Three grades fully proficient in reading


Haines students in grades three, four and five scored 100 percent in recent “standards based assessment” tests for reading.

The 2013-14 test results are the result of the effectiveness of several programs underway at the school, including reading interventions and Lucy Calkins’ reading program, said superintendent Michael Byer.

“We’ve always had good scores. That’s a reason why our elementary school is being nominated by the state as a national Blue Ribbon School. This is the first year we’ve had the students in three grades in a row 100 percent proficient in reading,” Byer said. 

The scores mean every student in each class is proficient or advanced in reading. Students took tests in April.

The scores are an increase from school year 2012-13, when grades 3-5 each scored about 95 percent and 2011-12, when third graders scored 100 percent, fourth graders about 82 percent and fifth graders, 95 percent.

“Intervention” is targeted help that occurs when school officials notice a child is having trouble reading. A group of teachers meet and determine how best to help that particular student.

Educator Lucy Calkins launched the Teachers College Reading and Writer Project, which aims “to help young people become avid and skilled readers, writers and inquirers.” Jeanne Kitayama, who works as a literacy coordinator with younger-age students, uses the Calkins method.

School board chair Anne Marie Palmieri said that since 2010, improving reading in early grades has been part of the district’s strategic plan, which states: “All students will reach reading proficiency by the end of third grade.”

“We’ve been working on that since 2010. (The scores) are a testament to how much work and effort the teachers and administration have been putting into that.”

School principal Cheryl Stickler said while the scores are worth celebrating, the district is aiming for similar improvement in other subjects. “We have room to improve in writing and we have a ways to go in math... There’s still a lot of work to do but we’re so proud of those kids. They worked so hard.”

The State of Alaska recently opted out of the federal No Child Left Behind standards, but local schools will continue to conduct testing, as the district will still be required to show improvement.

How results of the new tests will compare with (standards based assessment) tests is uncertain, Stickler said. “It’s a common question even people at the state are asking, how do the two tests compare, (but) as long as we’re teaching to the standards, the old ones or the new ones, our students should do well.”

Achieving proficiency by third grade is important, educators say, because students learn to read through third grade, then read to learn afterward. “The goal of being a proficient reader at third grade gives access to new knowledge that they can achieve independently,” Stickler said.

Stickler also attributed the improvement in scores to the work of reading specialist Barbara Pardee and aide Kelani Kanahele.

Tests show how the school as a whole is providing services and determine subject matter for remedial work, Palmieri said.

Of the recent test results, the sixth grade was only a single student shy of proficiency in reading. State averages in reading proficiency are: Third grade (81.5 percent), fourth grade (78.3 percent) and fifth grade (81.1 percent).

The district expects word back on its Blue Ribbon nomination in September.



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