Middle School Reading Classes Removed from Howard County Curriculum

Middle School Reading Classes Removed from Howard County Curriculum

We all remember Reading class. We made Harry Potter cereal boxes, we researched Big Six problem solving techniques, we scribbled answers in our vocabulary workbooks. In the past few years, the usefulness of Reading class has been up for debate. In Howard County, the course has been eliminated from the middle school curriculum.

Ms. Regina Hall is the Reading Specialist at Harper’s Choice Middle School. While she understands that reading classes are being removed, she believes that it may not have been a fully thought-out decision.

“The decision was made by the Board of Education without any clear reason, but we can infer a few points. The elimination of Reading helps accommodate the schedule to Common Core goals . . . and the Reading MSA will be gone,” said Ms. Hall.

According to Ms. Hall, the removal will also leave more time for math and science instruction, a change that she warily accepts.“I believe that reading should take priority in the earlier grades so kids can have the skills necessary to keep up with the demands of a rigorous middle school curriculum and beyond,” said Ms. Hall.

Mrs. Glade, Wilde Lake High School’s Reading Specialist, has always taught Reading. She is a proponent of keeping Reading in schools.

She explained that ten years ago, kids were entering middle school not knowing how to read. They were not passing grade-level reading tests. To help students read at grade level, Reading classes were instituted in middle schools and tests were made easier.

The program worked and students scored higher on reading tests, but, according to Mrs. Glade, removing the classes will counteract these improvements.

“Now that kids are performing better on tests and the Reading program is working,” said Mrs. Glade, “the principals seem to think that they no longer need it . . . The death of the program was the success of the program.”

Junior Egaria Lee took Reading classes in all three years of middle school. She believes that the Reading classes created an essential foundation for high school English.

“It helped me because we learned the basics of literature and many literary techniques. We also learned writing techniques like how to write a formal paper,” said Lee.

But many high school students do not agree that Reading classes offered any benefits. According to Sophomore Becky Watson, the Reading curriculum was too similar to that of English classes and took up unnecessary time in students’ schedules.

“Reading helped me learn techniques like context clues, but other than that I thought English and Reading were the same class,” said Watson.

According to Junior Becca Fritz, the important concepts unique to the Reading curriculum were too few to necessitate a class separate from English.

“It helped broaden my vocabulary, otherwise it wasn’t very helpful. We basically did easier English work,” said Fritz.

How the removal of Reading will impact students in middle and high school is still unclear. The decision creates space in student schedules for more core classes and electives, but those who advocate against the decision fear that a decline in student reading ability will negatively impact their learning in all classes.