Interview with William Kitz, 05/04/2016

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Armen Megan, Interviewer | uwocs_William_Kitz_05042016.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |

0:00

AM: All right well here we are on Thursday April 28, 2016. I'm sitting here with Doctor William Kitz looking to talk about his history at UWO and what he's done. Thank you for being here.

DWK: You're welcome.

AM: So how long have you been at Oshkosh?

DWK: Well, kind of two stints I actually have an undergraduate degree from here. So I was there basically 66 to 70, so that's four years plus then from 1980 to the present, which is a lot more than [inaudible] years. So basically about 37 years now.

AM: 37 years now?

DWK: Yep. All together.

AM: Um, a little bit of background, where did you go to school be... obviously you went to UWO but...

DWK: Education. Elementary Education. So, got the degree in that and then I did 1:00teach in Beloit, Wisconsin for a while. And uh... Then I was also in the service at that time in the 70s. And then came back here in 80.

AM: What service? The Military?

DWK: Yeah uh, The Army.

AM: Were there any things from your past that have a strong influence on what you do here at UWO?

DWK: Well yes actually teaching the elementary grades and seeing kids who were good kids, smart enough, and just really having no reading skills. Really, really struggling with reading and the point is that they, you know, they really didn't teach us very much about doing anything with that during the, my education here, you know for the bachelor's degree. You know, you'd see this kids and well, there's not really anything you could do. It's too bad.

AM: There was no help?

DWK: Well, there was and class sizes were pretty large. The first one I was in 2:00was about 36 kids, actually, in a really small room. And so to give any individual attention would have been impossible. It was a classroom... it was very mixed in, you know, racial mix. Basically, the school had sat on a border. One of the richer areas of town and one of the poorer areas of town so my classroom kind of had a mixture of both and so very, very interesting. And like I say there just wasn't the time and things and support.

AM: Were there teachers that had an influence on your career path growing up? Or in College?

DWK: Probably in growing up, no.

AM: No?

DWK: Not that much. I wasn't that big on school, frankly. I was a guy, you know, I went out and played baseball after school, did stuff. Umm, but in college 3:00there was a ugh, one particularly who was ugh, actually got me into education and he had taught over here when Swart was a campus school. He had taught there. And he was a good guy and so I kind of ended up just going into education. Umm, it wasn't as much, you know, of a choice of "oh this is what I want to do my whole life" like some people. I wish I could say that

AM: It was just sort of like on a whim?

DWK: Almost.

AM: Almost?

DWK: You know, you start, take a few classes - Oh that wasn't so bad.

AM: This isn't too bad.

DWK: Yeah. Right.

AM: I'd think about doing this. Was college ever expected of you by your family? Or...

DWK: No actually I would be not the first in the whole family but one of few in the whole family. Probably the first male in the family to that if you would look from that group. My parents, neither my Mother graduated from high school 4:00to work. My dad didn't graduate from high school but he was very, very learned person. He knew poetry, he knew, you know, I mean he... all of that but his family was way too poor. Yeah, there was no way you were gonna come here at that time. Ugh, not at all.

AM: If you didn't pursue higher education, did you have a backup plan?

DWK: Oh probably be a mechanic. Actually, I like cars and things like that. That almost would've been my first plan. And I know people who've done that, that's what got pretty well for them. I'm very happy with what I do but yeah I wouldn't say I had a great back up plan. Not as much as I probably should have had.

AM: So you were sort of in between.

DWK: Yes, I certainly was.

AM: Being a mechanic and going to college?

DWK: Yeah and I still like that stuff.

AM: Yeah, okay. So after your schooling here where did the idea for project success come from?

DWK: Okay then going to project success part.

5:00

AM: Hold on-- Did you have anything here at UWO that you remember in particular from 1966 to 1969

DWK: No not too much. I was spending too much time doing mechanics. This was almost a sideline for me. I worked and made enough money that I didn't have any debt or anything like that. I paid my tuition and all that stuff. And ugh, so pretty much I was not heavily involved at the university.

AM: On campus?

DWK: No. I came to class and did those things. But ugh, we lived in the area, so I didn't live on campus so I really didn't, you know, I didn't come for any extracurricular things or anything else. To me it was like, kind of like high school almost. You know just, okay, I'm gonna come, do my stuff and ugh... I had plenty other things to do on the outside.

AM: Yeah.

DWK: So... And working was one of them.

AM: Yup.

