Joyce Rankin: Reading — it’s number one!
October 23, 2018
I pointed out in my July column that teachers have many responsibilities. For example, understanding technology, suicide, depression, mental illness, bullying, drug use and sex education, and safe schools. They also monitor breakfast and lunch programs and, oh yes, did I mention math and reading? But if math and reading aren't the highest priority, how are our Colorado students performing on assessments?
According to the 2018 English, Language Arts, or reading test, we're not doing well. The Colorado Measurement of Academic Success ELA scores for third-graders show that only 40 percent are reading at grade level. Research has shown students who cannot read by the end of the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. And, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 70 percent of all incarcerated adults cannot read at the fourth-grade level and lack the reading skills necessary to hold down anything but lower paying jobs.
Reading is at the core of learning, and our legislature recognized this in 2012, when it passed the READ Act. The READ Act was to ensure students in grades K-3 were getting the help they needed to read at grade level when they exit third grade. Grants were made available to help students reach this goal, and in the 2017-18 school year, 40,533 students with significant reading deficiencies were eligible for these grants. The total amount directed at these students last year totaled $33 million.
With the release of the 2018 Colorado test scores in English, Language Arts, we found that 40 percent of our third graders are reading at or above grade level as they exit third grade. That means 60 percent are not reading at grade level, and, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Colorado mirrors what is happening in the United States; it's been that way since the 1990s.
There's still some good news this month. I'd like to shine a spotlight on two schools in the 3rd Congressional District that received the Colorado Succeeds Award for Transformational Impact. Awards were based on a data-driven process conducted by an external analyst to select public schools making transformational gains in academic achievement. Only one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school in the state are selected.
Carbondale Middle School in the Roaring Fork Valley was the recipient of the Middle School Award, with Jennifer Lamont, principal. I met with Lamont last week, and she discussed the reasons for their success.
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Delta County School District's Paonia Elementary School was the winner in the elementary category. Principal Sam Cox spoke with elected officials recently about the pride he takes in his students, teaching staff, and community. On the English Language Arts assessment from last spring, his sixth-graders scored 81.5 percent proficient. That translates to 8 out of 10 students at or above grade level.
Both schools impressed me by their administrative leadership and partnership between teaching staff, parents, and community. Could this be the secret to success?
Thank you for the honor to serve on the State Board of Education for the 3rd Congressional District.
Joyce Rankin sits on the State Board of Education representing Colorado's 3rd Congressional District. She writes the monthly column “Across the Street” to share with constituents in the 29 counties she represents. The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the State Capitol. Rankin also serves as a legislative assistant for State Rep. Bob Rankin.