Set in a gritty working-class neighborhood under a Logan flight path, Revere’s Beachmont Veterans Memorial School is an urban success story. Two-thirds of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch, while one-fifth are English language learners, the highest percentage in Revere. And last year, 100 percent of the school’s third-graders scored at the proficient or advanced level on the English and math MCAS, making it the second best-scoring K-5 school in the state. Meanwhile, Beachmont recently took home a Distinguished Schools award for its success in closing the achievement gap among its students.
So what has led to that success?
A determined, hard-working principal who is a regular presence in the classroom. Dedicated teachers who put in extra hours. And an innovative reading program, designed by public policy entrepreneur Ed Moscovitch, that has given principals and teachers new ways to instruct and track students. After a stint helping Alabama evaluate its state reading initiative, Moscovitch joined with Barbara Gardner, a former state associate education commissioner, to found the Bay State Reading Institute. Its goal: to bring proven reading-instruction techniques to Massachusetts schools.
To participate, a school has to hire a reading coach, who works with the principal and the teachers. It must also restructure its school time to provide a daily two-hour block to focus on reading and writing. During that time, small subsets of students with similar abilities or weaknesses work as a team, with the teacher spending at least 20 minutes each day with each group.
This program isn’t free, but the costs are relatively modest: about $60,000 per school per year, plus the cost of the in-school reading coach.
Is that a modest fee to fix a reading program?