In 1969, with 45 students, 3 weeks, and 30 minutes per class, Victoria Greene proved there was a way to teach all students to read.
Curriculum author Victoria Greene first implemented Project Read strategies in the public school system of Bloomington, MN. These strategies were the basis of an original dissertation written by Project Read co-founder, Dr. Mary Lee Enfield, in 1978. At the time, Bloomington had a student population of 27,000 students in grades K-12. It was the third largest school district in the state of Minnesota, and the general population consisted of primarily middle class, Caucasian families.
Test scores were declining at the time, and schools had settled around the 50th percentile nationally. At the same time, students in learning disability (LD) programs were making significant progress using a reading program that featured an alternative method to classroom basal reading instruction. This program taught concepts and skills of language in their dependent order, and delivered them through multisensory strategies and materials. The principles used in this program later became the foundation of the Project Read curriculum.
Administrators became interested in the success of these students, and designed a pilot study to implement the alternative program into regular classrooms. Greene, then the LD special education teacher, began to teach this program to an experimental group of 6 classrooms. At the end of the 1969-1970 school year the experimental group had made 2 to 3 times more progress than the uncontrolled students, as reflected by standardized test scoring.
Because of the results of the pilot study, the school board approved positions for ten demonstration/model teachers to replicate Mrs. Greene’s role. After significant training and consistent implementation, a major research study was designed to track the program’s long-term success. At the end of this major study, significant progress was made. Referrals for special education services were reduced by 72% over a three year period.
Mrs. Greene then began developing the Project Read curriculum as an intervention program to be delivered in the regular classroom by the regular classroom teacher. The phonics section of the program is based on the Orton - Gillingham method. Similarly, Mrs. Greene chose to develop the rest of the curriculum based on three foundational principles:
1. Direct instruction of the concepts and skills of language
2. Presentation of concepts and skills in their dependent order, from simplest to most complex
3. Multisensory strategies and materials created specifically for each concept and skill
To this day, Language Circle/Project Read materials provide a viable and effective intervention for any at-risk learner, allowing students to master the symbol system of language in reading, written, and oral expression.