Tahoe-Truckee schools see improvement in third-grade reading | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee schools see improvement in third-grade reading

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com
While reading, Truckee Elementary School first-grader Arikitza Colmenero Iniguez points to the word “but” in a storybook before sliding it under the next word in the sentence.
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun |

All America City

In July 2012, Tahoe-Truckee received the title of All-America City for its campaign to improve third-grade reading skills.

When Tahoe Truckee received the award, 47 percent of students in TTUSD were not reading at grade level by the end of the third grade, according to previous reports.

The California state testing system known as STAR was used to calculate that figure. STAR has since been suspended.

To calculate the 2013-14 levels, a local measure from Renaissance Learning, an educational assessment and learning analytics company based in Wisconsin, was used, Curry said.

To learn more about the All-America City award, visit allamericacityaward.com

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Using her index finger, Truckee Elementary School first-grader Arikitza Colmenero Iniguez points to the word “but” in a storybook before sliding it under the next word in the sentence.

“It’s morally imperative that we get kids reading,” said Valerie Simpson, principal of Truckee Elementary School. “If kids can’t read, (they) don’t have access to anything. I feel like reading is the key to being successful in life and in all the other content areas.”

The idea linking reading and success is one shared throughout Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, which has emphasized the past two school years the importance of reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

“In the years leading up to third grade, students are learning to read,” explained Stephanie Foucek, principal of Tahoe Lake Elementary. “From third grade on, students need to be able to read to learn.”

‘ON THE OFFENSIVE’

In 2013-14, 68 percent of TTUSD third-graders were reading at or above grade level by the end of the school year — compared to 33 percent of students nationwide, according to the district.

The data shows that 20 percent of those TTUSD students were reading at third-grade level by the end of the 2013-14 school year; 19 percent at a fourth-grade level; 16.9 percent at a fifth-grade level; 8.3 percent at a sixth-grade level; 2.8 percent at a seventh-grade level; and 0.7 percent at an eighth-grade level.

Of those third-graders who finished the school year below grade level, 26.6 percent were reading at a second-grade level, with 5.2 percent at a first-grade level and 0.7 percent at kindergarten.

“If students are not able to independently read third grade text in third grade, they will need intervention and extra support to access the curriculum as they advance in grade levels,” Foucek said. “Students who are on target in terms of grade level reading can expect to be able to successfully read and comprehend grade level texts as they advance.”

When asked what contributes to students not reading at grade level, Dave Curry, executive director of education services, said it is “individual” to the student.

“We could go down a long list of reasons, but … there are three major things keeping kids from reading, and that is their absenteeism from school because school is a place you need to be if you want to learn; their overall readiness for school no matter where they are in their school life, and that has to do with their ongoing readiness from summer to summer; and … are their specific needs being addressed while they’re at school?” he said. “We are certainly feeling like we have the ability to impact all those things, and we are on the offensive.”

‘MORE CONFIDENT AS READERS’

Some efforts taken last school year to address third grade reading included focusing on writing in all content areas, using technology to individualize skill building, and having small group projects with a literacy focus.

As far as growth in the 2013-14 school year, 81 percent (235 third-graders) gained in their reading level, according to TTUSD.

A half grade level was gained by 22.84 percent (66 third-graders); one grade level by 18.69 percent (54 third-graders); one and a half grade levels by 22.49 percent (65 third-graders); two grade levels by 10.03 percent (29 third-graders); two and a half and three grade levels by 2.77 percent (eight third-graders); three and a half grade levels by 1.38 percent (four third-graders); and four grade levels by 0.35 percent (one third-grader).

On average, 1.21 grade levels were gained by TTUSD third-grade students in the course of last school year.

“Last year, you just saw kids more confident as readers, excited about reading, and I think that to me is the most rewarding,” Simpson said. “… If we can get them excited about reading now, it’s something they have for the rest of their lives.”

‘A COMMUNITY EFFORT’

To continue the district’s reading proficiency push, TTUSD this school year will add a focus on listening and speaking, provide professional development in strategies, and implement small group reading instruction, among others tactics.

But for greater success, efforts need to extend beyond the classroom.

“Supporting the growth of readers is a community effort,” Foucek said. “… We need families to support reading time at home. We need all community members to model the value of reading and to encourage the children around them to persevere in their reading development.

“Learning to be a skilled reader doesn’t come easy to everyone, but it is an incredibly necessary skill in our world, and all of our young students need whatever support we can provide to ensure that they become fluent readers of a wide variety of texts.”

TTUSD also has partnered with Tahoe Truckee READS!, a coalition committed to improving the reading success of Tahoe Truckee youth.

Efforts by Tahoe Truckee READS! include rollout of neighborhood reading programs; placement of 15 community bookshelves to increase free access to books; a public library summer reading program; and working with youth program providers to increase literacy during the summer months, said Laura Abbey Brown, executive director of Excellence in Education Foundation.

“Several new strategies have been put into place both from the school district and community,” she said. “I think we’ll continue to see our literacy numbers increase as a result of those efforts.”

By 2020, TTUSD would like to see all students reading at grade level, Curry said.