11/13/12 — Reading rules getting stricter

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Reading rules getting stricter

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 13, 2012 1:46 PM

Third grade has always been a pivotal year for students, but now even more so as new legislation imposes more stringent guidelines for reading.

Legislation for the Excellent Public Schools Act does not go into effect until the 2013-14 school year, officials said, but Wayne County Public Schools is working to roll out efforts to improve third-grade student reading proficiency.

"We have had a lot of questions from our parents about the reading requirements passed by the General Assembly last year," Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, told the school board last week.

The goal of the state mandate is to have every student reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade and build upon reading, comprehension and application in subsequent grades.

It's important to identify difficulty with reading development as early as possible, Mrs. McCullen said.

With that, the aim is to continuously inform parents of their child's needs and progress.

The state Board of Education is behind developing, implementing and evaluating a comprehensive plan to improve reading achievement in the public schools, Mrs. McCullen said, explaining some of the efforts that will be introduced.

"All kindergartners must be screened within 30 days of enrollment," she said. "All kindergartners must also create an internal assessment within 60 days of enrollment.

"Also, students in grades K-3 will have reliable diagnostic assessments."

Reading 3-D is the state-approved assessment being used. Based on Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS, the research-based set of assessments has been adopted by WCPS as a tool of universal screening and progress monitoring.

Mrs. McCullen said the state is providing Reading 3-D to all K-3 classrooms, along with a $400 per classroom allocation to purchase devices. The state is also providing classroom kits at no cost to schools or districts, as well as training for educators.

Five elementary schools are already using Reading 3-D -- Carver, Eastern Wayne, Fremont STARS, North Drive and Tommy's Road elementary schools.

"The other elementary schools will have to adopt this process and are being trained for it," she added.

One glaring change on the horizon with the state mandate is the elimination of social promotion.

The state Board of Education will now require that students be retained in third grade if they fail to demonstrate reading proficiency at the third-grade level, as demonstrated on the standardized tests.

Students may be retested once prior to the end of school. Another option is summer school, most recently called Focused Intervention. That will now be called "Summer Camp," Mrs. McCullen said, and the General Assembly has promised funding for the program.

Students initially retained may be promoted mid-year if they demonstrate reading proficiency by Nov. 1.

Parents will also be offered the option of supplemental tutoring.

Communication with parents is especially important, Mrs. McCullen said.

As such, they will be notified regularly, in writing, of their child's progress and if retention is a possibility. There will also be monthly reports and opportunities to meet with the parent.

"It will be a big job to handle this," Mrs. McCullen said, adding that there is still much to be worked out.

"What has been the result so far where we have had the schools where DIBELS was implemented already?" asked board member Rick Pridgen. "Have you seen progress?"

"We have seen progress," Mrs. McCullen replied. "The teachers use that to determine their interventions early and respond to whatever the child needs at the same time."

Pridgen asked how much time has been devoted to training the educators.

Mrs. McCullen said the process actually began two or three years ago, but became official when the state mandate was approved.

"What it's doing is taking away the principals' ability to promote," she added. "Previously, state law said only the principal could promote and classify."

Board member Arnold Flowers was concerned about summer school and asked what happens if parents don't grant approval for their child to attend the remediation.

Mrs. McCullen said the child can be retained for two years. If after the second year he is still not proficient, he will then be promoted.