At teacher who uses the system was a panelist on a forum at a conference and was asked that very question. He said he has had more than 900 junior high students in his required course and not one was unable to do the work because of their low reading ability.
This is not to say none have trouble reading. One teacher said the reading ability of one of his students was so poor she probably guessed at one out of every three words and didn't have any idea what the other two meant, but she made the projects!
Many users of the The Parke System say, "The number one advantage of THE PARKE SYSTEM is: IT GIVES THE STUDENTS A REASON TO READ."
During a visit by an administrator a student asked the teacher a question and the teacher told the student to "look it up in the manual." The administrator scolded the teacher by saying, "Don't you know he can't read?" The student went to the manual and in a few minutes was doing the work. The administrator said, "I guess he can read if he wants."
Another teacher said several special education students were assigned to his class. Since the program was self directed, he was concerned, so he asked what to do? The response was not to worry; the main reason for them being in the class was for the social interaction. The teacher had them use the manuals just like everyone else and they succeeded. He said one girl came to him asking for help reading a step in the manual. The step instructed her to get polyurethane varnish. She was not able to read the big words, but she learned and did the unit.
My original idea was to use film strips and overhead projectors to get the information to the students. That really dates the time the system was started, doesn't it? Cost for equipment was prohibitive. With the relatively low cost of today's video systems, many would think that is the way to go, the system would then be "high tech" and would be more marketable. Even if cost were not a factor, I would still use "how to" manuals. The way to improve reading skills is by reading. The take home projects in The Parke System are something the students want to make and that is the motivation for them to read. When I started developing the system I was disappointed in not being able to afford the filmstrips. Today, I'm glad we couldn't.
I do not know how reading is taught now, but reading used to be taught by having the students read a story and then asking them questions, such as, "Who went to grandmother's house?" They really do not care who went to grandmother's house. In The Parke System they have to read and follow instructions to accomplish the task. This is not to say they want to read. They would much rather take the easy way out and have someone tell them. So would I!
Several years ago I bought a milling machine, wired up and ready to run. I plugged it in and turned the knob to start it. It just hummed, it would not run! I called the company's 800 number and told them the problem. Their answer, "If you would read the directions, you will see you turn the knob and push the button." So, it is not just the kids, it seems to be human nature.
It is easier for the teacher to tell the student than to make them read the step, but they need to learn to read and follow instructions. They will never learn to read as long as someone else will do the reading for them. One teacher said it got to be funny, a student would start toward him to ask a question, then turn around and go look in the book. The student knew that is what the teacher's answer would be. We want to help the student, but not do it for them.
The Parke System has been used in classes where all of the students had been classified as students with emotional, behavioral, or mental problems. It worked. They did not do as much as an average class, but it was very successful.
One teacher said that after 12 weeks in the program, "There was a measurable improvement in the reading ability of the special education students in his class."
Another teacher was interested in using The Parke System and took one of the manuals to the reading teacher. The reading teacher said the students would be getting a reading class and not know it.
The use of self directed manuals allows the teacher more time to help the slower students. In reality a class is never divided equally, but suppose one third of the class are slow students, one third are average and one third are sharp. With exceptions, the sharp students need very little help. The average students require very little of the teachers time, so this leaves more time for the teacher to help those who need it the most, the slow student. The exception with the smart student is, some sharp students think they are too smart to follow directions. Watch them, not only do they get in trouble, others may watch and follow.
RESEARCH ON THE PARKE
SYSTEM AND IT'S
In a research study titled An Investigation of the Use and Effect of Literacy in Industrial Technology Curricula,” the researcher (McMains, 2003) wanted to know two things: (a) to investigate the effects of the The Parke System on independent reading levels and (b) to describe the differences in the way literacy is applied in The Parke System curriculum and traditional industrial technology curriculum. Data were collected from informal reading inventories, student’s interviews, and teacher interviews. The focal group consisted of nine eighth grade students chosen based on their enrollment in industrial technology courses. The study found The Parke System increased independent reading levels and required the application of daily literacy behaviors for classroom success.
For the study, ten middle school student’s pre- and post-test reading levels were gathered: five from a classroom where The Parke System was utilized for instruction, and five from a classroom where a traditional industrial technology curriculum was applied. The results were as follows:
The Parke System
3 increased 2 grade levels 2 increased 1 grade level
2 increased 1 grade level 1 stayed the same
1 stayed the same 1 decreased 1 grade level
1 dropped out due to illness
The study also found that students in The Parke System classroom read an average of 15 to 20 minutes a day more than the students in the traditional classroom. Students stated that they had to read to succeed in the class.
McMains found the use of low-level text, repeated reading, and practice in reading fluency are literacy behaviors that make The Parke System successful (p. 36). He further stated “encouragement to read more manuals in order to complete more projects improved independent reading levels by increasing the amount of reading practice a student engaged in each day (p. 37).
In conclusion, McMains found by combining student interest and self-directed reading practice, The Parke System not only increased independent reading levels, it also intrinsically motivated and improved student perceptions of reading by giving students a purpose to read (p. 37).NOTE: Many people have told me to make The Parke System more marketable I needed to put it on DVDs. At my expense, I have refused, they need to read, not everything is on DVD.