Inner-City Latin Programs Raise Reading Scores

by Martha G. Abbott and Virginia M. Barrett

Federally funded, Latin-based programs (1970s to 1980s) significantly improved scores of students of all ethnic backgrounds on standardized tests of English reading skills, as compared with control groups. Thousands of students in grades 4-6 had twenty minutes per day of Latin-based word roots, dialogues, readings, games and songs. Test results showed dramatic improvement in vocabulary, comprehension, and reading skills.

Philadelphia: Fifth grade students with Latin score one year higher in vocabulary on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills than other students. In another study, students gained seven scale points in comprehension and nine in language skills on the California Achievement Test.

Indianapolis: Sixth grade students scored eight months higher in word knowledge, one year higher in reading and one month higher in language on the Intermediate Metropolitan Achievement Test. They showed seven to nine months gain in math skills, compared with control groups.

Los Angeles: Fifth and sixth graders usually scoring in the lowest quartile improved their reading, vocabulary, and comprehension score on the Iowa Test by more than one month for each month of instruction, compared with little improvement for control groups. Sixth grade students with Latin advanced twice as fast as other students.

Washington, DC: Sixth graders who took Latin for one year came from behind to achieve significantly higher scores in vocabulary, comprehension and reading.

New York City: Fifth graders gained 3.6 months in reading over the non-Latin group and 4.2 months in vocabulary. Sixth graders advanced 5.7 months further than the control group.

Dramatic gains were reported by similar programs in Cincinnati, Vancouver, Ft. Worth Houston, Baltimore, New Orleans, Dade Co. Florida, New Castle County Delaware, and Portland Maine. Though most successful programs were taught by the classroom teacher, the larger school districts could not afford to continue extensive programs without the funding. Now thousands of students throughout North America use First Latin or Charleston Latin, which are first generation descendants of the inner cities’ school programs.



Mavrogenes, Nancy A., "Latin and Language Arts: an Update," Foreign Language Annals, 1987, 20: 131-138. Reprinted in Classical Outlook, 1989, 66: 78-83.

Morris, Frank, "Charleston Latin," Exemplary Latin Programs for Elementary Schools (information packet) American Classical League, Oxford, Ohio, 2001, 1.

See also Teaching Latin to Elementary School Students: An Annotated Bibliographic Resource

This material was posted on the web with perrmission of the authors by Tom Sienkewicz, chair of the CAMWS Committee for the Promotion of Latin. If you have any questions,  please contact him at Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois 61462. (309) 457-2371.

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