans are in the works for a pilot program that would test new materials and a new curriculum on nine schools in the Achievement group, where grades and test scores are among the lowest.
The full board will get details about the pilot program at an upcoming meeting.
Hillsborough has more than 30,000 students who read so poorly that they tested last year at the lowest of five levels on the Florida Standards Assessment. These “Level 1” readers make up 24 percent of all those students tested. That percentage is slightly worse than the rest of the state and it is concentrated largely — but not entirely — in high-poverty neighborhoods. At some schools, more than half the population tests at Level 1.
Despite the desire by district leaders to improve reading instruction, timing is not on their side, Cook told the committee.
Curriculum adoptions and book purchases happen on a prescribed schedule. Hillsborough’s last “adoption,” as it is called, for English language arts was in 2014.
Now, with the state planning a move away from the Florida Standards, adoptions are on hold.
Both the audit and the pilot program are intended to find strategies for improvement in the meantime. The district has taken other measures as well, including the purchase of culturally relevant reading materials in the Achievement Schools.
The Tampa Bay Times has requested more information about the pilot program and will update this post as it becomes available.