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Sullivan school system announces elementary reading gains

Rick Wagner • Feb 5, 2019 at 7:15 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Reading is improving across all Sullivan County elementary schools in grades K-3.

Sullivan elementary students showed gains in recent testing, with evidence of improvement districtwide, said Robin McClellan, supervisor of elementary education.

The Sullivan County Department of Education announced Monday what it called “promising academic progress” in gains seen across all elementary schools and among students of all reading levels. McClellan said they resulted from investments in new reading curriculum, known as Amplify CKLA, and teacher training in that program.

WHAT WERE DECREASED PERCENTAGES OF STUDENTS IDENTIFIED AS AT-RISK READERS?

The district achieved what she called a significant decrease in the number of students with “at-risk” levels of reading proficiency, from 37.8 percent of students in the fall screening to 29.9 percent in the winter screening. This means that the district had 351 fewer elementary students with an at-risk designation for reading. The gains were most pronounced in first and second grade, which saw 8.8 and 10.6 point drops in the percentage of at-risk students, respectively.

“We want to have every child out of the at-risk categories as much as we can,” McClellan said.

All 11 county elementary schools in the district saw decreases in at-risk students. Central Heights Elementary School near Blountville showed particularly strong gains, with approximately 20 percent fewer​ ​students considered to be at risk in first, second and fourth grades, McClellan said.

WHAT IS CKLA, AND WHAT ARE THE TESTS?

Core Knowledge Language Arts is the program, which is in all K-3 classrooms in the system. 

“Our teachers with our district learn all about it, try it and get back” to the schools, McClellan said of CKLA professional development. “Then they teach each other.”

As for results, McClellan said the district tests all students in kindergarten through sixth grade three times per year, per Tennessee mandates, to gauge reading and math proficiency.

The “universal screener” assessments help the district to benchmark its students’ performance versus national benchmarks and also to identify students who are at risk of not meeting grade level expectations and therefore need additional academic support in reading or mathematics. School teams use the data to tailor activities for students, based on their specific academic needs.

This year’s winter screening showed historic gains in reading, more than normal or expected, McClellan said.

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