Moon shot memories, and a successful small step for READ Charlotte

Image result for Google Photos, 1969 Moon Walk

Tying two disparate bits of history together, it’s easy to admit being immensely proud of the 50th anniversary of an AMERICAN (no hyphens or political qualifiers needed) setting foot on the moon. Nothing about our current run of nationwide negativity seems legitimate in comparison, although chanting USA! USA! – or “Equal pay!” – for the US Women’s National Team after taking its fourth World Cup is going to be heard loud and proud while they tour the country.

There’s been plenty of documentary material to watch about the overall space program, but every time  ‘Apollo 13’ comes on, the humanity of the space program clicks inside me, and I have to watch how they overcome serious, multiple problems, like gerry-rigging a CO2 scrubber or cold-starting the computers.

Chief Flight Director Gene Krantz said that the rescued mission (Apollo 13) was NASA’s finest hour, and except for the momentous nature of  EVER having put people on the surface of what was always considered unreachable, who could argue that?

We prayed for those Apollo 13 astronauts in Catholic grade school, as close to a moment of true world caring as imaginable, and through the miracle of television, I was kind of there, sharing it with a hunk of humanity.

When 13’s parachutes appeared – almost on top of the rescue carrier, deep into a radio silence that might have meant their capsule burned up on reentry – such a wow! of relief, and pretty much the only good luck they’d had all flight. Gene Krantz said that the Apollo 13 rescue mission was NASA’s finest hour, and except for the momentous nature of  EVER having put people on the surface of that orb in the night, who could argue that?

Fifty years ago, Walter Cronkite was wiping his eyes on live TV at the fact of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, the whole world kind of celebrated, and that’s a source of national pride that cannot be erased by presidential ignorance or disdain.

Yes, USWNT was a bad-ass TEAM, but for absolute intensity of mission, the crew of professionals at the banks of computers, analyzing every aspect of mechanical and human performance, up to and beyond “One small step…” was serious as hell.

America, whether we’re still worthy of “…shed His light on thee,” we KNOW there are higher things to reach for as a nation. “Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for ALL?” Not sure about that all the time.

READ Charlotte – A Booster shot of Positives

The second piece of history involves something recent, a gratifyingly solid email update that READ Charlotte sent out to all literacy volunteers. Without posting the entire piece here, letting volunteers in on how things are working out is a great way to keep them engaged.

That 155 third-graders literally took one small, incredibly necessary step forward with reading in this past scholastic year is the story, and we need to build on that going forward.

Research finds strong parallels between reading fluency, comprehension, and overall reading achievement (testing). If you didn’t already know this, Charlotte has the lowest rating (4.4%) of the 50 largest US cities regarding economic mobility, essentially how many children rise from the bottom of one economic quadrille to top of it as an adult.

Its not *just* DeVos’ reign of ignorance and funding terror for public education that brought these programs to the front, but students not reading to grade level by fourth grade are almost destined to fall further behind…

HELPS (Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies), is a reading fluency program, part of a larger initiative by READ Charlotte to bring the community focus around a set of programs to improve third grade reading proficiency rates. READ Charlotte estimates that 20-25% of CMS third graders can sound out individual words (phonics), but don’t read fast or accurately enough (fluency) to understand what they are reading.

The Task Force goal, to have 80% of Char-Meck students reading at that level is lofty – its currently only 39%, with Afro-American (22%) and Hispanic boys (18%) lagging significantly. One specific and very relevant fact from the often-quoted Chetty Study, a Harvard/UC Berkeley project, is that students not reading to grade level by fourth grade are almost destined to fall further behind as reading-writing material become more difficult.

Reading fluency is a student’s ability to read with speed, accuracy and proper expression.

The average CMS third grader who received HELPS one-on-one tutoring starting in the Fall of 2018 was a full year behind in oral reading fluency. During the 2018-2019 school year, nearly half the students who received HELPS tutoring exceeded national norms for expected growth in oral reading fluency.

Although extra work moving metric needles more positively wouldn’t be a drastic new revelation, on average, the more HELPS sessions students received the more they improved their reading fluency. Students who had 50-plus HELPS sessions gained the most, closing an average 75% of the gap to end of year benchmarks for 3rd grade reading fluency. According to the literature, that’s the equivalent of growing just over 1.5 grade levels in reading fluency in a single year.

The HELPS program, developed by Professor John Begeny of North Carolina State University, was used by community partners and individual volunteers in Charlotte to tutor those 155 CMS third graders in the 2018-2019 school year. “Only 155” isn’t the way to look at such results, only that more in Year 2,3,4,5 is better. Its attainable, no less genuine a “small step” as walking on the moon seemed from the bottom of a long-ago spaceship’s ladder.

Having considered myself a writer from the very early days, its impossible to consider becoming a content creator, blogger, or professional without the reading skills from early on, especially the vocabulary and comprehension. I’ll bring my talents to Rama Road Elementary this coming year, and if you want to be a part of this necessary program, perhaps taking one small-ish step here makes a giant leap possible soon.

Tommy Hudnall,  Volunteer & Donor Coordinator,

Office: 704-371-4922     PO Box 37363 Charlotte, NC 28237

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