Third, fourth graders get chance to improve reading skills | News | The Press and Standard

by | October 12, 2017 5:00 pm

Last Updated: October 11, 2017 at 10:43 am

Colleton County School District’s Summer Reading Camp served two purposes.
The five-week program at Forest Hills Elementary School sought to give some third-graders a head start and some fourth-graders more practice in improving their reading skills.
The South Carolina Read to Succeed Act, which became law in 2014, aims to improve literacy and reading proficiency for all children in our state.
This school year will see one of the most significant portions of the law take effect. The law mandates that a student must be retained in the third grade if the student fails to demonstrate reading proficiency at the end of the third grade, as indicated by scoring at the lowest achievement level on the state summative reading assessment, which currently is the S.C. Ready Assessment.
Not every third-grader who fails to demonstrate reading proficiency will be held back; the law exempts a number of students, including students with disabilities and limited English ability.
To prepare for the implementation of that facet of the Read to Succeed Act, the state department of education, through its state-mandated testing, identified which third-graders in each school district failed to meet the reading proficiency and stood the chance of failing to advance to fourth grade.
In the Colleton County School District, 41 of last school year’s 481 third-graders might have been blocked from being promoted to fourth grade.
The state law also contains a provision that allows those third-graders to be promoted to fourth grade, if they participate and successfully complete a summer reading program.
To prepare for that, the state provided funding to conduct a summer reading camp for the third-graders who failed to show reading proficiency in the last school year.
The parents of the 41 students who were on the fail list, along with the parents of other third-graders who had narrowly passed the test, were asked to have their children take part in the summer reading camp.
Dr. Juliette White said the school district “strongly encouraged” the parents to have their children participate. If multiple attempts to sway the parents were unsuccessful, they were required to sign an opt-out form.
The state required that each school district conducting a summer reading camp to report the results.
“This summer we had 76 students enrolled in our Summer Reading Camp, as required by state legislation,” reported Dr. White. Their reading proficiency was assessed at the beginning and end of the camp.
“According to end of program assessment, 74 percent of students showed growth with five percent maintaining and 21 percent who did not record a score due to attendance,” Dr. White offered.
That 21 percent of the students did not attend the final week of the camp and could not be tested. The school district’s Director of Elementary Education Jessica Williams said, “We don’t how many of them would have shown growth.” Scheduled family vacations other activities kept those students away from final week.
The state only required the data from last year’s third-graders.
To prepare for this school year, the school district offered the summer reading camp to the parents of children who were entering third grade this year who demonstrated low reading achievement levels.
The goal was to give those students a head start on improving their reading levels for this school year when the possibility of being held back becomes a reality.
Through the use of a partnership grant, the school district teamed with Colleton County Memorial Library, the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market and Clemson Extension to enable the students to participate in additional activities to supplement the intense reading instruction they were given by teachers, assistants and reading coaches.
The partnership enabled the school district to provide “extended day activities for the students in learning about animals and their habitats,” Dr. White explained.
Williams said the camp centered around the ACE Basin. The students participated in field trips to the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary and the ACE Basin Interpretative Center.
The goal was to develop a camp that had “a correlation between academics and activities.” In addition to the intensive work on reading skills, the participants had time for art, music and the computer lab.
With the Read to Succeed Act being fully implemented this year, Williams said the school district “has put several supports in place” for the third-graders having difficulty with reading proficiency.
Among those supports are additional reading instruction times as part of the school day, including small group instruction with a teacher and work with the reading coaches available at each elementary school, another part of the Read to Succeed Act.
Although the state is focused on reading proficiency for third-graders, Dr. White said, “We can’t wait until we get to second and third grade. Making sure sound reading strategies are in place is my goal.” Her initial aim was to ensure kindergarten students entering first grade were reading at their grade level. She has seen “good numbers” from that.
“Now we look and see what happens to those kids this year,” she said.

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