February 3, 2011 |

School to target lagging young readers

Efforts by the Haines School to get all its students up to grade-level proficiency for reading by the third grade will include bringing in a specialist from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt later this month, principal Cheryl Stickler told the school board Tuesday.

About 85 percent of Haines third-graders meet proficiency standards, but the district’s goal is 100 percent. That’s in part because students who fall behind in reading in the lower grades begin failing other subjects in later years when they have difficulty reading class materials, Stickler said this week.

"It gets harder to catch kids up when they get to the upper grades, so much of what they learn is through reading. They fall further and further behind and are at a significant risk to drop out," she said.

Students in grades 1-3 get two hours of reading instruction per day, she said. The specialist from HFH, the firm that provides the school’s language arts textbooks and related educational materials for grades K-5, is expected to help teachers devise strategies to get lagging students back on track.

The district recently spent about $24,000 for FastForword, a computer-based program to help students with reading, but research shows that direct instructional time is required for boosting struggling readers, Stickler said.

The specialist is expected to help teachers determine how much extra time may be needed with lagging readers and how to go about remedies. Students may have deficiencies in different areas of language arts, such as pronunciation, vocabulary or comprehension, Stickler said.