Learning to Read

Published 2:28 am Wednesday, May 17, 2006

By By Janet Little Cooper
There has been a whole lot of reading going on at Rachel Patterson Elementary this year.
The school was awarded a grant from Alabama Reading First Initiative last summer that has enabled the elementary school to establish reading programs that are have been proven effective.
Alabama was one of the first three states to receive approval of its Reading First Proposal. The award was $15,500,000 for the first year. The grant can be funded for a period of six years if Alabama continues to make progress in raising the number of students who are reading on grade level.
The statewide initiative, managed b y the Department of Education is designed to significantly improve reading instruction and ultimately achieve 100 percent literacy among public school students.
"We have been doing this for several years now," Rachel Patterson reading coach Debbie Hester said. "We have seen improvements, but are seeing more this year. We are not where we want to be, but we are getting there."
The Alabama Reading Initiative provides training for teachers that help them teach reading in proven and effective ways.
The grant provided for Hester and Dianna Purvis to serve as reading coaches.
"A Open Court reading consultant comes in and a regional coach comes at least one time a week to give us advice and new techniques in reading instruction," Hester said. "The first semester was spent working with second grade intensive reading students and then the second semester was spent working with strategic first grade students who are middle of the road in reading."
Students work with the two reading coaches for 30-minute periods and are also instructed by their own teacher.
"The teachers here have been great," Hester said. "They have had to rethink the way they teach reading and give reading instructions. They have never complained about the program. The training we all get gives us an up close and personal understanding of what it takes to help teach these children to read."
The reading instruction is divided into five different components: Phonemic Awareness, which means hearing the difference in sounds; Phonics, or using sounds to put words together; Fluency, learning how to read fluently; Vocabulary instruction and Comprehension, which is being able to understand what you read.
Compared to scores from last year's Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) testing, Rachel Patterson has seen marked improvements across the board.
According to Hester, Rachel Patterson kindergarten classes rose from 93 percent last year to 98 percent this year. That score indicates that the K-5 students are where they need to be in reading.
The first graders were tested on oral reading and scored 66 percent this year opposed to 57 percent last year.
Second grade students were also tested on oral reading, scoring 55 percent last year and 57 percent this year.
"We are already looking forward to next year," Hester said. "We expect to see even larger improvements then."

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