by Tom Owens
Special to the Sounder
If young students lag in reading skills, won’t they begin to see school as a struggle and a place of failure? This could well set their course in life for many years. There is something we can do to help break this cycle. Let’s put in place a summer Early Reading Intervention Program for struggling students that will be entering first, second and third grades.
The Reading RIT Score is the Rasch unit scale used by Northwest Evaluation Association (for more information go to www.nwea.org/norms). The student score data has been divided into quartiles. The sample size is 1.3 million students, nationwide and is statistically valid.
Three things stand out:
• The range of reading skills at the beginning of second-grade is enormous.
• All quartiles learn about the same amount of skills each year.
• The student who starts behind has a very high probability of remaining behind.
These problems exist here in Orcas Elementary School. While doing better than the state averages, Orcas still has 38 percent of third-graders, 27 percent of fourth-graders and 37 percent of fifth-graders with below-grade-level reading skills. The school has set the goal of reducing this number to 20 percent for all grade levels (80 percent of students at or above grade level).
What happens to reading skills over the summer? Following the reading scores of kindergarten, first- and second-graders through the school year, over the summer and into the next fall, the summer reading skills loss is readily apparent. If this loss could be reduced or prevented, the next year’s reading skills should jump.
What can we do to address these problems? There are three places to start.
• Improving the reading and math skills of the lower-quartile children before they enter the school system.
• Greatly increasing (perhaps 50 percent or more) the time spent on reading skills instruction in the classroom for struggling students
• Prevent the summer reading skills loss some students suffer during the summer months.
The Early Childhood Coalition, the elementary school and several other programs are working to improve reading skills before children enter the school system. The amount of time spent on reading in the classroom is under the authority of the school system, and they can make decisions in this area. The summer reading skills loss for early-grade students that are already struggling is not being addressed. Here is our opportunity.
Can Orcas, as a community, put together a summer early reading intervention program open to all early-grade-level students that are struggling to learn to read? Can we short cut the summer drop and speed children ahead with their reading skills? Lorena Stankevich and Glenda Smith have a realistic plan.
• Up to 30 students in first, second and third grades that are behind in reading skills.
• Two teachers and 10-15 community volunteer instructors; three students per instructor.
• Four weeks, 9–11 a.m. next summer.
• At the elementary school, using school reading curriculum.
This is a call to action. We need your help to accomplish three major things.
• Establish an Organizing Group of four-eight interested community members willing to do the initial foot work to get things going in December
• Find and train 10-15 volunteer instructors that are willing to dedicate five mornings a week for four weeks in January.
• Raise, through donations, the funds necessary for teacher salaries, volunteer instructor training, curriculum and supplies. This is in the range of $15,000-$18,000 in March.
If you are interested in any aspect of this effort, would you please contact me OrcasERIP@yahoo.com. I will try to organize the above three efforts with your help.
Please join by adding your efforts to the summer early reading intervention program and be part of the solution. You could make a real difference in a child’s life that leads to a more productive citizen.