Richard McManus is a committed behavioral executive who has designed and delivered training programs for executives, managers and teachers. His mission is to increase the ability of USA schools and teachers to teach reading to all students.
Richard founded The Fluency Factory after 20 years of dreaming, thinking and planning. He is and always will be committed to serving all students — both struggling students and high achieving students. He created a system of fluency charts to measure skills and build the love of learning. The charts provide a direct measurement that can be communicated immediately to the student. They can see their learning from minute to minute, day to day, week to week, in clear, graphic terms. Seeing this progress gives the student the confidence that he or she can do more, and that learning does not have to stop, or be bound by present skill deficits
How did you get started in tutoring, and what is your favorite part about it?
I got started because my daughter, Caitlin, struggled with reading when she was in first grade. I learned HOW to teach reading then. As I went through other work including behavior change projects and consultation, I realized that teaching reading, AND teaching others to teach reading, was my real mission. So our tutoring started with the idea of teaching reading, and that has remained a core of what we do. And I found that teaching reading to struggling learners is by far my favorite part of what I do! Teaching a struggling reader to become fluent, accurate and accomplished is by far the best thing we ever do!
What do your students find most challenging, and how do you help them overcome it?
We serve a very wide spectrum of students, and their challenges are extremely varied. For younger children it is always reading, and reading is such the most critical thing that they are learning that it supersedes all other challenges.
For older students it is most often preparation for various entry tests. We do a lot of work with students who wish to attend prep schools, and the challenges there are mixed. Poor foundation skills in both reading and math lead to serious problems in taking competitive tests, and pressure from family members can be very harsh as well. Fear of test taking can be a powerful ingredient in reducing test scores, and long after the student is very well prepared intellectually the fear can remain.
What’s the biggest improvement you’ve ever seen a student make?
Funny, the previous question set me up for this as I thought about a girl who wanted to attend a very exclusive prep school. On the SSAT she had a 16th percentile when we began. We taught her vowel sounds and practiced for the test, worked on her math skills a bit. She got an 85th percentile on the test and went to Milton Academy. She is about to graduate from Cornell now!
What changes, if any, have you seen in the test-prep process since you began tutoring?
We are able to work with students almost anywhere if they have a good Internet connection. This has been a marvelous improvement for us, as some of our students are dyslexic and have little available to them close to home. So we have been able to help these students remotely, and it expands our reach, as typically doing tutoring is limited by geography. I also think that the
What’s your most important piece of advice for students? For parents?
For students: Never give up! For parents: Support your children with positive feedback and high expectations, but don’t smother them! I guess I keep thinking too that right now our schools are not reliably teaching reading well. Since that is true it is critical that parents assure early reading instruction by whatever means necessary! Those years will be the foundation years, and trying to recover years later may not be successful. Since our schools, public and private, have demonstrated that they do NOT know how to teach reading, the most important skill, they cannot be trusted. Dollars spent on early reading success are MUCH more powerful than dollars spent on SAT or ACT prep.