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Superkids Program Focused on Primary Grade Readers

Chicago IL, (September 2, 2009) – To address one of the most urgent problems in education today, Superintendent Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools today announced a partnership with the Rowland Reading Foundation to launch the Superkids program, a comprehensive, core reading program designed for pre-K through second-grade.  Fourteen Catholic elementary schools in Chicago and suburban Cook and Lake counties will adopt this Super School initiative, designed as a model for improving early reading instruction.

Two-thirds of American fourth-graders were not proficient - or at grade-level - in reading, according to the most recent findings of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called the “Nation’s Report Card.” 

Our Catholic schools have the opportunity to help solve this problem, and we are excited and determined to do so.  Our partnership with the Rowland Reading Foundation enables us to put unparalleled resources into primary-grade instruction, so that every second-grader leaves our classrooms a reader,” said Sister Mary Paul.  “Parents seek the best possible education for their children, and they can be confident that these ‘Super Schools’ will deliver the most important academic skills when they matter most in a child’s life.  Research has proven that remediation and intervention in later years simply don’t work.”

The pilot schools are implementing the Foundation’s pre-K through second-grade reading program, the Superkids, undertaking professional development in reading for their teachers, and recruiting volunteers who will be trained to provide substantive help with reading in primary classrooms.

“Research has shown that children who cannot read by the end of second grade struggle in school in all the years thereafter,” said Pleasant Rowland, author of the Superkids reading program and founder of the Rowland Reading Foundation. “Sister Mary Paul is bringing a bold new vision to Catholic schools in the Archdiocese with the Super School Initiative focused on the early grades. Our reading program is specifically designed to target this age group, and it has proven to be highly effective in large nationwide research studies.”

Ms. Rowland noted that Catholic schools have a well-earned reputation for academic rigor and excellence.  Archdiocesan Catholic school students, at all grade levels, perform significantly higher than the national norm in reading, averaging in the 65th percentile for third-graders, the 68th percentile for fifth-graders, and at the 70th percentile for seventh-graders.

Ms. Rowland has awarded a $250,000 challenge grant from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation to help fund the Initiative in its first year. The Archdiocese will raise matching funds so that the Initiative can be expanded next year to all interested schools in the City of Chicago, as well as suburban Cook and Lake counties.

Ms. Rowland, a Chicago native, is an accomplished educator and founder of American Girl®.  She created the Rowland Reading Foundation, based in Middleton, Wisconsin in 2003 for the purpose of improving reading instruction in public and private schools throughout the U.S.

The Superkids is a comprehensive, phonics-based reading and language arts program.  It has achieved exceptional results with a broad range of students in public and private classrooms throughout the U.S. in standardized national assessments. 

The 14 schools that are participating in the pilot of the Super School Initiative are: The Academy of St. Priscilla at Divine Savior (Norridge), Our Lady of Charity (Cicero), St. Ailbe (Chicago), Saint Agatha Catholic Academy (Chicago), St. James (Highwood), St. Sabina (Chicago), St. Bede (Ingleside), St. Francis Borgia (Chicago), Pope John XXIII (Evanston), Academy of Our Lady (Waukegan), St. Peter (Antioch), Divine Providence (Westchester), St. Bernadine (Forest Park), and St. Francis Xavier (Wilmette)

For more information about the Superkids reading program, please contact Ryan Blackburn at the Office of Catholic Schools, 312-534-5334, or Barbara Johnson at the Rowland Reading Foundation, 608-441-5555.

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