Across the Street column: Reading — it’s number one | PostIndependent.com

Across the Street column: Reading — it’s number one

Joyce Rankin
Across the Street

Joyce Rankin

I pointed out in my July column that teachers have many responsibilities. For example, understanding technology, suicide, depression, mental illness, bullying and drug use and providing sex education and safe schools. They also monitor breakfast and lunch programs, and, oh yes, did I mention math and reading? But if reading and math aren't the highest priority, how are our Colorado students performing on assessments? According to the 2018 English, Language Arts (ELA), or reading test, we're not doing well. The Colorado Measurement of Academic Success (CMAS) ELA scores for third-graders show that only 40 percent are reading at grade level. Research has shown that students who cannot read by the end of the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. And according to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 70 percent of all incarcerated adults cannot read at the fourth grade level. They lack reading skills necessary to hold down anything but lower paying jobs.

Reading is at the core of learning, and our Legislature recognized this in 2012 when they passed the READ Act. The READ Act was to ensure students in grades K-3 were getting the help they needed to read at grade level when they exit the third grade. Grants were made available to help students reach this goal, and in the 2017-18 school year 40,533 students with significant reading deficiencies (SRD) were eligible for these grants. The total amount directed at these students last year was $33 million.

With the release of the 2018 Colorado test scores in English, Language Arts (ELA) we found that 40 percent (4 out of 10) of our third-graders are reading at or above grade level as they exit the third grade. That means 60 percent are not reading at grade level, and, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Colorado mirrors what is happening in the United States, and it's been that way since the 1990s.

There's still some good news this month. I'd like to shine a spotlight on two schools in the 3rd Congressional District receiving the Colorado Succeeds Award for Transformational Impact. Awards were based on a data-driven process conducted by an external analyst to select public schools making transformational gains in academic achievement. Only one elementary school, one middle school and one high school in the state are selected.

Carbondale Middle School was a recipient of a Colorado Succeeds Award for Transformational Impact.

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Carbondale Middle School in the Roaring Fork Valley was the recipient of the Middle School Award. I met with Principal Jennifer Lamont last week, and she discussed the reasons for their success.

Delta County School District's Paonia Elementary School was the winner in the elementary category. Principal Sam Cox spoke with elected officials recently about the pride he takes in his students, teaching staff and community. On the English Language Arts assessment from last spring, his sixth-graders scored 81.5 percent proficient. That translates to 8 out of 10 students at or above grade level.

Both schools impressed me by their administrative leadership and partnership between teaching staff, parents and community. Could this be the secret to success?

Thank you for the honor to serve on the State Board of Education, 3rd CD.

Joyce Rankin is a member of the State Board of Education. The Department of Education is located across the street from the Capitol. "Across the Street" will appear monthly.