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updated: 4/1/2014 11:05 AM

U-46 middle school reading program won't change next year

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Elgin Area School District U-46 won't be changing the reading program at the district's eight middle schools next school year, officials said Monday night.

The school board Monday night approved a reduction-in-force of 72 teachers -- as is customary practice at the end of every school year -- but none of those cuts was related to proposed changes to the middle school reading programs.

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The district will likely rehire most, if not all, of the teachers eliminated as part of the reduction-in-force once voluntary transfer/reassignment of teachers is complete. The middle school reading programs were not targeted on purpose, said Melanie Meidel, U-46 assistant superintendent of human resources.

Superintendent Josť Torres had originally proposed not requiring reading classes for all middle school students starting next school year, which could have affected staffing.

According to the administration's proposal, only middle school students who need reading support -- those below the 30th percentile -- would have been placed in reading interventions or reading classes. Students who do not need additional reading support would have been able to select from other elective options.

"The intention was never to eliminate reading," Meidel said. "The intention was trying to bring it into every classroom."

The decision to leave the program as is, for now, comes after dozens of parents, students and teachers railed against the proposed changes at a school board meeting earlier in March.

Meidel said their passionate comments forced the administration to rethink its proposal and reassess what needs to be done with reading at the middle schools.

"Sometimes you move too fast," she said. "Some things came to light. I believe (the public comments) made an impact. There's other factors (affecting the decision). We need time to assess that. Reading needs to be in every classroom, not just in the reading room. It was a realignment and not a removal."

Meidel said the administration needs to do a better job communicating that message with parents, students and teachers.

"You learn from your mistakes," she added.

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