Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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September 5, 2010

Educators working to meet new reading requirement

One wall at Western Intermediate School is covered with Post-It notes. Each note represents a student and his or her progress in reaching reading proficiency.

“It is highly visual for teachers to view which of their students are in danger of falling behind in an area of reading,” Principal Heather Hendrich said.

Data like this is becoming increasingly important to elementary school teachers, because starting in the 2012-2013 school year, students who cannot read at third-grade level by the end of third grade will not move on to the fourth grade. Children with learning disabilities and students learning English as a second language may be exempt from retention.

In the Kokomo area, teachers are already working on plans for all their students to meet this requirement. Many are giving reading assessment tests year round, including electronic programs provided by the Indiana Department of Education.

None are waiting until children are in third grade to intervene.

“We think it’s a little late to wait until third grade to have the expectation they are reading on grade level,” said Kokomo-Center Assistant Superintendent Linda Thompson. “We start as early as kindergarten.”

Northwestern Elementary Principal Ron Owings said he agrees it is important to be able to read at grade level by the end of third grade.

“If a student can’t read, they’re not going to be successful in anything we teach here.”

Incoming kindergartners are tested at roundup to see where they are, and children who need extra help receive it from a reading specialist. He has two reading specialists and kindergarten teaching assistants are also trained to work with children in small groups.

He said the assessments help teachers know who needs more help and how each child learns best, so they can meet individual needs.

Owings said if the third-grade requirement was in place this school year, about seven to 10 children would be in danger of being retained, or about 7 to 8 percent of the third-grade class.

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