Note: This is the second in a series of articles regarding the USD 435 District Learning Update presented to Abilene Board of Education members during the Nov. 11 meeting.
Reading support structures implemented about seven years ago in Abilene Public Schools are having a positive impact on reading scores.
By the time students get to high school, only 15 percent are considered high risk or have some risk in reading, according to the FastBridge Reading Screener given in fall 2019.
The measurement-based screener monitors student progress in reading, math and behavior.
The high school results showed that 65 percent are “well above” when it comes to reading while 20 percent are “on track.” Six percent are at high risk, while nine percent are considered at “some risk.”
“What that tells me is that reading is still a hindrance to only about 15 percent of our kids for learning, graduating or going on to be successful,” said Abilene Assistant Superintendent Chris Cooper. “By the end of the year that number will be smaller, probably in single digits. That’s the way it’s typically been the last few years.”
Cooper further noted that high school students are considered to be “at benchmark” if they measure beyond eighth grade reading capacity.
“That’s a measure that tells us if you can read at the expected rate at the end of eighth grade with comprehension then you can be successful,” Cooper explained. “Reading will not stop you from being successful.”
Following the development of the USD 435 Strategic Plan in 2013, the district began implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) for each academic area to help prevent students from “falling through the cracks.” The system uses assessments and interventions to make sure students understand basic learning concepts so there are no missing pieces.
Reading was the first area implemented.
The school district’s reading screener results were one of many statistics shared with the USD 435 Board of Education Nov. 11 as part of a District Learning Update.
The report touched on numerous topics including enrollment, social-economic status according to free, reduced or paid lunch, screeners, state assessments, ACT scores, Kindergarten success, graduation rates and post-secondary success.
The screener shows that most Abilene students are either “on track” or “well above” in reading at all levels, except Kennedy Primary School where the majority of students are just learning to read.
There, 20 percent screen at high risk, 40 percent at “some risk” and 40 percent are “on track.”
While students overall have improved their reading abilities, there’s still room for improvement, Cooper said.
“We need to accelerate this faster. We need to see the numbers we have at the high school more about the time they hit Eisenhower (Elementary, fourth and fifth grades),” he said. “The end of the third grade is where we’d like to see these kids on benchmark with reading.”
When asked how Abilene students compare with others statewide, Cooper said screener data cannot be compared because districts are not required to use just one screener.
“We do get calls from other districts because not many districts are seeing these kinds of numbers — particularly at the middle school and high school,” Cooper said, adding that people who examine screening data cannot share results from other districts but have told him and Superintendent Greg Brown that Abilene’s results are “good.”
MTSS in math began a couple years after reading, so the process is not as far along; however, Cooper said the district is starting to see math results similar to what’s seen in reading.
At the high school level, 31 percent are “well above” in math, 41 percent are “on track,” 23 percent are at “some risk,” while 5 percent are at “high risk.”
At Abilene Middle School, 68 percent of students are either “on track” or “well above” in math.
Eisenhower students also are doing well with 53 percent in the on track and well above categories as is McKinley Elementary where 67 percent are measuring at higher levels.
For the youngest students at Kennedy Primary, 16 percent are “well above” and 33 percent are “on track,” 25 percent are considered “at risk” and 26 percent are at “high risk.”
The FastBridge Behavior screener, SAEBRS (Social, Emotional, Behavior Rating Scale), consists of teachers filling out surveys about students and students in second through 12th grades filling out questions designed to show whether they are at risk.
“They (students) didn’t say ‘we’re at risk,’ but it’s the way they answered the questions,” Cooper explained. “We knew beforehand that middle school and high school students would rate themselves more at risk than the teachers would. We were told that by FastBridge.”
At the high school level, 30 percent of students considered themselves to be at risk, while 70 percent said they were at no risk. Whereas, Abilene High School teachers felt only 8 percent were at risk, while 92 percent had no risk.
At the middle school, 31 percent of students felt they were at risk while 69 percent were no risk. On the other hand, their teachers felt only 11 percent were at risk, while 89 percent felt there was no risk.
Contact Kathy Hageman at firstname.lastname@example.org.