Education

Former Teacher of the Year: Don’t blame teachers, students for reading failure

Lisa Godwin, the 2017 pick for state Teacher of the Year, said teachers and students aren’t to blame for the poor reading scores the State Board of Education discussed last week during its monthly business meeting.

Godwin, an Onslow County educator who sits on the board as an adviser, said North Carolina leaders must do more if they want reading scores to improve.

“There’s got to be accountability from above, and the fact is we don’t have what we need to move these kids,” said Godwin, who teaches at Dixon Elementary School.

Godwin’s remarks were in response to a report about the state’s Read to Achieve initiative. The report shows that 43.7 percent of third-graders tested statewide during the 2017-18 did not demonstrate reading proficiency.

She compared teaching a child to read to laying the foundation for a house.

N.C.’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, Lisa Godwin

“For whatever reason, we tend to skimp on the foundation that we’re pouring for our students and so in order to change outcomes we must begin to front-load and pour resources into those early years,” Godwin said.

North Carolina has spent more than $150 million on the program designed to ensure all third-graders are reading at or above grade level.

Under state law, those third-grade students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade will receive special help, including summer reading camp and other interventions to make sure that they can read well enough to be able to do fourth-grade work.

Rattling off a list of concerns that sounded a lot like those voiced by teachers in Los Angeles who walked off the job Monday, Godwin said smaller class sizes with no option for waivers is critical if North Carolina expects better academic outcomes.

“I have a part-time assistant with 24 kids that vary in needs,” Godwin explained. “We need to be able to function and to be able to address student needs and on a more one-to-one basis.”

Godwin also called on the state to bridge the technology divide between rural and urban schools.

“There are inequities across this state and we need to address it,” Godwin said.

She added:  “I’m currently at 24 students in my classroom with a part-time assistant and I have no personal student devices for my students to use. That’s not OK, and this is the North Carolina Teacher of the Year.”

She urged state board members to keep students and teachers in mind when they begin to talk to members of the General Assembly about needs this year.

“We need to be able to lay that [reading] foundation and give teachers what they need to move forward, so the shaming of students and the shaming of teachers not making the scores, that’s got to stop.”

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