LEARNING: Reading First program improves students and teachers alike
Camilla Strassels is in her 22nd year of teaching,
yet she feels that she just now is becoming the best instructor she can be.
Strassels is a third-grade teacher at Lake Valley Elementary School in Prescott Valley. This is her second year at the school, and her second year working with the Reading First program.
Lake Valley Principal Danny Brown said the core of Reading First is data. The program requires weekly assessments as to how the children are doing. Reading coaches help the teachers understand how to use the information to improve their kids' levels.
Education professionals said reading coaches and teachers can use the constantly updated information to break students up into level-based groups. This way, teachers teach to the students' individual needs. No one gets bored, and no one falls behind.
"I think (Reading First) has made me a better teacher because it has broken down the components, made me more accountable," Strassels said.
She said the program is structured and her students are definitely benefiting from it.
"They want to read," she said. "Last year, when I started out, getting them to open a book was a drudgery."
Teachers say their classes' reading test scores have increased since they implemented Reading First.
"We're pretty much designing our lessons around the kids' needs," said JoAnne Bindell, principal at Mountain View. "It's changed the way teachers are teaching, for the good."
She said that along with Lake Valley, her teachers regularly attend professional development sessions, something else the program requires.
Carolyn Reeder, a Reading First reading coach at
Territorial Elementary, said the grant money helped give her at-risk students more opportunities and
helped with her school's differential learning.
"Before, we had an assessment we would do after every quarter ... but now we can monitor students throughout the quarter and place them (into the correct level-based group) accordingly," she said.