Carson City schools see improvement in reading skills

With summer vacation coming to a close, Carson City School District’s first school board meeting of the 2017-18 school year Tuesday night covered the results of the Read by Grade Three program and developing a strategy to hire more reliable teachers before classes begin.

But with a new lead literacy strategist on board, school board members are concerned how the reading program’s success can stay consistent.

Students improve reading proficiency, nationwide recognition

Lead Literacy Specialist for 2016-17, Cheryl Richetta, said the program reduced reading deficiency of students from kindergarten to third grade.

According to her data, the program’s goals were met with first through third grades with 8-9 percent reduction rates in deficiency in 2016-2017. Although kindergarten didn’t meet the program’s goal by the end of spring, reading deficiency was reduced from 43 to 27 percent, when the goal was 25 percent.

“Kindergarten has the highest enrollment of students,” she said. “Even though we were off by our goal, we’re still pleased with the results.”

With those results, Richetta said students will continue to improve in reading by the time school begins, which will help reduce the percentage in kindergarten.

There are numerous reasons why kindergartners are in a tough spot in reading, including support at home, Richetta said.

But Richetta said it’s about engagement, most importantly.

Other accomplishments of the program included guidance to staff assessed with students within the first 30 days of school to determine deficiency, and parent-teacher conferences monitoring Individual Literacy Plans (ILP) per student.

As far as national recognition goes, the district participated in the Foundation for Excellence in Education conducted by RMC Research Corporation. With several other states participating, Carson City School District was one of the four districts in Nevada selected for being a higher performing district.

This gave students of Carson City an opportunity to participate in a follow-up Read By Grade Three video that was filmed in July.

But for school board member Ron Swirczek, he’s concerned about an ongoing intervention as some students are in need of a boost.

“Some students don’t have that family support,” he said. “They need that immediate support and some of them don’t get it from parents. We need teachers to help with that.”

One of the ongoing planned interventions, especially for kindergartners, is to continue offering the three-week summer school for students up to fifth grade. For 2017, 734 students were enrolled. An afterschool program is also in development.

As Richetta is now the newly appointed assistant principal for Fremont Elementary School, Nate Brigham — reading implementation facilitator of Empire Elementary — is taking over her role.

Brigham’s goals for 2017-18 program

The goals for the program this year is to reduce the number of deficient students by 20 percent, increase family school partnerships, and apply refinements to required testing.

To relieve the stress on kindergartners, they will be assigned to test with Brigance testing, as it’s known to be more user-friendly for new students, compared to other platforms such as MAP, Brigham said.

“This testing from kindergarten through third grades will be paid by the state, thanks to the Legislature’s support,” he said.

Brigham said to further incorporate students and standards, the ILP packets will continued to be used to track progress of students on a weekly basis, along with a record of strengths and weaknesses. These packets are completed by the teacher and given to parents.

But school board members also are concerned how many students will be retained if they don’t meet the reading level required, especially those going from third to fourth.

Brigham and Richetta said that information hasn’t been released, but kindergartners and first grade students are the main concern.

“Even though there were improvements, none of those kids will be off the deficiency list until fall,” Brigham said.

For now, the key is for parents and teachers to keep track of ILP packets, collaborating with testing companies, and continuing to educate the staff about reading deficiencies in children.

“I think it’s important to inform each other,” Brigham said. “Some information isn’t being shared across sites, as we’re a small district.”

“It’s not perfect, but it’s moving in a good direction,” Swirczek said.

Hiring teachers to enhance

Carson City School District Superintendent Richard Stokes said it’s been a busy month, especially with new staff preparations.

Stokes also announced both Eagle Valley and Carson Middle Schools now have a contract to hire seven special education teachers, and one professional.

Although more teachers were hired this year compared to last, Stokes said there are 12 teacher vacancies to fill, along with 18 classified positions.

Those locations include CMS for a math teacher, Fristch Elementary for a fifth grade teacher, and a science teacher at Pioneer High School.

Stokes said Carson City is in good company with Lyon and Washoe, as both counties also are having difficulties filling roles at schools.

“Fewer people are going into education,” he said. “The demand is the same, if not increasing. It might be the high accountability, the small pay, or certain degree requirements but we need dedicated people.”

With that, fingers are crossed for college graduates to apply before the school year begins. If the applicant is still working on their credentials, the district will take whatever steps to help complete it, Stokes said.


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