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Manitowoc schools look to pilot literacy reform model with only 25 percent of students reading at grade level

Posted at 10:43 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-23 11:42:51-05

MANITOWOC, Wis. (NBC 26) — According to new superintendent James Feil, just 25 percent of Manitowoc public school students are reading at their grade level.

That's why a dozen district staff members are set to travel to Ohio to learn more about an all-school reform model.

"Really, you want kids reading at grade level by grade three," Feil said. "Because they learn to read through grade three, and then they read to learn after that."

The model is called Success For All, and it's a reading and language development program for students up to eighth grade. Instruction takes place in daily, 90-minute blocks.

"It's not like they won't find a way to get by," Feil said. "That's not good enough in our society. We need to have kids really at proficiency levels if not above proficiency levels."

It will be piloted at two Manitowoc schools with board approval in an effort to tackle lacking reading skills.

"Our teachers at Franklin and Washington are going all out," Feil said. "I've got 20 pages of questions and we haven't answered all of their questions. But there's a lot of fear. But there's a lot of potential here in terms of what they're exploring."

Success For All has existed for about 30 years, and some local parents like Rebecca Wilinski say they're unsure if the program is the right fit.

"Reading is important," she said. "Yes, we need to change it. We need to fix it. But it's not by jumping into a program we haven't vetted… a program that none of the teachers here in the district have vetted, learned about, reviewed or approved of."

Other parents like Jim Heinicke are all for it.

"We have to try something else," he said. "Superintendent Feil has brought forward something that he knows is proven to work."

The district is looking at internal assessments and state report card grades as indicators of reading success.

"This is a nationally-proven model, a proven model where the federal government has given them $50 million in prior years to try to replicate their success in more school districts," Feil said.

Meet Ben Bokun: NBC 26's reporter in the Lakeshore!

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