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Students from low-income families often start school behind.
In fact, four-year-olds knew an average of barely four letter sounds when they started pre-K at more than one hundred Houston schools last year.
But in an experiment with about 4,000 students, some of their teachers got extra training on how to teach letters and reading.
By the end of the year, those four-year-olds who started behind had caught up or even surpassed their peers.
“We would not have expected that kind of outcome. So we basically leveled the playing field — that the students look exactly the same entering kindergarten,” said Marybeth Flachbart, CEO of Neuhaus Education Center, which led the teacher training.
Take those letter sounds again. The children were expected to learn 10 new sounds. They learned even more than that.
The study confirms how the Houston Independent School District is trying to improve literacy, with strategies like expanding pre-K, according to Cindy Puryear, HISD’s literacy director.
Many, many people in many, many different lines of work say as it begins, so it goes. And I say that about literacy instruction. It is very difficult to undo what has been done early on,” said Puryear.
The experiment is continuing this year at some HISD campuses, Catholic parochial schools and another private school.