Covering Kentucky

Sep 15, 2012 3:15 PM

N. Ky. Schools Boosting Literacy

INDEPENDENCE, Ky. (AP) - Reading intervention programs are boosting literacy rates for students across northern Kentucky.

Schools are using programs like Read 180, Fast ForWord and Voyager Learning to help meet new state assessment and accountability measures that were place into place this year.

The Kentucky Enquirer reports that 16-year-old Lacy Dalton went from a first grade reading level to a seventh grade level after just one year of using Read 180.

Dalton said she was terrified last year when an English teacher at the Success Academy in Independence called on her to read, but then decided to be honest.

"I told the teacher I couldn't read," she said. "I was so embarrassed."

After a year of reading intervention, she is reading on a seventh grade level, enjoying "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight" series.

"I know I can get to a 10th-grade level this year," she said. "Now that I can do it, I love it!"

The Northern Kentucky Education Council says the number of third-graders proficient in reading rose from 77 percent in 2008-09 to 82 percent in 2010-11.

"Large bodies of research document and support that if children are reading on grade level by third grade, their ability to read with continued success and develop higher-order literacy proficiencies are greatly enhanced," said Polly Page, the council's executive director. "We know that when a child is not reading on grade level, his or her future academic success is greatly diminished."

Patty Dalton, Lacy's mother, said teachers and administrators had tried various interventions with her daughter throughout elementary and middle school, but to no avail.

"She had tutoring and one-on-one help, but it wasn't working," Patty Dalton said. Lacy was able to pass from grade to grade because her school provided her with a reader for her tests, but they couldn't fix her illiteracy, Dalton said.

"It was very frustrating," she said. "But when they told me last year about Read 180, I was very excited because it was going to make her start over from the first grade. That's what she needed."

Kenton County schools had 1,000 students in the program last year and more than 75 percent showed a one-year growth in literacy while almost 50 percent showed two or more years of growth.

"It's a great combination of direct teacher instruction and software tailored to the kids' individual needs," said Tracy Mann, assistant superintendent for academic support in Kenton County.

Meanwhile, Campbell County Schools, which use a program called Voyager Learning, has seen its percentage of students with reading disabilities who read at proficiency increase from 20 percent in 2006 to 49 percent last year.

"It's not just about the product, but realizing a student has a deficiency in an area and that the gap has to be closed. We have to be very intentional with our focus," said Connie Pohlgeers, the district's director of school improvement and community education.

Boone County Schools uses a variety of measures depending on the student's grade and skill level. For example, a computer-based Reading Assistant program at Conner High School saw almost half of participants increase literacy skills by 3-6 grade levels.

Success Academy principal Clay Dawson says it takes more than a good program to make things work.

"It's like any other tool," he said. "If you don't have a teacher and student dedicated to it and determined to make it work, it's just going to sit there."

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