DWK: Making a little money. So, that worked out.

AM So you just focused on school and working.

6:00

DWK: Yeah.

AM. So you are the founder of...

DWK: No, I'm not actually. Robert Nash is the founder of Project Success. And I came here one year after it started. It started in 1979 and Bob Nash had started it because he had dyslexia and he didn't wanna see other people having the same difficulties he did. And, actually I was here doing graduate work in Counselor Education. I was taking a Master's Degree in that. And just happened to see a sign, you know, tutors wanted, Project Success. Like what you sometimes see on campus now. And so I did that and started to learn more about it. Got very interesting and since we were at the point of growth, you know. Thing were going... Starting with six student then it went to like fifteen or twenty. Next thing you knew it was sixty, so they definitely needed more help and I happened to have the Master's degree and all that kind of stuff so that's kind of how I 7:00got into it.

AM: You have Masters in what?

DWK: Um, Master's in counseling.

AM: Counseling?

DWK: So anyway, that worked out quite well. Then I went for a doctorate, pretty much after that from 1985 to 1989, I did doctorate at UW Madison. So, then I had a special Ed background plus the regular Ed background and, you know, the rest worked out pretty well.

AM: In the beginning was it just you and Mr. Nash?

DWK: Exactly. Well, as far as any kind of administrative stuff. We did hire tutors. We did a lot more subject matter tutoring and we did hire tutors and had a pretty good size group of tutors-- and so it was ugh, you know it grew and grew. I have a picture over there, I can send a copy of it to you, but of the group in 1985.

8:00

AM: Yup.

DWK: Actually, taken right over here in Albee on the bleachers. Actually I wish we could do that every year, but you never get all of the students together. So I was glad we did that.

AM: Yeah, so it was students doing the tutoring?

DWK: Well, we had students. They had to be, you know, students who had decent grades--much the way CAR would do things now. It was... they couldn't... our office was the one you first came to over in Nursing. But we did not have that whole area like you see now. Our area, you know, where my office is, the office next door where Jaime was for a while and stuff like that, but, and then that area where you guys take tests, that was our whole office. Just those three rooms.

AM: Yup. So it was in the basement of Clow?

DWK: I... They say Nursing Ed.

AM: Nursing Ed? My Bad.

9:00

DWK: Yeah, it seems like the same building because they all go together. But it is a different building. Yep.

AM: So what was the plan of action for the future? Did you guys think it was going to continue or?

DWK: Yes, yes. I mean we were already getting more students. We had no problem every summer, especially at that time, having 50 students and people coming--we had waiting lists, you know, it was very very long of waiting list and such. But then, what we ended up... so we knew that part of it was no problem. And then the thing that helped was the word of mouth type stuff that administrators on campus would receive. So, the first chancellor helped us set up the program was Ed Panson and he gave money; was very supportive all the way through. And the next one--John Kerrigan--he continued. But one the things 10:00that made them continue was the fact that the... when they go out to give a speech, Chicago area something like that even away from campus, somebody would come up to them afterward invariably and say, "Oh yeah I know about your program. Yeah they got that program for dyslexia--Project Success." And parents were very strong in giving some money and feedback to the Administration. So, it definitely... we had had good friends in Administration who kept things going and we tried to do the best we could. There's a lot of people out there now who have been very helpful to us.

AM: Has it always been all disabilities or did it just start with dyslexia?

DWK: Well, yeah it starts with dyslexia and we went to a wider... you know every student isn't exactly... and there's all different. Different degrees. Basically most with reading problems and/or math problems, those 11:00two. We have some that we've had with, you know, ADHD or something like that. But the ones we take in, currently, especially the ones who walk into our office, they're ones with some pretty significant reading problems.

AM: Yup. Why do you find the work you do important?

DWK: All I have to do is see the people years later. We just had a small alumni event last, but other ones, but I've seen people years later who, you know, "Wow, that really changed my life, made a real difference. "We had a guy who gave a speech last night who was in the 90's and he was just going "I, you know, had to get through, I didn't know how I was gonna get through. What I was gonna do." And, you know, he's now got kids of his own... I want my kid to go 12:00there. And I think that's one of the other things. We have people who have their kids now going here. So it says something about, it must have been worth something. I also keep in touch with someone. We have an alumni page, a Facebook alumni page. So anyway. That's been good.

AM: You've been here for 37 years. 

DWK: I love it!

AM: Yeah. It's great. So ugh, have you... do you remember anything like outside of Project Success from those 37 years on campus?

