In an effort to improve reading scores across the board, Corcoran Unified School District is making a multi-pronged attack: improving core reading instruction, setting new goals with its Accelerated Reader program and implementing a new pilot project—Reading Plus—at John Muir Middle School.
In reports made over the past month, Director of Curriculum Lora Cartwright has told members of the school board that reading scores have room for improvement.
“The reading scores are not as high as we would like and we are going to make this a top priority,” she said. “There is no one panacea to improving this problem; we will take a multi-pronged approach.”
Cartwright noted that the reading assessment from last spring’s California Assessment of Student Performance (CAASPP) testing showed that just over 50 percent of students at Corcoran Unified did not meet the reading standard. Another 45 percent of local students met or came close to the standard, but only about 3.5 percent exceeded
the standard. The district’s overall reading scores on the test measure a student’s understanding of literary and non-fiction text.
Cartwright added that those test scores will provide base-year numbers from which the district will measure future progress. A new program which the district hopes will help is Reading Plus, which is being implemented as a pilot project at John Muir this month.
Reading Plus is a web-based program that focuses on reading comprehension, vocabulary, word tracking and the length of time a student can read at one stretch. John Muir’s new principal, Dave Whitmore, is excited about putting the program in place—and has seen it work when he was on staff at Golden West High School in Visalia.
Students who have had class time issued for Accelerated Reader, which is more an enrichment program, will switch to the Reading Plus program. AR will now take place outside the regular school day.
Whitmore explained that only about 40 percent of John Muir students are reading at or near reading standards. That leaves 60 percent in need of intervention. He thinks Reading Plus is just the prescription.
Students start with initial testing and are provided material at their reading level. That testing will reveal not only the level at which the student is reading, but how quickly he or she is reading and the endurance of the reader. Several types of high-interest reading materials are provided through the program, which also helps students with word identification.
Whitmore said he can expect some preliminary results in as soon as a few weeks. Reading Plus supplies measures, but Whitmore said other local tests will be added.
One test that will be taking place more often is the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting), associated with the AR program. Currently, students get tested at the beginning of the school year and again in the spring to check their reading levels. Beginning this year, the test will be given every 12 weeks, said Cartwright.
This will allow the district a tighter grip on the program, she said. Goals are also being set in place to make AR guidelines and requirements mesh district-wide.
AR allows students to read books outside the classroom, after which they are tested to check their comprehension of the reading material. With continued high test scores, students are bumped to a higher reading level.
The guided reading program is used in grades 2-8 to supplement regular classroom reading and time has been set aside during the instruction day to allow students to read.
AR goals for the current school year include having the teacher and librarian at each site work together to monitor students, follow-up on students who are not taking the computerized AR quizzes and follow-up with students who have not taken the STAR test at the beginning of the year.