How Kalinga’s biggest high school copes with its reading woes
TABUK CITY, Kalinga:– While the Tabuk City National High School (TCNHS), this province’s biggest secondary school, does not consider belatedly teaching students how to read an unwelcome task, the sought for situation is still for all enrollees to already be readers.
Principal Mildred Cabay informed that while for years the school has been gamely bearing the additional burden of teaching early reading, it could not be denied that the presence of non-readers and struggling readers in the school slows down learning progress.
Cabay said that this has been repeatedly confirmed by results of their School Monitoring, Evaluation and Adjustment (SMEA) which show that the literacy problem delays the coverage of competencies per level.
She informed that they cannot finish all the competencies per grade level “because some students are not ready.”
“In Grade 10, the students have accumulated competency backlog. As a remedy, we grouped similar competencies to reduce the number. Every quarter, we find out what are not covered and plan on how to cope eventually,” Cabay said.
Furthermore, according to the principal, their efforts to help the non-readers is hampered by their lack of strategies to conduct early reading teaching “because students are expected to know how to read when they come to us.”
Cabay said, to address the deficiency, they recently invited a Grade 1 teacher from one of their two feeder schools which so far have not sent them any non-reader to the school to give pointers to their teachers and some early reading materials.
The teachers in charge of the reading programs also beefed up their knowledge on early reading by researching online for strategies, Cabay informed.
Cabay said that this school year, through the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI), the reading assessment test of the DepEd, 38 of their 772 Grade 7 enrollees were assessed as non-readers and only 78 as independent readers with the rest having Grades 4 and 5 reading proficiency levels.
The most vital part of the school’s effort to minimize the impact of the literacy woes on the delivery of competencies are the special reading intervention program exclusively for the 38 non-readers whom Cabay said were all found by psychometric tests to be capable of learning and another reading intervention program for the slow readers who form the bulk of the Grade 7 population.
Cabay said that the programs entail two hours of reading activities for the non-readers and one hour for the slow readers daily.
Cabay said that the aim of the special reading program is to turn the students into passable readers when they graduate from junior high school at the latest. They will be assessed through the Phil-IRI in second year to help the school plan for the next phase of the remediation if still needed.
Cabay said that some of the 38 non-readers could now read up to five-letter words which is already significant considering that at the start of the school year, most of them were at the level they could identify letters but do not know their respective sounds.
Cabay informed that the non-readers were all determined through the Culture Fair Intelligence Test administered by the school’s psychometricians to be capable of learning.
As for the program for the slow readers, the Reading Coordinator prepares a reading material which it then reproduced at the expense of the school for distribution to all the teachers who will then conduct the reading activity. All teachers trained to administer the reading intervention activity.
Cabay said that the objective of the program is for the students to attain Grade 7 level proficiency in comprehension.
“No Read, No Pass” policy
Understandably, Cabay and the faculty of the TCNHS saw a ray of hope that the school will soon be relieved from the added burden after the Department of Education-Cordillera issued Regional Memorandum No. 013-2020 early this year reiterating the “No Read, No Pass” policy contained in DepEd Order No. 45, series of 2002.
Cabay, however, is waiting to see how the issuance will be enforced.
According to the principal, if the elementary schools will comply with the provision prohibiting the graduation of non-readers, then they could already heave a sigh of relief regarding the literacy problem but if on the other hand their feeders will ignore the policy, they will be in a quandary mainly because the memorandum does not state the accepted reading level of Grade 7 enrollees.
Cabay asked if the ability to read four or five-letter words would already be considered compliance with the memorandum.
She said that if it were left to her, she would only allow the enrolment of applicants who make the Grade 6 reading level in the Phil-IRI but hastened to add that such policy could drastically reduce the Grade 7 enrolment of the school citing the fact that this school year, they only have 78 independent readers among their freshmen.
She informed that they have put on hold decision on the applications of three freshmen applicants found to be unable to read during the pre-enrolment last January to see first if their teachers and schools will heed the memorandum or not.
Factors, other solutions
To highlight the pivotal role of parents in the passage of children to literacy, Cabay related an incident during the enrolment the other year where a parent questioned the verdict of the school that her child could not read on the ground that he was allowed to graduate from the elementary.
Cabay recalled that the child could not fill up the enrolment form and could not read his certificate of good moral character.
“I told the mother to pose her question to her child’s school and also asked her if she has been following up the studies of her child. No matter what we do in school if the support of parents is very poor, there is no certainty of success. They should follow up and monitor. We stress this up during the PTA meeting at the opening of classes but the parents of the non-readers are usually absent,” the principal said.
Cabay also said there are a lot of adjustments elementary schools could make to strengthen their capability to ensure that their pupils could read.
Regarding the observation that the K-12 Curriculum is weak when it comes to the development of foundation skills, Cabay said “they should not be boxed in by the curriculum.”
“Since you see the problem, do something about it,” Cabay said.
Cabay also said that elementary schools could minimize the school days eaten up by curricular and extra-curricular activities by, for one, by marking activities without necessarily suspending classes even as she informed that in the TCNHS, they usually launch a celebration during flag ceremonies and then go ahead with classes.
Citing as example the month of July where the Nutrition Month is observed which could entail two days without classes for the school and division level activities, Cabay said that the reduction in the contact days could be very significant if schools do not exert conscious effort not to sacrifice days for curricular activities.
Regarding the alleged heavy load of paper work which teachers say diverts their time from teaching, Cabay said that principals could ease the situation by not delegating all administrative tasks to teachers and by distributing means of verification (MOV) requirements evenly and checking these promptly so that these will not accumulate.
Cabay is convinced that if elementary schools exhaust all possible means to teach pupils, and they will not reach high school without knowing how to read.
Cabay said that she had always wondered how come there are students who enroll in the school who could not read recalling that when she was in Grade 1 at the nearby Tabuk Central School in school year 1976-1977, the entire class could already read in English before the end of the school year.
Cabay also said that the leadership of the school is very crucial in the prevention and solution of the problem of the delayed acquisition of reading skills now prevalent in the public basic education system.
“They should give intervention. Once there are findings, they have to do something. They already know so they should do something,” Cabay said referring to leaders of both elementary and high schools. **Estanislao Albano, Jr.