Teachers, administrators evaluate Voyager

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April 20, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---It has been Richmond County's reading program since 2001, when then-state school superintendent Linda Schrenko spent $1 million in federal money on it.

Since then, taxpayers have spent $10 million on the Voyager learning program.

Today, three school board members got to hear if you're getting your money's worth.

News 12 first investigated the Voyager learning system last year. Since then, another year's test scores have come out, and they show 27 out of 33 elementary schools have had declines in third graders passing the Criterion Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT.

In one school we profiled in 2006, 66 percent of third graders failed to meet state standards, a marked decline from the 26 percent in 2004.

"Are we happy with the CRCT? No," said Richmond County Asst. Superintendent Dr. Virginia Bradshaw. "Last year was most disappointing. Was it a new test? Perhaps. So you know we'll be anxiously awaiting this year's results."

Dr. Bradshaw oversees instruction for Richmond County schools. She was among several presenters to school board members this afternoon.

Four teachers spoke, all of them praising voyager, the system-wide reading program.

Carolyn Lewis from Milledge Elementary says she started out like many teachers, anti-voyager, but has since changed her mind.

"I personally like the Voyager program," Lewis said. "It is comprehensive. It offers all the skills necessary for a child to read."

"The materials are wonderful. They provide more than enough that you could ever use," said Therese Rhodes, who teaches at Rollins Elementary.

"This correlates to our daily lessons, and it has comprehension, extra review of comprehension skills," said Emily Painter, a teacher at C.T. Walker Elementary. "I feel that this is just another example of how Voyager is committed to meet the needs of our students in this county."

Board members Joe Scott and Alex Howard wondered where the teachers were who did not like Voyager.

"I have several teachers I respect highly and I have not heard one good thing about this," Howard said. "Why am I getting complaints about it?"

"The scripted part of it, the creativity on the part of the teachers," Scott said. "That's one of the (reasons) they're not buying into the program."

Helen Minchew was on the school board when they first approved the program and adopted it system-wide.

"I think this is a good review," she said. "And like I said, on anything you do, on any program, you do need to give it a sufficient number of years to give it a chance to show whether it's working or not."

Dr. Bradshaw did agree to find some teachers from schools who are not making the grade in reading to speak at the next board presentation about voyager.

That is open to the public and will be Monday, April 30th at 5:00 p.m. News 12 will be there to cover it.

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