Sweet Water faculty has session with Sessions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2005

SWEET WATER- It was more of a question and answer period between Sweet Water faculty and Senator Jeff Sessions.

The Wednesday afternoon meeting began in a small library room with a roundtable discussion.

Sessions talked with reading coaches from the Reading First Initiative program, Sweet Water faculty, and Reading First and Voyager representatives.

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They informed him of the progress of the new program, the positive aspects of it, and the difference between it and the Alabama Reading Initiative.

“I’m trying to determine how teachers like it and does it enhance reading,” Sessions said.

The faculty provided numbers to show the before and after of the Reading First Initiative.

Karen Rutledge, the regional reading coach for Reading First Initiative, said the program “puts the tools in the teachers’ hands to make a difference.”

According to Sessions, these “tools” are “cheap when you consider the billions spent on education.”

Sessions, a former teacher, said he is excited for the program.

“There’s nothing else I’ve heard of that guarantees measurable change,” he said. “We may need to tell the country that this works.”

The meeting then moved into the library where Sessions met with the Kindergarten through third grade teachers who are using the program to get “thoughts, comments, complaints, and ideas.”

The teachers said the program is wonderful because it pinpoints specific weaknesses in a child’s reading pattern.

Faculty are also thankful for the program’s reading coaches who give the children with special reading needs special attention.

“This program seems to focus on how children actually learn,” Sessions said. “I don’t know how you feel, but I think this process has helped the kids a lot. I’m excited about it.”

Sessions said he wants to push for the program to go nationally and hopes there can be similar programs to help children in science and math as well.

Sessions also talked to teachers about the “No Child Left Behind Act” and its “highly qualified” requirements. He said he was “sympathetic with teachers on the subject” because he realizes the problems the rule poses.

He said he knows that there are some teachers who have been teaching for years but aren’t “highly qualified” enough to keep their classes.

As for the Reading First Initiative, Sessions said he is excited about the possibilities.

“We might find hat we’ve made a breakthrough in education. We just need to be thoughtful about it, use our money wisely and promote the Reading First Initiative.”