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Students held back a year?

Clarke to implement state’s Early Literacy program

Second-grade student Aleena Fry, left, works on her reading skills with volunteer Louise Halls at Clarke Community Elementary School Feb. 27.
OST photo by AMY HANSEN Second-grade student Aleena Fry, left, works on her reading skills with volunteer Louise Halls at Clarke Community Elementary School Feb. 27.

In the near future, third grade will be the make it or break it year for students and their reading skills.

During a Feb. 24 Clarke School Board meeting, Tom Roff, Clarke’s curriculum director, said the state has passed an Early Literacy program that will implement early-literacy interventions for all students to be proficient in reading by third grade, or else they could be held back.

“This is going to mean some serious things for a lot of kids,” Roff said.


The state is giving funding to school districts to increase student performance in reading.

Roff said Clarke got $23,000 from the state to start implementing new after-school programs, summer-school programs and other tools designed to help struggling readers.

“Things for parents to be aware of, though, is if kids aren’t meeting the reading by third grade, and the school has done what they can, (the) possibility is the retention of holding them back,” he said.

Next fall, Clarke will be implementing a new universal screener, which has been approved by the state, and use that data to aid in reading proficiency.

The current kindergarten class will eventually be the first third-grade class the Early Literacy program will affect.

Board member opinions

Board member Larry O’Tool asked Roff’s personal feelings on the Early Literacy program.

O’Tool also shared his opinions on the program.

“I’m not opposed to holding somebody back if they’re not developed or not ready to learn that yet. But, I’ve heard so many arguments about peer pressure and the stigma of holding them back,” O’Tool said. “Personally, I think, if by third grade they’re not performing at third-grade levels, then it’s beneficial to the kid to make sure that they are. If that means retaining them back for a year, then I don’t see the problem with it.”

Roff said he hoped the steps along the way will catch students up to the level they should be reading at. He added, there are exemptions for students with severe disabilities.

According to Roff, the school will have to notify the parents on a regular basis if their child is having difficulty in reading and staying on the program’s track.

The program is designed for parents to play a greater role in accountability for their child’s reading skills because the school could provide help and guidance for aiding students when they are at home.

Early education

“I think something that the department of ed(ucation) and the government’s trying to get through this, too, is the effects of preschool, coming into kindergarten ready, and to learn, knowing your letters and your sounds, etc, which will help get them off on the right footing,” Roff said.

He added, the program will try to correct and put accountability on attendance problems for students in kindergarten through third grade.

Negative aspects?

During the school board meeting, Roff showed trepidation when discussing all of the facets of the Early Literacy program and how it could affect young students. He said studies show negative aspects of the reading-retention program for students, and it can be counterproductive when it comes to self-esteem.

“Wouldn’t it be better to do it at third grade than eighth grade or ninth?” O’Tool asked.

Roff said he agreed with O’Tool’s question.

“The goal is, if we can put these summer-school programs and other things in there, we can hopefully catch kids,” Roff said.

“Early intervention,” O’Tool added.

In other Clarke School Board news:

• The board approved the 2014-15 calendar shift from 180 days to 1,080 hours.


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