DWK: Oh you mean, thigs... Again, I've been very.

AM: Not just focused on this program but just noticed around campus. Changes?

DWK: Oh year. There's still good... Well one thing I'd like to say is there's still a lot of very good, very dedicated, very hard working people.

[Phone Rings]

13:00

DWK: Just saying, that there's just a lot of really good students. I mean really dedicated, [inaudible] hard, you know. So I just want to say, as far as students, I would honestly say the students of today umm, compare to when I was in school or even earlier, you know just, a lot more... people having to work just make ends meet. You know, the whole things about paying for school. Ugh, we have a lot more non-traditional people who wanted to come back and we have quite a few of those in our program. Ugh, I've seen, you know, that really increase. Ugh, but, you know, overall I feel that ugh, you know, there's still way too many students we get into our program. I would hope that the students that come 14:00to the University would need less and less of any kind of remedial course--Math or anything else but unfortunately that is not the case. If anything it's even more. But ugh, yeah and tighter budgets too. I mean, over the years. I can tell you the amount of people who worked in this building. And Dempsey, compared to what there were, you know, those positions in say the 1980s--way different. I mean it's way different. So that staff is stretched a lot. Thinner as well too. So, as far as events over the time, you know, kind of normal campus events. I mean nothing I would, you know, so outstanding other than getting flooded out in, what, 2008 because of huge rains. You know, about 12 inches of rain over 5 15:00days, you know. Things like that.

AM: Flooded out of the basement over there?

DWK: Yeah. Yeah. Flooded... flooded Project Success, move us for a while too. But yeah, overall, umm, I haven't... I've been down in the basement working (laughs). So, you know, I wasn't out on campus as much.

AML: Do you have an opinion on other schools. Like do you think other schools should have the same types of programs available if possible?

DWK: Well I think it would be very nice with budgets, I don't think it is going to happen. With ours, if we were to try and start it today, it would be impossible. A lot of people offer accommodations, everybody has to offer by law, certain accommodations, you know if you have a documented disability and you go to the Dean of Students office here, and we work very nicely with them, they will definitely work with you, and say you need extra time on tests, you 16:00need this or you need that. Umm, our part is hopefully helping students become more independent and also work with them on way of not just doing the accommodations but trying to help them find their way to become as independent as they can by the end. Because when you eventually go out, you gotta, you know, you're going into that world of work, you know you're going to have to perform, so you're going to do that. We've even changed, which will hopefully help you. We've ugh, just right now have a thing going through for a Capstone course for Project Success that, you know, kind of tests you again at the end, and ugh just things about finding jobs, all things, if people... and especially finding jobs and dealing the fact that you might have to tell your employer 17:00"look I have a learning disability but I can do this and this and this, I might need this." Those things. So we are working. That course will go next year.

AM: So Capstone meaning?

DWK: It's a capstone meaning at the end of Project, you know kind of going back... so when you go out you may have to have your disability documentation updated. Well, at least in reading and those kinds of things we can update those. But also, just as I say the whole thing about when you go out in a job, how does that affect you? What can you do. And I would like to get some of our old... you know, old meanings alums to come back and ugh, speak and ugh kind of tell what they did, how they went through that how they compensated for at times, maybe reading, spelling not being as fast or the spelling not being as accurate and how they compensated so they could make it accurate.

18:00

AM: Do you have like a base set of guidelines for the program that is like your mantra of what you guys follow?

DWK: We do. We do, ugh you know... As far as policies and procedures, we do have manuals and things with that, you know. So when a note taker comes in, what they need to do and all of those thing. But our big thing is to always especially look at their, ugh you know, what their current level is and what kinds of things we can do to help them improve. And the bottom line is independence. You know, to be a successful student is one who comes in early, gets help, ugh eventually needs us for less and less. And finally to the point where they graduate, they ugh, maybe use us very little. Sometimes a student 19:00will be taking tests up in our office as seniors, fine. But a lot of time then when they get into that major and trying to help them find that major, but when they get into that major umm, then it becomes fewer tests and more projects and presentations and other things. And those kind of things, there's many times that's right up their alley. They've been selling themselves for some time, so it's a good things for them to do.

AM: That is cool to see.

DWK: And I will say there's a lot of people, and I don't even know all of them for sure. Not even close. But the ones I see, what there's doing when they're out there. Some very, very neat things and they make it and get through and so it's nice to see that success and I'd like our students to know these people came before them. They've gone out and done okay.

