More than 4,000 Baltimore teachers began heading back to classrooms yesterday as the city's public schools attempt to revamp the teaching of reading.
In the city's most extensive staff development training in years, at least half of its 6,500 teachers will receive one week of training this summer to prepare for the introduction of new textbooks and new state standards.
At least $1.6 million in state aid is funding the seven weeks of staff training held at Lake Clifton-Eastern High School.
While teachers of first grade through high school have been asked to attend the voluntary program, the vast majority -- about 3,200 -- are teachers and administrators in elementary and middle schools.
About 95 percent of teachers who were invited have signed up, giving up a week's vacation but getting a $75-a-day stipend. "We know there have to be some changes," said Stephanie Terry, a first-grade teacher at Ashburton Elementary School who believes that most participants have approached the training with a positive attitude.
"New teachers looking at this must feel, 'Ah,' " she said, because the training will give them a framework to start.
A major reform of the city schools began last school year with the new leadership and school board focused on getting students back to basics.
The board has reduced class sizes in the early grades to an average of 20 students, spent $3.8 million to buy new textbooks and is returning to the old-fashioned approach to teaching reading through phonics. Phonics is teaching the relationship of sounds to printed letters of the alphabet.
Only three days of the training will be spent on phonics in the early grades -- clearly not enough, the school system acknowledges, for a teacher who learned in college to teach reading by using whole language. With whole language, children learn to read by recognizing whole words in the context of a sentence.
"A week's training is not sufficient to change teacher practices," said Deborah Jenkins, interim director of the school system's department of professional development.
So city schools will follow up with additional training for lead teachers in each school, demonstration lessons and coaching of teachers. The publishers of the new textbooks also have agreed to provide training at individual schools at the principals' request; and administrators will be given training "about how to move an initiative of this magnitude through their schools," said Jenkins.
Training sessions for high school teachers will begin next week, three weeks after the school board adopted five new textbook series in English, American government, biology, algebra and geometry. About 600 teachers will attend four daylong classes on how to use the new materials.
All teachers will spend one day learning about the new state and city standards dictating what children should know and be able to do at each grade level and a day learning about a new teacher evaluation policy.
Pub Date: 6/23/98