The North Carolina State Schools Superintendent is recognizing Alexander County Schools for the work the district has done with reading. Catherine Truitt told the State Board on Thursday that Alexander County Schools should be commended for its work, particularly with kindergarteners. The news is especially welcomed because beginning of the year checks showed Alexander County kindergartners behind other five-year-olds in the state.
Truitt said improvement in scores is a testament to the teachers and students.
This is about the “fruits of the labor of our educators,” said Truitt.
The scores are from state-mandated tests on measures called Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). The checks are done one-on-one by the teachers with students and measure foundational skills for reading. For the past year-and-a-half all Alexander County elementary school teachers have been taking state training to help teach the foundational skills of reading.
“The state’s emphasis on the Science of Reading professional development is time-consuming and rigorous, but our staff does all that they are charged with doing to a high degree of excellence,” says Curriculum and Instruction Associate Superintendent Dr. Betsy Curry.
Curry says she is proud of the state recognition. She believes credit goes to staff, instructional coaches, and a whole team approach.
“Our parents also deserve credit for their efforts in reading to their children and ensuring students participate in tutoring and summer activities,” adds Curry.
DIBELS is given three times a year to all kindergarten through third-grade students. At the beginning of the year, 65% of Alexander County five-year-olds were considered well-below average on DIBELS.
“They are coming in so new to everything and there’s a wide range. Some have been in preschool and know all their letters and some can’t even hold a pencil,” says Bethlehem kindergarten teacher, Kayla Hamby.
Over the course of the 2022-23 school year, the number of Alexander kindergarteners who were well-below average was whittled from 65% down to nine percent.
Hamby has taught kindergarten for four years. She says using interventionists and assistants for reading is crucial.
“Having TA’s in our room, it’s another teacher. We use them very strategically in our stations, so they are working with a small group as well,” added Hamby.
While the kindergarteners, first and second graders made good progress this year, third-graders did not grow quite as much. Third-graders were hit hard by the pandemic missing a good deal of kindergarten and first grade when they would normally learn to read. Alexander County School third graders followed a statewide trend of slower gains.
Superintendent Truitt points out End-of-Grade tests results will be released later this year, which is a different test for reading. She says her office is continuing to use federal money to study learning loss due to the pandemic and target the funds to best help the state’s students.