At the semester break in mid-January, tests showed that students are progressing as readers at an unprecedented rate. This school year more than 95% percent of all kindergarten students in Gobles are achieving at grade level or have passed grade level already this school year. Students who are not yet at grade level are also showing a great deal of improvement as they work closer to grade level achievement.
The early elementary team at Gobles Elementary is thrilled with the results, and they are working hard to understand the success they are having, to keep it going and build upon it, and they agree that the most important factor in the success is the attention they pay to the progress of each individual student in the grade. The team consists of teachers and aides from the elementary school, plus the principal, and also itinerant staff from the Van Buren Intermediate School District.
Gobles school psychologist Roger Coates recognizes the impact that reading success has for a student, both immediately, and all the way through that child’s education. Coates helps review student reading results and monitor student progress as part of the elementary literacy team.
“Reading is such an important part of everything we do with kids in school,” Coates said. “It’s a skill that builds upon itself, so that progress today builds on your progress from yesterday and leads to progress tomorrow. If you aren’t progressing today, tomorrow just gets tougher. That’s why it’s critical to catch kids early and help them make that progress.”
According to Gobles Elementary Reading Specialist Geanice Miller, teachers are constantly talking about students and the progress they are making in class.
“We have meetings all the time to monitor the progress of our students,” she said. “We keep a close eye on all the kids, and that keeps the entire team on the same page with of our students as we work with them in our classrooms. Because we touch base frequently, we are not allowing students to slip through the cracks, and we are able to carefully track the progress.”
Last year Gobles Elementary School began piloting the Eight-Step Process, a method of assessing students to see where their skills are and planning specific instruction to teach exactly the skills students need to progress. The process uses real learning data and constant monitoring to help teachers address the needs of their students, but implementation of the process usually takes a few years to show such dramatic results.
But for elementary principal Terry Breen the results come as no surprise. He credits the hard work and dedication of the teachers as the reason kindergarten students, and students all over the elementary school, are blossoming this year.
“Teachers are really working hard this school year to understand their students ability levels and teach the skills those students need,” Breen said. “You can go to all the meetings you want and look at all the data you want, but it’s the implementation teachers make in the classroom every day that really impacts student success.”
Coates also sees the success in the classroom. “It’s so exciting to see teachers using research as the basis for their instruction,” he said. “Teachers are able to make really good decisions in their classrooms, and as a result can teach in a smarter and more focused way. What I see happening is giving students the best result in the amount of time teachers have with them.”
Learning to read at an early age is one of the most important factors in success from early elementary all the way up to graduation, and beyond. This is true both during the school year, and during breaks from school, especially the long summer break when skills can drop if students don’t make time for reading every day.