Back in 2008, James J. Harrigan Principal New York State Recognized Closing the Gap School, agreed to write a review of our Jazzles program. Since then, we have done an enormous amount of work on integrating Jazzles to meet and mostly exceed the Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten ELA; created ‘advanced’ ELA Lesson Plans, added a few resources, and renamed the program Jazzles ELA.

Principal Harrigan is a veteran educator with over 30 years experience within the nation’s largest Public School System. He is a past recipient of the New York State Catholic Teacher’s Association’s EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR, the New York City Board of Education SUPERVISOR OF THE YEAR award and the Emerald Society’s EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR. Here is his forword to a manual we created on the Jazzles methodology and pedagogy, soon to be republished.

THE JAZZLES LEARNING SYSTEM

If someone told you that your 5-6 year old child could be guaranteed to graduate from high school, more than likely graduate from college as well, and earn an extra million dollars over the course of their work career, you’d probably say “Where do I sign up?”

Well, the above scenario is not a hypothetical situation. In reality, nearly 40% of parents of children beginning school in kindergarten or grade one face this situation. Why? Because their children do not have the requisite skills to become proficient readers and will be relegated to a second class academic and economic status.

The cold statistics of decades of educational research confirm the following statement: Nothing is more critical to the academic success of a child, as well as their future economic and social well being, than the ability to read well and with understanding.

That is why, as a principal of an urban elementary school for 20 years, I strongly recommend the Jazzles Learning System as an effective and cost efficient tool to increase student reading achievement.

Before I return to why I know Jazzles is an effective program to help struggling reading and enhance the reading ability of all young readers, let’s briefly examine the state of reading in the United States:

Despite nearly 50 years of national focus on reading development, from the 1960’s ESEA legislation to the recent NCLB initiative, the majority of children in the U.S. are still failing to read at a proficient level. These statistics, based upon the most recent (2007) National Assessment of Educational Progress *(NAEP) of reading achievement, are sobering, if not alarming.

What does NAEP tell us? It tells us that only 67% of grade 4 students scored at or above the basic level, with only 33% of students scoring at the proficient level. Conversely, this means that one-third of this national representative sample of 4th graders scored below basic, that is, they do not even have an even partial mastery (the definition of basic) of the skills necessary to become good readers.

So what is the usual reaction to this dire news and depressing statistics?

Both parents and educators usually grasp on to the latest reading initiative or embrace the “flavor of the month” reading program. Alas, as any experienced teacher will tell you, there is no panacea or “silver bullet” to generate skilled readers.

However, there are communities and schools using curricula and programs, which defy the odds and turn out proficient and advanced readers. Their success story can be duplicated.

From my personal experience, the Jazzles Learning System falls into this elite category. Why? For a number of reasons:

Jazzles is practical and time-tested. An early childhood teacher with over 20 years of classroom experience teaching kindergarten and grade one students developed the program.

Jazzles utilizes a multi-sensory approach, emphasizing visual, auditory and kinetic activities and Jazzles is consistent with the latest brain research on learning. It takes the traditional activities of early childhood education and integrates them with 21st century literacy benchmarks and classroom technology advances – particularly interactive whiteboards.

What it really does superbly is take these traditional early childhood classroom activities, and through its interactive program of music, movement and creative games, it enhances and reinforces the literary skills expected of kindergarten and grade one students today.

Most importantly, Jazzles corresponds clearly with any balanced, comprehensive and sequential reading curriculum. Its games and activities are consistent with the essential elements of reading – phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary development. For example, the Jazzles Learning System emphasizes nearly three quarters of the English language words included in most high fluency and sight word lists.

Jazzles is an individualized and differentiated learning system. The technology allows the students, whatever their reading ability, to access the program at their own level. The scaffolded learning system allows students to advance at their own pace. Jazzles also works especially well for ELL and special needs students who react immediately to the positive reinforcement and feedback built into the program’s strategy. As these special populations increase in number and percentage in our schools, Jazzles can be one pragmatic solution to help these students reach state and national literacy standards.

Lastly, and most importantly in a school or home setting, Jazzles is a near perfect supplement to a K-1 reading program. Through its feedback assessment system, it allows teachers to identify and isolate particular reading deficiencies and utilize Jazzles activities to target, remediate and reinforce the skills necessary to bring students up to grade level.

There is probably no greater joy for a parent or educator than to see a reluctant or struggling reader become totally engaged and enthusiastic about reading.

I have seen this occur consistently with students using the Jazzles Learning System- you can make it happen for your children as well.

James J. Harrigan
Principal
New York State Recognized Closing the Gap School

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