Program helps students

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 27, 2001

become better readers


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Students at Troy Elementary School have made great strides in reading with the help of the Alabama Reading Initiative.

The Alabama Reading Initiative was implemented at TES last year, and school officials are pleased with the results from the program that was designed to get students reading on their grade level.

"We went through the training for the program last year," said Marianne Gilbert, reading specialist at TES. "We set goals and used the STAR program to access where we are."

Gilbert said when the students were first tested using the STAR program 51 percent were "technically reading below their grade level."

To assist the students and help them improve their reading skills students were paired with teachers in smaller classes and some students were helped on an individual level.

"The primary interference we saw was a lack of phonics," Gilbert said. "We purchased a phonics program that was used in K-2 and it really did a lot for the students."

TES followed an assessment program that was used successfully at Montevallo Elementary School.

"The demographics at Montevallo Elementary are similar to ours," said Hank Jones, superintendent of the Troy City School system.

Following the program used at Montevallo Elementary School, Gilbert was able to set up checkpoints throughout the year to assess the progress of the students. At the end of the school term the students were tested again and Gilbert said she was pleased with the results.

"As a school in August of last year 51 percent of the students were reading below their grade level," Gilbert said. "In May that number was reduced to 35 percent."

Gilbert illustrated the progress of the students by grade levels for the Troy Board of Education. In the second grade after the first STAR test 56 percent of second graders were reading below grade level, and after the second test only 38 percent were reading below their grade level.

"In the second grade only seven students were reading on a first grade level," Gilbert said.

In the third grade after the first test 51 percent of the students were reading below their grade level, and after the last test only 27 percent were below grade level. In the fourth grade 41 percent were reading below grade level after the first test and after the last test 35 percent were below grade level. In the fifth grade 54 percent of the students were reading below the grade level after the first test and only 40 percent were below grade level after the last test.

"I look at that as real progress because we have lower numbers," Gilbert said. "Kindergarten teachers have told me they have sent more readers to the first grade that are reading or are ready to read. Students who get in early become better readers. The program has helped struggling readers and advanced readers. Everyone has benefited."

The Alabama reading Initiative will be used again this year at TES. Gilbert said she and Geoffrey Spann, principal at TES, have already set goals for the new year. The goals include guided reading implementation in grade K-5, a writing program in grades 3-5 and to improve SAT scores among students.

"Marianne has done a great jobs," Jones said. "We also want to thank Troy State. Dr. Hawk and Dr. Dye have been very helpful."