Third-grade readers realize gain in proficiency

Published 3:48 pm Friday, May 31, 2024

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Results are in for Lowndes County third graders who completed the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program (ACAP) Summative Reading Subtest. The scores, aimed at measuring grade level reading among young scholars, have a story to tell and reveal the dedicated efforts of teachers, administrators and parents working to improve outcomes for area children.

Lowndes County Public Schools Superintendent Samita Jeter said the 2023-2024 test results show a gain of 33%, averaging at 82% of third graders reading at or above grade level compared to 49% last year. The gains are the result of hard work, she emphasized, on the part of both students and faculty.

“Students received daily whole group and small group instruction in reading,” Jeter said. “Students received intervention and tutoring to improve reading deficiencies. In addition, students were administered diagnostic assessments throughout the year that created a pathway for success to improve on their literacy skills. Schools also developed individual reading improvement plans for students that catered to their individual needs.”

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Latasha Bruce, reading coach at Jackson-Steele Elementary, has witnessed the holistic impact of improvements first hand among the school’s students.

“I see an impact on the students holistically, not just looking at students as third graders, but in helping them to become proficient so they can [eventually] become fierce competitors on the world economic stage,” Bruce said. “We are trying to develop their understanding and ownership of their own learning. Parents have come to ask questions and understand we are trying to promote promotion, not retention.”

Jeter explained that ACAP is a computer-based, criterion-referenced assessment designed to measure student progress on the Alabama Courses of Study Standard. The reading subtest measures how third grade students perform on phonological/phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Assessments for each elementary school show 90% of students tested at Jackson Steele Elementary school are reading at or above grade level. At Fort Deposit and Central Elementary Schools, those numbers are slightly lower at 79% but still reveal tremendous improvement from last year.

“Fort Deposit improved from 34% reading on or above grade level to 79% reading on grade level,” Jeter said. “Central improved from 44% to 79% reading on or above grade level. Schools will continue to interpret the data to determine the deficiencies facing students at both schools. Individual plans will be used to help each student improve their reading performance.”

Demond Mullins, director of curriculum and instruction for Lowndes County Public Schools, said raising reading proficiency goes beyond raw data to develop children who are ready to graduate and become successful in their pursuit of college or careers.

“Reading on or above grade level gives students a better opportunity to be a high school graduate,” Mullins said. “When students struggle in class and fall behind, the percentage of them dropping out of high school increases. But reading gives them an opportunity to accomplish things after high school and be successful whether they enter the workforce or go to college.”

Bruce said the improved numbers are encouraging to faculty and staff who work alongside students toward their academic goals.

“The scores are showing us the number of students that are reading sufficiently,” Bruce said. “We don’t want to stop there. We want students who are proficient and the scores are showing we can do it. We just need to continue working collectively as a district and a community to push toward the target.”