Small groups, one-on-one learning and weekly assessments are on teacher Karen Meyer’s agenda in order to make sure every one of her third-grade students passes a required reading test this year.
Meyer’s students at Chandler’s Tarwater Elementary School are some of the thousands across Arizona who must show reading proficiency through the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) or risk being held back in third grade.
The law was passed when these students were in kindergarten and scheduled to be put to the test in spring 2014. Educators and parents have had a few years to prepare children for this step.
“We’re very lucky in my school specifically and my district in general. We have very involved parents here at Tarwater. We have been working to be successful for everyone,” she said.
The school put more of an emphasis on fluency and “DIBELS” (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) monitoring to test that, Meyer said. In addition, Tarwater adopted the Reading Naturally program.
Classes began Monday at the school, while other East Valley districts will begin over the next two weeks.
“We’ve always done fluency testing, but over the past three years it’s become computerized. We’ve been able to do benchmark testing three times a year,” and the school has paid to put all kindergarten through third-grade teachers through training for testing and progress monitoring, she said.
The now-third-grade students who struggled with reading in younger grades went through additional reading training — called “BURST” — to get additional help.
And this year, if they fall in the “red” area — indicating they are below the reading level they should be — during benchmark testing, Meyer and her fellow teachers will conduct weekly monitoring and assessment.
The district also purchased a parent report to show them just how their children are doing. Meyer said oftentimes when parents see there is an issue, they ask, “How can I help?” or seek out tutoring.
Meyer said she also gets support from her principal and fellow teachers.
“My principal has many, many years experience and has a love for reading and wants each child to have that same love. He’s been very supportive in giving materials,” she said.
This year, the teachers are also meeting in groups — known in the education world as professional learning communities or PLCs — to specifically look at reading. Teachers will discuss students they’re concerned about, document what’s being done and track student reading.
“I feel honestly in the last three years we’ve received more education. We’ve received more money for the training and it’s become an expectation for the teacher,” she said.
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