Broward Protesters Demand Better Reading Scores

WILTON MANORS (CBS4) – Hundreds of members of Broward churches gathered Thursday night at St. Clement’s Catholic Church in Wilton Manors to call for better reading instruction for elementary school students.

Thousands of third graders in Broward County cannot read at their grade level. A group called Bold Justice wants to change that.

Bishop Thomas Douglas made the appeal. “If those scores go up, less kids would drop out of school, it means the crime rate would be impacted,” Bishop Douglas said. “We recognize there’s a connection between low reading scores in elementary level and graduation rates in high school.”

Bold Justice said the numbers show that 23 schools – including Larkdale Elementary and Dillard Elementary — have less than 55 percent of students passing the reading portion of the FCAT.

The group says more than 5-thousand third graders are not reading at grade level.

They want a reading program called Direct Instruction implemented. Bold Justice said results show the program has had success in low-performing schools.

School district leaders — including Superintendent Jim Notter, Board Chair Benjamin Williams and Member Nora Rupert — attended the meeting that had more of a feeling of a church revival than an education summit.

School officials promised to look into the program.

“We must diagnose the needs of students,” said School Board Chairman Benjamin Williams. “We must prescribe programs based on those needs. It could be that program. It could be other programs.”

Bishop Douglas put school leaders on the spot. He asked them if they would agree to implement the program at 5 schools for a cost of $700,000.

Superintendent Notter said with budget cuts looming, he could not guarantee the money for the program.

Miranda Carmichael has two children in Broward County schools. She believes the district should find the money to pay for the program.

She called it “appalling” that Notter said the district doesn’t have the money. She also believed the district places the emphasis on the wrong things in the classroom.

“I think there’s too much focus on testing and assessments than there are on each individual child’s achievement,” she said.

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