20:00

AM: Kids seeing examples of what can happen. Umm, where do you see the future of the program going?

DWK: Well, I think it's going.. I think one of the things we're doing is expanding going out in a wider area to look to, you know, for students--we've always done stuff in Illinois, in northern Illinois at a few of the, ugh, postsecondary fairs for students. Getting that a little bit wider, that is good. The other thing I would really like, we've had a lot of calls over the year of ugh, parents saying "do you have something for elementary students during the summer?" or "do you have something for high school students?" And 21:00even a week long camp or something like that, that would involve current students a little bit, quite a bit actually. And ugh, you know to kind of get an idea what college is like. College with disabilities and also doing a little bit of just seeing where they are with reading and spelling and other things and kind of giving a goal to the future that that ugh, before the whole thing, you know that they know more about it and we've had calls for that and I think it's one thing that we definitely want to expand to try. And also a program that would link some of our students with say... especially North High School. I do some work with them. I think it's good for high school student to go "oh year, actually I could go to college. Maybe I have a chance." You know, not that I'm...

AM: There are people.

DWK: Yeah, at least it's an option for them. It doesn't mean they will. But at least they can go "hmm that's an option and what could I get out of it."

22:00

AM: There are people who are there to help them. Give them an option of going to school.

DWK: Yeah and they see success stories when they see our students. That' always nice to know that could happen. So, a lot of our student will say "yeah I sat there just like you did. I remember, you know, when I was in that grade and this is how I felt." And it's probably a lot the same as those people sitting there. So to get a wider range of, you know, that we just don't work with college exclusively. At least during summer, when there's more down time. I couldn't do much during those two fourteen week semesters. But there are time when we definitely could do those things.

AM: Yeah so seeing kids in the same spots in the summer program...

DWK: Yeah.

AM: ... living in the dorms and all that.

DWK: Right. Right.

AM: What is the current admittance rate into Project Success?

23:00

DWK: The current...

AM: Like how many kids do you generally take in each year?

DWK: Oh ugh, our summer programs have reduced in size, for a bunch of reasons. First of all there's less kids, but second of all fewer of those are being identified as having a learning disability. So, we have fewer people in our summer program, which is actually kind of good since we can provide more attention. But, the amount of people that we call walk-ins has increased dramatically over the years and it's held steadily but I mean from... if you would take and say the 1990's, our walk-ins would maybe be ten a year, something like that. Now our walk-ins, at least the walk-ins for testing are 80-90 a year, they don't all qualify for the program, but way more student who walk in for 24:00testing, and many who qualify, and that is kind of the trend that will continue into the future. Actually, it sounds kind of crazy but I would like to see our program almost put out of business by the fact that younger kids would get identified earlier would get help in the early grades when they really could use it and benefit from it. And then there would be far fewer kids coming to our program. But that is not going to be the case for a while. At least, from what I have seen some school systems have been doing. So that's definitely a change I'd like to see but a change that we're making is trying to maybe go out there and be a little proactive too.

AM: Be more proactive in getting people, getting kids to join?

DWK: Well, proactive in a way of maybe we can help make some change in the 25:00system, ugh, earlier that students wouldn't wait til college to get help. And we've been doing some of that.

AM: Helping kids at their school...

DWK: Yes.

AM: ...get...start to look for help instead of waiting until their freshman year?

DWK: Right and so I've actually been doing with a couple of school systems with that whole issue.

AM: Being proactive?

DWK: Yep. Get them early and really makes a difference.

AM: A big difference. So you think the flow of students will stay in the same zone? Or do you think it's gonna drop off at some point.

DWK: Well that's a good question. But I would say that ugh, unfortunately, for the near future, it definitely will stay the same. But let's just stay, we can start, and things have been happening in Wisconsin to help that early start better and identify people earlier. And if that's the case and if they really do 26:00that and school systems do good things, umm, it, say ten year down the row, it could make, hopefully, some difference that there would be few people who need that help. And that would be tremendous actually, in terms of just the people who now don't have to feel as if they're stupid and all of that. So from that stand point it would be very good. From the stand point of the program, it could considerably cut down numbers. We'll see where that goes. I'm not exactly sure that all these things that there doing are necessarily are going to translate into that.

AM: When you say it's unfortunately the way it is now is that a bad thing or?

