Getting reading right in Madrid – and other schools
April 10, 2014
It’s disturbing that across the state, nearly 25 percent of Iowa third-graders did not reading proficiently on state tests last school year, but that statistic tells only part of the story.
Take a look at individual school districts. In about 10 percent of school districts in 2012-13, the share of third-graders reading proficiently was 90 percent or higher, based on numbers from the Iowa Department of Education. Most of these are very small districts where the tiny number of children taking the test may cause results to fluctuate a lot from year to year. But Madrid, with about 650 students K-12, is not tiny yet produces consistent, impressive results.
Principal Gayle Strickland said Madrid Elementary School teachers regularly study data (both standardized and various district assessments) to see how students are doing, they routinely collaborate to figure out how to better meet student needs, they aren’t afraid to adjust instructional strategies, and talented, experienced mentors work with brand new teachers.
“We let the data drive what we do….Teachers accommodate or modify teaching and the strategies they use to get at the needs of the students….We have had mentors who are top of the line working with our young teachers coming in,” Strickland said.
About a third of Madrid third-graders last school year took free or reduced-price lunch, up from nearly 29 percent the year before. But the share of third-graders reading proficiently rose from 86 percent in 2011-12 to 91 percent in 2012-13.
A key to increasing the share of Iowa third-graders reading proficiently is spreading approaches like Madrid’s across the state. The new Iowa Reading Research Center can help do that, if adequately funded. Governor Branstad has recommended $3.9 million for FY15. The Senate education appropriations bill includes just $2 million, which will shortchange schools.
The new center needs adequate funding to provide districts and nonpublic schools with a system to identify struggling readers early and monitor their progress, as well as provide assistance with intensive intervention and developing summer literacy programs.
Iowa’s new teacher leadership systems, which launch next school year, can also support the more complex work teachers and other educators are being asked to do.
Every elementary school can be as successful as Madrid, if the right support is provided.