Educators in the Pine Bluff School District of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, have taken a stand against illiteracy. In a recent mass training, over 200 teachers across the school district were empowered with added skills and tools to help build solid foundations of literacy for students in grades K-12.
During the week of August 10-15, 2005, 10 workshops were held in various locations in and around Pine Bluff. At each site, teachers were trained in Reading Horzions, a phonics reading method with accompanying teacher’s manuals and computer software. These trainings qualified Pine Bluff teachers to immediately implement the program in their respective classrooms.
Reading Horizons provides a foundation for reading success by using a unique marking system. “Marking” is the key to recognizing likely and unlikely sequences of letters and learning how to break words into syllables and is also the tool that helps students to decode new words so that they can pronounce, spell, and break them into syllables accurately and confidently. The computer software component adds reinforcement and differentiated instruction to ensure mastery of skills.
The Pine Bluff School District recently installed new, state-of-the-art computer labs for schools that house 25 computer stations. The software requires 85 percent mastery or better on reading assessments. Mastery of reading skills is another key component of the Reading Horizons program.
As part of an effort to improve K–12 reading scores in the district, a Pine Bluff District committee evaluated a wide range of reading programs, and Reading Horizons was selected from among the programs reviewed. Before long, Reading Horizons had been placed in 15 schools in the district. During the October school board meeting, teachers and students made presentations to the board and highlighted the success they were having with the phonics program. The overall sentiment was that reading has been vastly improving and learning has been greatly accelerated.
With the implementation of Reading Horizons, the Pine Bluff School District can now offer their students a consistent reading program from grade to grade. Such consistency has been proven to be a vital factor in students’ success, as students tend to gain a foundation of principles in the early grades and then continue to build their knowledge on that solid base throughout their schooling years. Without the confusion of different and sometimes-conflicting principles of multiple reading programs, students are able to gain and retain the confidence that they need for a lifetime of learning.