DWK: Well the way it is now at the elementary level when you... let' put it this 27:00way. When a child can't read there is a certain... there is an optimal time, and basically it's before the age of 8, to really help them become better readers. It's so much easier to bring them up to grade level when they're young. Once they get past the age of 8, and this is research from the National Institute of Health, but once they get past the age of 8, it just becomes, in their words, exponentially harder to bring them up to grade level. It just... because of brain development and also just socially, let's face it, if you felt like you're not doing well at something do you want to spend time doing more of it. So, we 28:00will see how things follow through that are supposed to happen that should help kids. We'll find out.

AM: So it's a matter of being proactive and...

DWK: Yeah.

AM: ...getting to school systems and ask and telling them...

DWK: I have been working on some of that with two school systems so, and one is definitely working that way and the other on I don't know. We'll see. We'll see. You wouldn't think reading would be controversial thing, but it definitely is a very controversial thing as to how to teach beginning reading. And so two groups and very different opinions, and it just depends who's in power in those systems.

AM: In the school system? So, with the whole idea of catching it earlier, do you college programs will have less of a demand?

DWK: Yeah, I think... I hope actually, that they would, you know, it would 29:00give kids those skills that they need before they get here and you know, I think it definitely... if all goes according to what everybody hopes, yeah, there would be less of it. And certainly less or few people need remedial math, remedial reading, you know the ones... just forgetting our program but it costs UW System and its student and everybody else costs a lot of money to pay for Math 100, Math 103, reading, you know the ACAD...

AM: ACAD study?

DWK: Yeah the ACAD 100 or whatever. 165...

AM: 165?

DWK: Yeah. Those courses. If they could have fewer students taking those that would be, they would be very happy about that too.

30:00

AM: Do you think the number of kids taking those classes is because the system is a failure? Or is it just people haven't searched for help earlier?

DWK: Differing opinions, but certainly it seems like if they cannot pass things on the ACT, that is a problem. But let's take college out of it--everybody isn't ready for college, okay. I know a teach at Norris, they give the ACCUPLACER, which is the Wisconsin, ugh, the technical colleges give to find out where you are, what math you need, what English you need. Ugh, her students do very poorly on that and you will find that the tech schools spend a lot of money on that, their goals program, things like that where, again, it costs taxpayers, 31:00costs everybody. So, that would save a lot. Ugh, and the other part is one of our former students has done a lot of work on the whole thing on black students in schools and the terrible scores they have. They took the Wisconsin Concepts, WKCE, Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam and ugh students are doing very poorly on that. In Madison, especially the black students in Madison were every bit as bad as the black students in a Milwaukee. One of our former students has a doctorate in reading and has been doing a lot of study on that and has been trying to move the systems to make changes too. So you are asking me do I think the schools... I think when we start seeing all these low scores I think that is 32:00definitely a problem.

AM: So do you think the low scores comes from a poor educational background just from kids who aren't coming from the most stable of households that that can increase the...?

DWK: That's a whole issue. One of the thing some people have called dyslexia as more dysteachia. In that if they would had gotten what they needed in the first place it would have made a lot of difference, there is no question that a lot of the kids, that a lot of the ones that I see had a parent or an aunt or somebody who really kept them going and doing what they had to do. And so, when you talk about those households, it is hard. But the only thing the schools can do is when the kid comes through the door, what background the kid has becomes 33:00irrelevant and we have to find out where they are and teach them where they are. It starts very early. There's programs out there that have been there for a while, one is called a direct instruction program, it was called language for learning, meaning before they could learn, they need to know: up, down, left, right, all these things in just the language to actually get to the stuff that they wanted to teach. They called it language... You just to start where they are. You can't worry about the outside as far as your teaching part. It just, you know, you find out where they are, you start there, and you move on. And you just have to do it. It's easy for teachers to make excuses. Well he's never gonna lean, he comes from that family. You've never sat in a teacher's lounge -- I have, I didn't go much -- but you know, from this family or his dad was 34:00just like that or blah blah or his older brother was... but that's not relevant. It's just not relevant. The only thing we can do is teaching the person that you have in front of you. 

AM: Teach the child that you have in front of you. Start where they are and try to go from there.

DWK: And do the best you can and you know, when you teach, it may have to be in very short segments. It may have to be in ugh, when you teach you test and they don't... but it's not like you teach and then get way down here then test and find out they were way back here. You know, it's consistent stuff to make sure they know where they are, and it takes a lot of work. It takes a heck of a lot of work. And a lot of teachers don't like to teach that way. They say "oh that doesn't suit my style." But the point is there style is irrelevant.

