At Turnaround School, A Reading Push
by Melissa Bailey | Nov 26, 2010 9:15 am
Posted to: Schools, West Rock, School Reform
As Tavares “Super Reader” Henderson snatched up another 500-page tome at the Brennan/Rogers school, teachers recruited parents to get their students to follow his example.
Tavares (pictured), who’s 13, picked up a copy of Rick Riordan’s “Lost Hero” at his school library last week as parents gathered for report card night at the Wilmot Road school in West Rock, a school with some of the lowest reading scores and highest ambitions for change this year.
Tavares said he has read all the books in Riordan’s first adventure series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, which is based on Greek Mythology.
His new acquisition has 553 pages.
“I’ll read it one night!” he boasted to his principal.
Staff didn’t need to encourage Tavares. At the school book fair, in the hallways, and in one-on-one chats with parents, staff at the K-8 school made an extra effort last week to urge parents of other children to get their students to pick up books at home.
Brennan/Rogers, which comprises Clarence Rogers (K to 2) and Katherine Brennan (3 to 8), was chosen as New Haven’s first in-district “turnaround” school last spring based mostly on low test scores. The school is trying to boost student learning through an influx of energetic new teachers and a longer school day.
Over two-thirds of students at the school are reading behind grade level, according to Principal Karen Lott. Getting them back on track is one major focus, as staff try to “turn around” what was deemed a failing school.
“We have a lot of work to do in terms of reading,” Lott said.
Lott said teachers aimed to hit that message home to parents who showed up at the school last week. Parents of 189 students showed up—an increase of 50 percent over last year’s turnout, according to district figures.
Parents dropped off their young ones at a day care room, grabbed a slice of pizza, and got concrete info on how well their kids are reading. In one-on-one chats with teachers, parents learned how their students scored on the latest reading tests: The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) for grades K to 5 and the Read 180 test for grades 6 to 8.
Using those measures, 68 percent of Brennan/Rogers kids were behind grade level when they came to school in September. In kindergarten, 79 percent of students scored below grade level, and in third grade, 91 percent. See the chart for a breakdown grade by grade.
Students who read below grade level on these tests get extra help in small group sessions with literacy tutors, Lott said. If they still lag behind significantly, they could qualify for even smaller group sessions, she said.
Lott said in order for kids to get on track, they need extra help at home. That’s where parents come in. In parent-teacher conferences this year, teachers emphasized giving parents specifics on their students’ reading level—and guidance on how to help.
One mom walked out of a conference with a charge to help her third-grader, who just joined the school district from Waterbury this year. Her daughter scored a 24 on the DRA, which is on the second-grade level. By the end of second grades, kids are expected to score a 28. By the end of third grade next spring, her daughter will be expected to score a 38 on the test.
Her daughter was working hard to catch up; she sat on the front steps of the school, reading, as her mom spoke to the principal.
In the hallway, Mom sought Lott’s advice on how she could help. Lott encouraged her to listen to her daughter read aloud at home—a key fluency that many kids are missing.
“We’re trying to get more parents involved,” said Lott after the mom and daughter pair left the school.
Inside the school, she said, staff are doing their part to “create a culture of reading.”
Some of that’s happening in the school libraries. Clarence Rogers and Katherine Brennan each have their own.
Katherine Brennan librarian Susan Martinez-Sendoff, who joined the school this year, found that the library did not lend books to students. She opened it up as a lending library, entrusting kids to take books home with them.
Kids jumped at the offer: In October, kids in grades 3 to 8 borrowed 431 books from the library, according to a chart proudly posted on the library wall.
For parents’ night, the school brought in the annual Scholastic Book Fair. Kids scoped out the books during the school day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They sent home wish lists to their parents. On Wednesday night, they pulled their parents over to the books they had set their sights on.
Harrison Staggers (pictured), who’s 6, scored two books on dinosaurs in exchange for getting good grades. He chose “3-D Thrillers: T-Rex and Other Dangerous Dinosaurs.” T-Rex is his favorite dinosaur, he explained, “because they have sharp teeth and eat other dinosaurs.”
“Mommy, I wish I could read one of those books right now,” he said as his family finished eating pizza in the school cafeteria.
Meanwhile, the school’s resident “Super Reader,” Tavares, headed home to start reading. Like many of the parents and guardians, Tavares’ grandmother said she bought him the book as a reward for doing well in school: He got seven As and two Bs.
“Promise me you’re going to go to bed before midnight,” said librarian Martinez-Sendoff, as she checked him out at the register.
Tavares didn’t make that promise. He did offer to hit the sack before finishing the whole book.
“I’ll leave 10 pages for tomorrow,” he said.
Past stories on the Brennan/Rogers School:
• In Garden, Teachers Tackle Special Ed Challenge
• Brennan/Rogers Earns Magnet Status
• No Naps For These Kids
• Turnaround Team Sets To Work
• Two Failing Schools Aim High
• West Rock Kids Reap Two-Wheeled Rewards
• Brennan/Rogers Prepares For Turnaround
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Great story. Keep the momentum going. It is exciting to see the work of dedicated people lighting fires for the curiosity of children in New Haven. It is hard to believe that the library wouldn’t let children take home books.
Good work, Susan.
School libraries should be providing students with books not just to feed their mind ... but also entertain it. Students turn into readers when they have things around that they want to read for fun!
I hope Super Reader Tavares knows that he has been featured on the Rick Riordan’s own author blog… http://rickriordan.blogspot.com/2010/12/happy-holidays-from-zeus-house.html