Reading by ninth-grade High school program recognizes a problem that didn't seem possible.


ACADEMIC superlatives are so common for Howard County schools that people sometimes forget that not all its students are performing well. Though their numbers may not be as great as in some urban systems, some Howard County high school students cannot read.

Fortunately, Oakland Mills High School is not simply letting those teen-agers fail. It is teaching them how to read.

Teachers at Oakland Mills teach six classes of 10 to 12 students, who are mostly ninth-graders. The 90-minute reading classes, which take the place of standard English classes focusing on literature, meet every other day. It can be difficult initially to get the teen-agers to accept the fact that they have a problem. They are embarrassed that they are in high school and can't read. But good teachers are able to successfully get them involved.

Remedial reading classes for high school students are virtually unheard of in Howard County.

In fact, Trudy Collier, chief of language development at the state Department of Education, says such courses are rare in Maryland.

But high-school reading courses may become more common as educators finally come to grips with a national problem.

Too many social promotions have allowed some children to get into high school without the ability to read.

Oakland Mills Principal Marshall Peterson correctly notes that his school is trying to deal with a problem that began long before the students who can't read got there. They were written off as not able to learn and now they're playing catch-up.

Students who can't read should have never been promoted to high school. But the reality is that some have. Other county schools need to admit this problem exists and offer remedial reading instruction.

Indeed, local boards of education need to assess their own situations and establish remedial reading programs at other high schools that need them.

Pub Date: 5/27/98

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