On the learning curve

Courtesy photo Third-grade students dissect owl pellets found near small animal skulls; part of the owl thematic unit.

.

By Lillian Bowe
Staff writer
lbowe@pntonline.com

Portales Elementary Schools are trying to bring their reading proficiency scores up by having students near proficiency attend a four-week, four-hour-a-day summer school.

The summer school for elementary students is grades first through third and the school is only focused on literacy.

The school’s goal is to get the students near proficiency in reading to become proficient according to Christine Baca, summer school coordinator.
Being proficient in reading means students are reading at their grade level, according to the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Courtesy photo Third-grade students dissect owl pellets found near small animal skulls; part of the owl thematic unit.

Courtesy photo
Third-grade students dissect owl pellets found near small animal skulls; part of the owl thematic unit.

The percent of third-grade students reading proficiently in Portales in the 2012-2013 based on Standard Base Assessment was 57.40 percent with 21.70 percent at nearing proficient. The state average for students at proficiency was 49 percent.

Baca said many of the students just need extra instruction to become better at reading and be ready for school next year.
According to the NMPED, a student’s ability to read a grade level by third grade is the number one indicator for whether or not the student will complete high school.

Baca said they chose the students by looking at how the child tested in reading with Discovery and Dibels testing.
Parents of each student were contacted about their child attending the summer school. Baca said the schools sent out 200 letters to parents — 91 students attended the school this year.

Henry Montano, director of federal programs, said the program had 120 students last year and the program has averaged from 100 to 120 in years previous.
Baca is also the literacy coach at Valencia Elementary School and this is the first year she has coordinated the four-week summer school and had a clear plan for it.
Baca said some of the different themes the students concentrated on were weather, history of baseball and nocturnal animals.
From these themes, the students read different materials, had a reading theater, wrote poetry and engaged in hands on projects related to the theme.
“With the weather theme, the students got to observe clouds and learn the different formations, then they had to write poems about it,” Baca said.
Baca said she wanted to make the summer school fun for the kids and more hands on. Baca said students told her that they were excited to come to the school as she had 34 students with perfect attendance.
“I was so pleased to see that many students having perfect attendance. A lot of the students in the summer don’t want to come every day and this year they were excited,” Baca said.
Students improved, according to Baca. Some students mastered 90 units in Lexia, which teaches students the five core reading skills that determine proficiency.
“They really excelled this year. It was a good learning experience,” Baca said.