Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New technology benefits elementary school readers
by Amanda Dodson, Contributing Writer
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Billy Payne/The Stokes News Rep. Holloway dropped in on older children at Pine Hall Elementary as the reading assessment program is being expanded from just kindergarten to K-fifth grade.

Gone are the days when students were passed to the next grade level unable to read. Today students are not only learning to read earlier, but they’re learning to read more proficiently. In December of 2010, Pine Hall Elementary was chosen to receive Reading 3D, a measurement tool designed to provide data to insure literacy skills.

As part of Governor Beverly Perdue’s Ready, Set, Go! Initiative, the program provides each teacher from kindergarten through fifth grade a handheld device, similar to an iPad, installed with educational books. The new technology allows teachers to perform individual reading assessments on their students.

Amy Musten, principal of Pine Hall Elementary, said: “It’s given us more specific information on ways to attack deficits in reading. We want to close the gaps for those who are struggling and figure out how to address the problems.”

Musten said the program is set up to record each child’s progress from kindergarten through fifth grade while determining their learning needs. “Reading is one of the biggest issues we address in elementary school,” she explained. “Math requires a specific skill set. Reading is a more ambiguous area because it takes so many components to develop a good reader.”

Musten is pleased that the program is able to detect and pinpoint where a child is struggling in his/her reading skills. This allows the teacher to customize an effective individual plan.

The statewide initiative began by piloting 27 elementary schools across NC last year. Since then it has added over 400 participating schools and has partnered with North Carolina Teacher Academy to provide continuous support even through the summer months. Their goal is to detect early diagnosis for students struggling to read and assist teachers and administrators to reinforce the basic learning skills.

First grade teacher at Pine Hall Elementary, Angela Corum, is pleased with the results from the diagnostic initiative. She uses the technology in her classroom on a one-on-one basis.

“We go through a list of words, and I’m able to check for fluency and pinpoint their language development,” Corum said. The program also allows her to graph student’s progress throughout the year.

“It gives me a chance to see where they’ve come and what we need to work on,” Corum said.

After each evaluation, Corum sends the results from the diagnostic test to the children’s parents.

“They seem to appreciate the information. It gives them an opportunity to see where their child is in their reading, and it offers ideas to help families work together at home,” Corum said.

For many of the children, this is the second year using the Diagnostic Initiative. According to test scores in Corum’s class, she sees an improvement in her students reading grades. Corum said: “They’re very confident. It gives them independence when they can sound words out; there’s a power that comes with reading.”

NC House Representative Bryan Holloway agreed and went to see firsthand how the new technology is assisting the elementary school students at Pine Hall.

“It was very impressive. It’s definitely a tool that will benefit many children,” Rep. Holloway said.

Rep. Holloway walked through classrooms throughout the school and was encouraged by how the tool gave teachers instant feedback on student’s reading performances and showed exactly where the children were in their reading progress.

“Our world depends on technology,” Rep. Holloway said, “We don’t want our students to fall behind. This is an initiative that will keep children on the right track.”

Read more: The Stokes News - New technology benefits elementary school readers

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