AM: Not always the best.

DWK: It may not be the best but no matter what the style, the style is what the 35:00student actually needs.

AM: Yeah it's not really your style, it's what the child or student needs to learn effectively. Um, so you keep talking about Oshkosh North. The other Oshkosh schools are they just?

DWK: Well it just so I happens I know a student at North and a teacher at North and on top of it, ugh, if you really look at the reading score differences between Oshkosh North and Oshkosh West, it's huge. West is, well the socioeconomic status of West is higher. And they ugh, they definitely have a better, ugh, better scores on the W... the ugh, 10th grade WKCE, that kind of stuff.

AM: Yeah. PSAT.

DWK: So there is a huge difference between those two. And I just want to say one 36:00more thing too: I've done work in prisons, and actually I've probably been in about six or seven prisons in the state at least, and the person who lives next door to me is the director of education at the Oshkosh Correctional and um, and you know I just asked him the other day for some report I was doing, you know, how many people in prison right now that do you have that read at less than fifth grade. And they have a thing, it's called the TABE, the Test of Adult Basic Education. And ugh, basically, 35% of the prisoners read fifth grade or below and that's a big problem because... The problem is when you ugh, don't, when you have that low of a level you can't get into prison education 37:00programs. For example, welding is a great prison education program; you must read at least at the eighth grade level on the TABE to get you into welding. And there's other ones. Almost any of the better education programs you have to be at that level. So once you get out, if you think about it, and frankly a large percentage of the inmates here and across the state...

AM: Fox Valley?

DWK: And so you come out of that... And most are here for drug crimes and things like that. That's a huge part of why they're in. But when they get out, now you have a record, you don't have any education, and you have a very hard time reading so where...

AM: Looking for a job, where you gonna go?

DWK: Yeah. What's your chance of getting a job that actually... Anything more 38:00than minimum wage is pretty tough and try and live on eight bucks an hour is, and that's even better than minimum wage I think right now.

AM: Yeah and that's still pushing it. That's almost impossible. To live on eight bucks an hour.

DWK: Yeah it is. And so, the whole literacy thing has such an impact and, as a matter of fact there's a whole bunch of literature on the school to prison pipeline. Basically, it's just not graduate, drop out, and end up at one of our correctional institutes. And unfortunately, those are all huge costs to the state, which would be so much cheaper if more money were put in, especially with that early education, you know, start out early, don't worry where they comes from. But right now it costs about $35,000 a year to house a prisoner at 39:00Oshkosh. Yeah for thirty-five grand a year, you know, you can start to...

AM: You can start to help them learn how to read. At least improve their education a little bit.

DWK: And early start programs. Three years old. Four years old. Things like that. The earlier you can do those things, the better of you would be.

AM: Like prison population, you're not saying it will just change it forever but if you can catch it earlier in schools. Kid... I mean it's not always the kid some kids it just happens that they end up going down the wrong path and people take the wrong turn in life, but if you catch it earlier it might help.

DWK: Right, I mean it's not a guarantee that they'll stay out of prison, but for goodness gracious, say it so they have some options to go to. It would make it a whole lot better for them. As I say there's so many, I've tested them, I've 40:00tested quite a few. And I sit down and I listen to them read and it's like Woah. You know, I mean really low. Some I've tested are really quite good. I'm not saying everybody. But still, you take 35%.

AM: Yeah that's a lot.

DWK: Right here.

AM: That's a lot of the population that's that low on the reading scale.

DWK: Yes. Yes. They are very low with that, so, you know, that's a whole nother issue, not even from here but it's one I'm also very interested in. I've got too many interests and not enough time, you know, but a little of interest in that.

AM: As a professional of 37 years here, does that bother you at all when you go in and you see people who really struggle?

DWK: Yes it does very much. But fortunately there's things, and we've been doing those kinds of things for quite a few years and were' not the only one. I mean, I've been part of the International Dyslexia Association for years and 41:00they've been fighting for this and to their credit they've done a lot and some of the changes that are being made now are directly, you know, should be credited to them. So, I've seen things start to change that I never thought I would see change and that has been very good. I think the future is brighter--I wouldn't say it's totally rosy--but I would say it is brighter. It's going to take time, but finally some science is being applied to this of people saying this is now. Nobody believed in the science part of this, and you know, at one point it was as far as teaching reading, there's was one group pretty much that said that you learn how to speak without any help, so you will learn to read--just surround you with books and adults reading to you and all that, and 42:00there's one flaw right there because kids don't all have that parent who reads to them and all that. But just do that, and it was basically an approach of that will work very week. But it's kind of like taking someone out to learn golf and just saying "oh, well just do whatever you want. Swing! I don't care if you even use the wrong end of the club, just you know..." Well some people might be pretty good.

