July 16, 2009

SCR-I Looking to Expand Reading First Program’s Success Story

It is hard to argue with results. Despite the fact that federal funding for the Read First program ended on the last day of school, the Scotland County R-I District is moving forward with the instructional system on its own dollar. After viewing positive results across the board for the system that was in kindergarten through third grade, it is easy to see why the district is willing to continue the investment.

When compared with other Reading First Schools in Missouri, the SCR-I third grade communications arts test score on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test ranked seventh highest in the state. The district faired even better in the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) study of the test scores, showing the fifth greatest improvement according to evaluators.

“Scotland County is a highly successful Reading First program in its fifth and final year of the funding system” said Jeri Levesque, Ed. D., following her 2009 site review in Memphis. “It is characterized by a well implemented core reading program, highly competent teachers with solid knowledge and skills related to reading instruction, systematic assessment procedures, collaborative instructional planning, skillful coaching, and solid instructional leadership. These elements combined contribute to increasing percentages of proficient readers by third grade.”

The district experienced tremendous growth in the number of third grade students performing at either proficient or advanced ratings on the MAP test. In 2006, just over 1.3 of SCR-I third graders ranked in the top two categories on the state administered test. That number grew to more than half in 2007 and just shy of two thirds (65.9%) in 2008.

After completing its fifth year in service at SCR-I, Reading First also demonstrated impressive results reaching students that previously were under achieving. In its first year at SCR-I, just 57% of the students met all of the Reading First benchmarks. Roughly 20% graded as needing improvement while 14% of the students had results that indicated special instructional needs.

Over the next four years all of those numbers improved annually, until in 2008 85% of students met all of the benchmarks with just 10% showing need for improvement and 5% needing special instruction.

The board of education was so impressed with the results, it unanimously approved expanding the system to include students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

With the largest costs of the program, the initial purchase of technology, classroom libraries and learning resources, already reimbursed by the grant during its first year, the district will be investing in expanding the Open Court core instructional materials in the three upper grades at the elementary school.

The recent site review performed by Dr. Levesque scored the SCR-I Reading First Program with zero evaluated weaknesses and numerous documented strengths. The reviews recommendation was to sustain the essential constructs of the Reading First program model, including a daily protected 90 minute reading block for systematic, direct and explicit instruction undergoing on going progress monitoring that allows for adjustments in the instructional planning and delivery.

Reading First utilizes Scientific Based Reading Research (SBRR) to establish five essential reading components, phonemic awareness, phonics and decoding, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Classroom Observation of Reading Instruction (CORI) reviews performed in the SCR-I classrooms revealed excellent performances by instructors.

SCR-I Reading First Coach Sarah Myers pointed to the faculty as a key to the success story.

“One-hundred percent by in by the teachers and administration has become the underlying foundation for the effectiveness of the program,” she said. “This program has pulled us all together with an urgency to help all students to become successful readers.”

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