Kindergarten literacy assessment seems 'too good to be true'

By Lydia Goerner | Jun 21, 2017
Photo by: Lydia Goerner Joanne Gibbs (left) shows a set of flash cards used to improve reading fluency as Andrea Schwamb discusses literacy data.

The results and data from a recent early literacy study in John W. Decas Elementary had some School Committee members shaking their heads in disbelief at Wednesday's meeting.

Director of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Andrea Schwamb started collecting data on literacy among kindergarten and first grade students three years ago. She found that around 60 percent of students entering kindergarten in Wareham were significantly below the average literacy rate.

Part of the problem is that teachers are not taught how to "diagnose" a student and choose the right method of intervention to best help them learn, Schwamb said.

Decas Elementary is ready to make a change, however. They have implemented a five-week summer program to help prepare struggling kindergarten students for first grade.

The school also purchased the language training program Fundations this year to assist in reading fluency for young students. Schwamb said it is imperative for students to be caught up by the end of first grade so they can succeed in elementary school.

In February, kindergarten students were tested for reading fluency using the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA). Then in April, they were re-tested after receiving 20 to 25 days of reading intervention. The process was repeated and the students were tested again in June.

In February, 55 percent of students did not meet the target reading level, but by June, that number dropped to 6 percent.

"This is the first time I've seen these kinds of results in any of our testing," Schwamb said.

Schwamb said the intervention used, which includes movement activities, videos, flashing sight words in front of a classroom, working in small groups, songs and a lot of repetition, is an essential challenge for students.

In the past, first grade teachers said they felt they had to go back and re-teach what should have been learned in kindergarten.

"We want to change kids' lives and make sure they can read at grade level," Schwamb said.

Committee member Geoff Swett seemed skeptical of the data.

"These results are almost too good to be true, that's what I'm struggling with," Swett said. "You don't see these kind of results in a few months."

Schwamb assured him that none of the classroom teachers did the testing to ensure the data was as accurate as possible.

"It's extraordinary," Swett said. "It doesn't happen."

"It's going to happen in Wareham," Schwamb replied. "It has to happen."

Since these techniques seem to have been effective in Decas Elementary, they will be introduced to Minot Forest Elementary in the future.

Comments (4)
Posted by: | Jun 22, 2017 08:37

Congrats! thank you for all the hard work. Some good news coming from Wareham.

Posted by: cranapple | Jun 22, 2017 14:20

Yes, our child is a kindergartner and she is now reading. We will be going for reading over the summer but we will also be working with our child.

Posted by: cranapple | Jun 22, 2017 14:21

Great news!

Posted by: Peaches0409 | Jun 23, 2017 09:48

Amazing the amount of people complaining about the dog park and we have such great news here and only a few comments. Seriously folks.....get a life.

Well done on this project WPS, well done!

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