AM: And other people, not so much.

DWK: That's not so much. Our position is much more maybe we should teach some skills yo0u know, ugh, how to swing and actually have you practice at a driving range or actually have you go on a pudding green.

AM: Instead of just go out there, go play nine holes and see what happens. It doesn't work that way.

DWK: And that's actually, you know, an analogy that people have used. It's much 43:00more... the approach that's been very successful with younger kids is called direct instruction and it's kind of like what a football coach would use. You don't just say go out there and play. You run a play a lot of times in practice, sometimes in very slow motion before, you know, you actually play. 

AM: Because everyone actually has to learn.

DWK: Exactly.

AM: You can't just go out there and do it.

DWK: No you can have the best athletes in the world.

AM: Yeah and there's no direction. It goes nowhere.

DWK: That's why, you know, when the Dream Team Olympic players, you know, for basketball play, they can have trouble against a team with way less talent but it's been together for a long time just because of the fact that it's hard to get everybody on the same page doing the same thing correctly, even though you've got talent all over the place.

AM: Yeah, you've got incredible talent. It's just you gotta... everyone's gotta be on the same page.

DWK: And with this, it's just it's that time for them to ugh... so so it's 44:00changing more to the scientific side of this, hey these are studies that show what works versus people who didn't t believe in those studies because they just said they can't measure, you really can't measure reading, you can't measure. It just seemed insane to me but that went on for a lot of years.

AM: So scientific meaning what? Like what types of studies are they doing?

DWK: Well a lot of studies that had been done over the years. For example, very simple studies done in the 1960's, you know so now you are talking 50 years ago, there's been things like you could tell which kids, a lot of research on which kids were going to have difficulty reading. It was called something phonemic awareness. You could do a little task with them and it wasn't even showing them letters. It has nothing to do with reading, but for example, you 45:00could ask your kid just simply, could you tell me a word that rhymes with cat, and see if they could figure out word that rhyme. Another thing you could do is you know, this person is talking very funny on this tape, could you tell me what word he's saying? And so somebody would be saying something like C-A-T. And if the kid could say cat, ugh, a bunch a little things like that where you could ask them... even, how many like syllables, how many syllables are in a word table. You know, table. And it even goes back like a sentence. Can you tell me how many words? You say a sentence, how many words in it. But it had a lot to do with, you know, what they call segmenting words, blending them together, just auditory not looking, didn't even see any words or pictures or anything or, excuse me, any words. Nothing like that. And you find out that the kids who 46:00could do those things well, they will be good readers. But the kids who can't, they're going to need some more intervention. And you can find this out in kindergarten, you know, and before. And do things early. And now finally, since 2014 that has been mandated that they have to do it and Wisconsin has to report on every kid, every kid in Wisconsin there's a website, and ever kids listed and everyone is, they have to put in scores on those things. Are those making progress or can they do that and then other things later. So it has changed. Ugh, partially Wisconsin has followed, certainly hasn't led, but ugh, you know, have to do it, and the federal government mandated it, and all states are doing it now. They had to it by 2014, and that's about when Wisconsin started.

AM: So, those checkpoints on that website, or that database, if kids don't reach 47:00it are they... are people doing anything about it?

DWK: Right, and the state comes back, okay then if a child is not making progress, they have now, it's called three tiers. Tier one is the regular reading program everybody has and that has to have some kind of research behind it that it actually works and has to have some actual decent things in it. But let's say that you're a child in that class and you're not making it in tier one, then they have to have a another program, a tier two program -- it might be a small group. It cannot be tier one slowed down. It's not like "Oh we're gonna take the same book, we'll just..."

AM: Slow way down.

