Third grade reading scores from statewide standardized testing were released today (Tuesday 5-6-2014) and there is good news for the Roaring Fork School District. Three quarters of third graders in the district are proficient or advanced in reading comprehension. That, says superintendent Diana Sirko, shows continued improvement.
“We’re excited, obviously, that we moved two points above the state average. Looking at trends over time, we’ve never been at that point above the state average before. We tied it before but this is the first time that we surpassed it by two points.”
Reading proficiently by the third grade is a significant benchmark. It is at this point when kids begin to transition from learning how to read to the stage where they are learning from reading. Rob Stein is the district’s Chief Academic Officer. He says the third grade benchmark is also an accurate predictor of future learning success.
“And, evidence shows that over time those kids who start behind after third grade tend to stay behind without massive intervention.”
The tests measure reading comprehension, the student’s ability to read a passage and then answer questions about what they just read. 360 students took the test, 94 of them are reading below grade level. It is these kids who will now get additional help including, says Stein, individualized attention.
“We have literacy coaches who are helping teachers with reading strategies, we’re monitoring their development much more frequently. Just monitoring to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to catch kids up and keep them up.”
A larger question is why some kids are in a kind of achievement gap. There are some answers. One is language.
Many of the kids who didn’t meet the proficiency targets are not native English speakers. The testing is designed only to measure reading comprehension in English it isn’t a measure of how bright a student is. Notably, in a bi-lingual test at Basalt Elementary School two-dozen students took the same reading test in Spanish. 91 percent of them tested proficient in reading. Superintendent Sirko says learning a second language appears to take additional time for kids. So if a child arrives in the second or third grade not speaking English they will
“Normally it takes three to five years for a student to truly gain proficiency in a language other than their native language particularly in literacy and reading and writing.”
As more non-native English speakers enter the school district Sirko says schools are employing additional resources to language instruction. Still, language may be only one reason some kids lag behind reading at grade level by the third grade. Again, chief academic officer, Rob Stein.
“One big factor we can’t look at student by student is poverty rates but we know there are economic influences on learning. And, so unfortunately we can’t go in and look because that’s confidential information and it wouldn’t help us that much. What we need to do is to provide an enriching environment for all kids.”
There are some known solutions to improving literacy for all kids but because of a lack of funding they are not available equally across the district. One is all-day kindergarten. Another is pre-school. There is evidence; these administrators say that kids who have attended pre-K classes and then spend all day in kindergarten read more proficiently by the third grade. Still in the Roaring Fork School District only 75 percent of kids attend all day kindergarten. Superintendent Diana Sirko;
“I know its hard to believe in this day and age, when we have such high expectations for students, that that’s not an expectation that the state fund that but, at this point any of our children that want to go to full day kindergarten their parents pay $347 dollars a month for the other half of the day.”
Whether or not Colorado decides this is a priority lies in the hands of the legislature and of Colorado voters. The track record for increased funding of schools gives little promise of a major change. Colorado is below the national average for school funding by two thousand dollars per student.
Highlights from Roaring Fork School District TCAP Reading Test results (source: RFSD:)
Overall Data Analysis
· 360 total third-grade students took the test
· Seventy-four percent were proficient or advanced
· Scores trending upward year-over-year
· Out-performing the state
· This year’s results tied with highest score achieved in a six-year period
· Three of four schools have made significant gains year-over-year
· Continue to see significant achievement gaps
RFSD / TCAP Third-Grade 2014 – READING
Basalt Elementary School
Crystal River Elementary School
Glenwood Springs Elementary School
Sopris Elementary School
Roaring Fork Schools