When the freshmen students in teacher Amy Cantrell’s Read 180 class finished reading The Odyssey, Cantrell assigned them a creative project in which they could produce a work of art illustrating an aspect of Homer’s epic poem, or write a fictional story.
“I am absolutely floored by the things they turned in,” says Cantrell, surrounded by the colorful projects displayed within her classroom. “Several students used oil paints on canvas. One student made a 10-foot-long mural. Another student made a clay bowl with a Trojan Horse in it.”
But Cantrell’s obvious pride in her Read 180 students extends far beyond their inspired projects to the huge strides they are making in their reading abilities after previously struggling as readers.
In the first semester of participating in the program, Cantrell says that 40 percent of the students in her two classes recently scored one level higher on the reading portion of the California Standards Tests (CSTs). A number of students scored two levels higher and some students even achieved a three-level jump. Cantrell says that all of her students read almost the same amount of material that the school’s advanced students read.
“We all know some students’ abilities have been underestimated in school for years,” says Cantrell, who is in her second year of teaching this class. Cantrell says that students missing a foundation in reading usually struggle through their other classes that require reading, such as history and science.
With The Odyssey behind them, the students are moving on to reading Flowers for Algernon, and are eager to start turning pages.