The key to success
Early literacy vital for our kids
One of the hardest truths for educators in Arkansas to contend with is the fact that far too many of our children are being left behind in school from an early age because they cannot read well.
According to Forward Arkansas, nearly seven out of 10 fourth-graders in our state are not proficient in reading when they start the school year, placing them at a tremendous disadvantage academically and dimming their prospects for future success. Students who can’t read well by the start of fourth grade are more likely to struggle in the later grades and drop out of school.
Reading at grade level by the end of third grade is widely understood among researchers and educators to be a crucial developmental milestone for young students. The transition from third to fourth grade represents the point along their educational journey when reading becomes an essential skill for mastering other subjects—think word problems in math class and content-rich texts in social studies—and less of a subject unto itself. It is the time when learning to read makes way for reading to learn.
Therefore, it is crucial for our schools to identify struggling readers as early as possible so that we can intervene appropriately and give them the instructional support they need.
In our district, Springdale Public Schools, we’re dedicated to providing teachers with real-time, accurate and reliable data on their students to help inform their instruction. Throughout the year teachers use data from the MAP Growth K-2 assessment to identify areas where students need additional help to improve their reading. This enables them to tailor their instruction to their students’ individual needs, whether they are struggling or successful readers.
We recognize that the K-2 grades are a critical time for our students, especially our large populations of English language learners and children from low-income families. With this in mind, we’ve established promoting early literacy for all students as one of our foremost priorities and provide personalized learning for every K-2 student.
This grade range is when we begin to see achievement gaps in reading open and then widen. It is also when we are best able to address those gaps and provide the interventions and personalized learning that enable struggling readers to catch up and achieve grade-level proficiency.
Recently, the Arkansas Department of Education’s Pre-Kindergarten Through Grade 2 Assessment Task Force recommended that districts select assessments according to how useful they are for screening students, informing instruction and benchmarking growth. We’ve found that reliable and timely assessment data can make a key difference in ensuring that students get the support they need to become proficient readers.
Embracing assessments as instructional tools, rather than accountability mechanisms, and maximizing the potential for data to inform instruction will help all school leaders and teachers in our state better serve the students in their classrooms.