DWK: It has to be another program. And it has to have research behind it that it can word. And it's not just any program they say has research. Now it has to have something. And then, work with that program. Let's say that tier two is even -- we're still not making progress, then there's a tier three that's even 48:00more even individualized. And if tier three does not work, then there would be a special Ed referral. And then that would go to something of that nature. But with those they all have to have some research behind them. It will make a tremendous amount of difference of keeping track of these kids, making sure they don't get way behind. School systems, they definitely have to do these things. Other states that have done this before us--Massachusetts was a leader--their reading scores are tremendously higher. At one time, Florida who has gone this route earlier than we did, their scores were way lower than ours and they deal with a wide ranging population in Florida, and their scores have gone way up 49:00significantly where ours have flattened or gone down.

AM: I mean, that's a state where you have the far corners of the spectrum. The people who are barely making it and then the billionaires.

DWK: Yeah you take Miami alone from extreme Miami Beach area...

AM: You've got Coral Gables and then you have intercity Miami, where it nothing.

DWK: Exactly. And they have absolutely changed things around so it's very easy to look at both states and see the difference. So those are things that I have seen... what I'm hopeful is that Wisconsin will somewhat have to follow along, and actually people do it. But it's a difficult thing ugh, to get people to sometimes  change their philosophy or such. But it is definitely... we to go some ways and look at what some other states have done. And we've have had people from Florida come in to speak. There were a whole bunch of meetings that 50:00actually Governor Walker and the Superintendent did around the state called Read the Leap Conference, and they had people from all sorts of... from school districts all over and and basically those people then, ugh, made a report at the end. There were philosophies from both sides. Kind of had to put things together. But ugh, it has helped shape, I hope, a better future to help put us out of business. And you know, that sounds terrible. And I guess at my age, I don't... But to cut our business at least because actually I would rather see everybody come in with a strong set of skills right off the top. 

AM: Right off that bat.

DWK: And the other thing, math has done a lot of the same thing--it was more ok 51:00everybody try and work this problem as a group and will be happy. Well it might be and it might teach cooperation or working in group or something, but I can tell you many of my students say "oh god hated that, I just, you know, absolutely hated that" rather than you know here are some skills here are some things of how we do them and kind of working that same way. There are some basic things in math that work very well. And if everything were working so well in these systems, why do we have to many students that come in with inadequate skills. I have no argument. If they were all coming in and testing into Math 104 or above. Testing into college WIBIS at least or higher. Wonderful. But that's not happening. 

AM: Not everybody is at that level.

DWK: Anyway, those are all things that ugh, things that I hope for the future 52:00and I think there is hope for that. I really do. I think we're on the right track at least.

AM: Ok well, thank you.

DWK: Yeah, You're welcome.

AM: It was extremely interesting hearing about your profession and a little bit about where it's going.

DWK: Yeah. It's very good.

AM: Where the program is going.

DWK: It is great to see all the people who are out in the world working. All that. Who want to... they say look I want to go on. If I wouldn't have had something to back me up and work with so. And they make it and sometimes it is not easy. 

AM: Yeah but still probably a good thing to see people come back and say this was great.

DWK: Well we have that Facebook alum page and I get to read about that and all that. And actually I had, I've been dealing with a person from Madison was was 53:00a tutor of ours and ugh, let me see do I have that picture up here? Let me look. But I had...here is. This is that picture that we had when everybody when the students... that was our whole group. So I've been dealing with the person from Madison who is an assistant superintendent in Madison. And yesterday I sent her that photo because she was a tutor for us in the 1980's. And actually probably tutored for us for about three years. She does not have dyslexia, but anyway I 54:00sent it to her and she sent me back an e-mail that says "wow that made my day." I'm on that picture and I'm not sure which one she is. I really didn't know her that well. But, ugh, but anyway that was the group... that was taken in fall of 85. As I say, straight over there.

AM: Straight that way. That's the entire program?

DWK: That was the entire program with tutors. There are a few people who weren't there. I wish I could name everybody on that. I can name quite a few. I've been trying to use faces to get it you know, but it doesn't recognize, you know, it doesn't recognize the people way far back, as far as putting the little circle so I could do that, but I'm gonna kinda work that through and ugh, I asked her to give me a little help, and some other people will give me a little help. 55:00There's many who are out in the world. Unfortunately, several who have died along the way. One in a snow mobile accident unfortunately. A really great guy. Somebody was pulling him out of the back of a, I think in a saucer. It spun out, hit a tree.

AM: Ouch. That hurts.

DWK: And he was a tremendously talented, so dyslexic, but he would do well in the world.

AM: Yeah.

DWK: I know he would

AM: But that's great.

DWK: Yeah.

AM: Alright.

Search This Transcript
Search Clear