A focus on reducing novice readers in schools
Reducing the number of students performing at the novice level in reading on the state assessment remains a goal in a Comprehensive District Improvement Plan (CDIP) approved by the Woodford County Board of Education last month. The Kentucky Department of Education requires every school district to include novice-reduction goals for students in specific sub-group populations in its CDIP. Students who qualify for free/reduced lunch, students with disabilities and minority populations are among the subgroups identified for novice reduction in the annual improvement plan. While those CDIP goals only identify specific subgroups, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said the district has a broader target. “That is a focus for all of our schools – novice reduction in general,” Hawkins told board members on Dec. 14. “Our goal,” he continued, “is to try to reduce the number of novice (performing students) across the board whether they’re in a subgroup or not in a subgroup. We want to drive that number down.” In addressing the critical need to move every student out of the novice performance level, Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm said, “You can be an apprentice reader (one level above novice) and you can have the skills necessary to do really great, important jobs that’ll make you a contributing member of society and make you a good living.” He said early-grade foundational skills are critical for a student to become a successful reader. Being very intentional about oral language development also plays an important role in a student becoming a better reader in those early grades, he added. In addressing board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV’s concern related to the number of students performing at the novice level rising as they move from elementary to middle and high school, Hawkins cited an opportunity gap. He said the achievement gap can widen over a summer because those students don’t have the same opportunities as their peers. “Yes, it’s about having great instruction,” Hawkins explained. “But it’s also about providing kids opportunities … Let them go to a play as a first-grader that they wouldn’t otherwise get to be able to do.” Such performance arts opportunities are being provided to every student in Woodford County schools through a partnership with the Woodford Educational Endowment Foundation. Before concluding his CDIP presentation to the school board, Brehm provided an overview of the instructional framework happening in classrooms across the district. “We know that for all kids to achieve success – what their brains want is something consistent, yet novel,” he explained. “The consistency in lessons should be the structure of a lesson. And that allows you as a teacher to put novel pieces within” a lesson. Other ongoing efforts to improve student achievement were also covered in Brehm’s presentation. For example, he said additional counselors in the elementary schools – made possible by a grant – are focused on developing social and emotional wellness curriculum for students.