$1.2 Million Gift Establishes "Phonics-Based" Teaching Institute at Manhattanville College's School of Education

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A three-year pilot program using phonics to teach literacy to K-2 children at Edison School in Port Chester, NY has proved so successful that Manhattanville College, the co-sponsor of the program along with the Reading Reform Foundation (RRF) of New York, has established a new institute to teach phonics at its nationally renowned School of Education.

A three-year pilot program using phonics to teach literacy to K-2 children at Edison School in Port Chester, NY has proved so successful that Manhattanville College, the co-sponsor of the program along with the Reading Reform Foundation (RRF) of New York, has established a new institute to teach phonics at its nationally renowned School of Education.

"The results of the pilot program are very uplifting and a generous $1.2 million gift will allow us to sustain and expand its success," said Jon Strauss, president of Manhattanville. The donation will be used to hire a professor and director of the Institute, and, over three years, to conduct an in-school practicum for 15 teachers in the mid-Hudson region. Courses for the Institute’s graduate and certificate program at Manhattanville are expected to begin in the summer of 2014.

Two specific examples of improvement at Edison School stand out: first-grade classrooms attained an overall average of 88 percent for oral reading fluency accuracy (how well children read individual letters and words aloud); and in kindergarten classrooms with an RRF trained teacher, 21 of 25 children reached benchmark status for early reading skill development. "These are notable achievements," stated Shelley B. Wepner, Ed.D. and Dean of the School of Education at Manhattanville. The literacy improvements at the school, which has mostly Hispanic students, were measured by standardized tests and confirmed with a survey of teachers that was conducted by a professor at Manhattanville College.

"The six classroom teachers and one reading specialist instructed with the RRF methodology found that they had an understanding of the English language that they did not have prior to training and, as a result, were more purposeful and deliberate in their literacy instruction. And, most importantly, the school children instructed with this methodology showed growth as readers, spellers, speakers, and listeners," said Dr. Wepner.

RRF’s founder, Sandra Rose, was so inspired by the positive results of the program that she donated $1.2 million over three years to establish the Rose Institute for Learning and Literacy at the college. Rose, a graduate of Manhattanville, is a lifelong literacy advocate and former teacher who strongly believes that rigorous, step-by-step, phonic methods of teaching improve a child’s reading, writing, spelling and comprehension. The RRF approach is currently taught in 80 classrooms in Greater New York.

The donation to Manhattanville, Rose says, will allow RRF’s approach to learning to "initiate an intellectual journey for children and have a lasting impact on future generations."

Over the three years of the pilot program, the K-2 teachers and reading specialist taught foundations of literacy to 150 students. A mentor from RRF spends 4 hours a week over one year personally coaching each teacher during preparation time and while he or she is actually teaching. "This hands-on, personal approach is what distinguishes RRF from other phonics-based programs and brought such remarkable results," said Rose.

In recent years, RRF has channeled its efforts beyond its New York City roots and into the Westchester suburbs, where Manhattanville College is located and where Rose lives. A few years ago, RRF and the college, which has a special program called Changing Suburbs Institute® (CSI) that is devoted to improving educational opportunities in changing suburban school districts for diverse student populations, particularly for Hispanic students, began informal discussions. Eventually this led to RRF and Manhattanville co-sponsoring a three-year pilot program at Edison School in Port Chester, one of CSI’s targeted schools.

RRF’s approach to learning is based on the work of Dr. Samuel T. Orton, who almost a century ago pioneered the concept of "multi-sensory" teaching – integrating kinesthetic (movement based) and tactile (sensory-based) learning strategies with teaching of visual and auditory concepts.

About Manhattanville College:

Manhattanville College (http://www.manhattanville.edu) is an independent, co-educational liberal arts institution dedicated to academic excellence and social and civic action. Manhattanville prepares students to be ethical and socially responsible leaders in a global community. Located just 30 minutes from New York City, Manhattanville serves 1,700 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students from more than 50 countries and 30 states. Founded in 1841, the College offers more than 50 undergraduate areas of study in the arts and sciences, and offers graduate programs in Education, Business, Creative Writing, as well as Continuing and Executive Education programs.

About Reading Reform Foundation

RRF for three decades has taught 1,200 teachers in Metro New York a phonics-based approach to education that uses all the senses -- seeing, saying, hearing and writing – to help children learn. Today, RRF works in 80 classrooms in 16 schools in New York City and Westchester. It has influenced the education 30,000 K-2 students.

Axel Bang
abang(at)axelbang(dot)com
(t) 914.234.5433
http://www.axelbang.com

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