Elementary School in Hutchinson sees success by embracing the ‘science of reading’

Hutchinson school taking new approach to teach kids

Hutchinson school taking new approach to teach kids

There’s an ongoing debate over the best way to teach our kids to read. 

National test scores are contributing to the debate: In 2022, about one in three children could not read at a basic level of comprehension, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 

Now, many educators and lawmakers are beginning to rethink our current teaching methods and push to adopt what’s known as the “science of reading.” 

The science of reading is a teaching method that involves scientifically-based research from the fields of education, psychology, and neuroscience that relates to how a child’s brain learns to read. In practice, the science calls for teachers to focus on the building blocks of words or phonics.

“It’s a very explicit, systematic instruction in phonics that goes from the sounds that we speak and kids hear to the print they are reading,” said West Elementary Reading Interventionist Cathy Kucera.

West Elementary in Hutchinson recently adopted a new reading curriculum that is rooted in phonics and the science of reading.  So far, it’s working.

According to the school’s benchmark test scores after the first full year of using the new curriculum, only about 6% of first graders are still in the “high risk of failing to read” category at the end of the year.  Compare that to 22% in the “high risk” category at this same time last year, using the old curriculum.

“Now that we know better, we are not going to waste a minute.  Our kids deserve better, and that’s what this is really about.  Every child that comes to school deserves to learn to read,” said Kucera.

Rather than the science of reading, many schools use variations of traditional models like “Balanced Literacy” and the “Whole Language” methods, which can be heavily reliant on pictures and memorization.