Saturday, January 9, 2010

Another Legacy: Riggs4kids

Summary of Riggs* Advocacy

2003/4 Riggs training at Rigggs Institute in Beaverton, OR. The Forest Grove School District paid for my training because I was tutoring emotionally disabled high school students at the time.

I was very impressed with the simple logic of the program, and started mentioning it informally to teachers and principals I knew as I moved into substitute teaching after 2006. I did as much research as possible into local schools using Riggs, and came up with 1 in Multnomah County and three in Washington County (two public schools.) Emmaus Christian School in Cornelius has used Riggs for 21 years.

FG Staff pointed to Jennifer Frentress, Curriculum Director. I contacted her in the summer of 2008, and she promised I could meet with reading teachers to demonstrate Riggs. Patti Howe, a TOSA, called me and said she "knew about Riggs" and did not think it was appropriate for ESL students. She was never trained in Riggs.

I approached the board directly because I had a gut feeling Jack Musser would not move forward with Riggs. Three times I spoke during "unscheduled public comment" times. I did finally have a conversation with Jack and showed him a PowerPoint on Riggs. He said he would bring it before his "Council of Principals" to ask about a trial. Unfortunately, there was a budget crisis, so the idea was shelved, and then he retired.

I was able to get a Riggs Orientation put on YouTube. Karen R., from Emmaus School, permitted me to videotape her presentation to Kinder parents. The quality of the recording is low, but it does give a broad overview of the program.

A new super was hired. I brought three friends with me to talk to her about Riggs: Kayla B., whose niece entered Tom McCall (5th grade) with a 1.5 grade level in reading. Margaret L. who has known about my advocacy for years and a friend of hers, Deanna R., whose son attends Emmaus and overcame ADHD and Oppositional Disorder while studying Riggs. We received a "thank you for your input" letter.

I volunteered to tutor Elizabeth 4 hours a week with Riggs.

I attended a Site Council Meeting at Echo Shaw, where Elizabeth had attended 4th grade. They sent me a "thank you for your input" letter.

During a parent-teacher-tutor conference with Eliz' teachers I learned that:
"44% of the incoming two-way-immersion students entered Tom McCall several years below grade level." It seems since at least 2003, the district had a policy that TWI students would not receive English instruction until they reached mastery at 3rd grade Spanish. Most students never reached that benchmark, and were passed along to 5th grade without English instruction.

I was flabergasted at the implications this failed policy held. Staff assured me that the requirement was rolled back to 2nd grade.? How does the district intend to remedy the vacuum of English instruction for the K-4 students since 2003?

I think I am the only person asking this question. There are Latino advocates in the district who might be interested, but so far I have not been able to get their numbers. I have their names through a HSD employee.

I have tried to get info about the Textbook Adoption Committee at the state legislature, which plays some kind of role in this scene. The new super, Dr. C, oversaw the TAC when she was deputy super of public instruction, under Susan Castillo. I wrote to my representative Chuck Riley and he forwarded me to Susan Castillo, and nothing happened.

*Riggs or Riggs/Spauding Explicit Phonics refers to a multi-sensory Socratic instruction where students learn to correctly form their letters and identify the 71 phonemes in the English language. Begun in the 1930's, it was tossed aside in the 40's when the US Department of Eduction made an "about face" and endorsed "whole language" or "sight reading" as the favored methods of reading instruction. 70 years later, we are still forcing public schools to use this instruction, even as the tide of unserved students has been rising, creating a drop-out rate of about 30% nationally.

I tried to find out more about the reading programs offered by the district; I sent a letter to a board member, asking that my request be forwarded to Jennifer Frentress. I sent the letter to Anna T., who works at Oregon Legal Services. (We worked together there from 1983-87.) The letter came back unopened. I sent the letter on to Jennfier Frentress. I hope she choses to answer it.

You can see how I cannot continue much longer by myself--it is just too discouraging. I need contacts in FG that really care about improving the reading instruction in our district.

Watch for More Riggs Advocacy on this blog.

Your friend, Mary

1 comment:

  1. I have always admired your passion. I wish there was something I could do to help you with this; it's terrible to hear your tales of "educators" who are unwilling or outright refuse to actually "educate." However, if working for the U.S. Government has taught me anything, it's that every new idea gets "chopped" at every single step on its way to the top. Worse yet, that big changes require either death or dismemberment to be approached in any sort of timely fashion, and lacking one of those, take at least 15 years to even be considered. At least, that's how it seems to me. Don't give up yet. When I am stumped or given the run-around at work, I go higher up. One step at a time of course, but always up, to the next higher decision-maker. Portland would probably be more willing to accept a "real solution" as opposed to an "easy solution" than Forest Grove or even Hillsboro.
    I'll write letters if you want. I don't think I'm supposed to, you know, military members aren't afforded those rights like free speech, but I could always use a pseudonym. I love you mom, you are the smartest and most motivated person I know. You inspire me every day!