NISD third graders gain in reading proficiency while working toward end-of-year goal

Seventeen percent of third grade students in Natalia ISD are currently at or above grade level in reading comprehension and fluency, just under halfway to the district’s stated goal of 35 percent for the 2018-2019 school year.
That figure, which is based off a pair of benchmarking tests administered earlier this year, is an increase from the 2017-2018 school year, when twenty-eight percent of third graders finished the year at or above reading level.
Just six percent of third graders were at or above reading level at the midway point of that school year.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Donald Stewart presented data on students’ middle-of-the-year reading levels at the School Board meeting on Feb. 25, and pointed out that State curriculum standards for reading call for higher-order thinking by third grade.
“That’s why it’s so critical for us to be able to make sure that students are on grade level each year, especially by third grade,” Stewart said.
The district’s goal is for 40 percent of third grade students to be at or above grade level in reading comprehension and fluency by the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and for 45 percent to meet that same standard at the end of the 2020-2021 year.
“Students are still having to master a year, the current year of information, as well as at times catch up,” Stewart said. “So there’s a lot of work that has to go into this.”
Instructional day strategies for increasing reading levels include the use of instructional resources, Reading Plus monitoring, the reorganization of student intervention groups based on student ability, and targeted support for teachers from the Curriculum and Instruction department.
Outside of the instructional day, there is targeted intervention and daily progress monitoring, as well as weekly monitoring based on the Texas Education Agency’s TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).
“The effective use of academic inputs is increasing our students’ ability to read on grade level,” Stewart said. “We’re seeing that our students who read on grade level are improving.”
Stewart also said that consistently making data-driven decisions allowed the district to more quickly respond to students’ needs.
“Rather than wait until the end of the year, we’re trying to catch students up as quickly as possible, the minute we identify there is a need,” Stewart said. “And for students who are performing at grade level, this allows them to keep progressing.”
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer