Skip to main content

Stritch, Racine Unified School District partner to impact student reading success

April 11, 2022

The headline of a January 2021 (Boston) Globe Magazine article by investigative education reporter Sarah Carr called COVID-19 a "wrecking ball" for schoolchildren struggling to read. The National Research Council has identified quality reading instruction as "the best weapon against reading failure."

Cardinal Stritch University and the Racine Unified School District (RUSD) have launched an innovative partnership to improve student performance and help offset the learning loss students are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 80 educators from RUSD are currently enrolled in Cardinal Stritch University’s Reading Teacher Licensure program.

“This is the first time we have had a cohort this large from one school district,” said Rhonda Schoonover, chair of Stritch’s Literacy Department and an assistant professor in the Teacher Educator Department. “It has been very rewarding to see the energy and passion these educators have for their students. They are able to apply what they are learning in our program to their work in their classrooms and have an immediate impact on their students’ success. Teachers from a wide range of grade levels and content areas are enrolled in our program, so students of all ages and ranges of literacy development will benefit from this innovative partnership.”

The 20-credit graduate program prepares teachers to provide focused and intensive reading instruction for children, especially those who are striving toward literacy development in grades PK-12. The curriculum and sequence of courses has been designed specifically for working educators. Those who successfully complete the program are eligible for the State of Wisconsin Reading Teacher license.

“We are grateful for this partnership with Stritch,” said RUSD Deputy Chief Academic Officer Janell Decker. “Working together, we are significantly increasing the number of teachers who have specific training in how to teach students to read. Putting these trained educators in front of students is going to make a difference.”

Kristin Williams (M.A. Teacher, '16), a teacher at Walden III and Case High School, shared, “reading is a part of learning. Students cannot fully comprehend content texts if they are lacking the tools to successfully read them.” Williams, who earned her teaching license and a master’s degree in secondary education from Stritch, will “have new tools and a better understanding of how to help students in my Literacy class and struggling readers” as a result of enrolling in the program.

"Reading is a lifelong tool," said Margaret Polzin, a special education teacher at Julian Thomas Elementary School. "As I become trained and proficient in teaching students to become stronger readers, their love of reading will grow."

Erika Coca teaches special education for students in kindergarten to second grade at Schulte Elementary School. “I see the value and need to start children off with a strong and solid foundation in reading. I am pursuing the Reading Teacher Licensure so I can become a better teacher and strengthen my practice so I can strengthen my students’ reading skills.”

Stritch has been a pioneer in literacy research, intervention and instruction since it was founded by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in 1937 to prepare their members to become teachers.

To learn more about the partnership, contact Kirsten Brown in Stritch’s Graduate Admissions Office at or 414-410-4061.

Read coverage of Stritch's partnership with the Racine Unified School District in this Racine Journal Times article

Learn more about the partnership in this Spectrum News story