By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
From 8:10 – 8:30am each morning, Cherokee Elementary School (CES) will be quiet. Students and staff will be participating in a new reading program during that time slot.
The Read Bravely program is aimed at increasing student’s vocabulary development and knowledge and use of phonics.
“So many teachers said we need to refocus on reading,” said CES principal Paula Coker. “It is a valuable part of what we will be doing here.”
Jonnie Walkingstick, a teacher in the Horizon Program for gifted students in Pre-K through fifth grade, commented, “This is self-selective, reading of their choice, so they get to develop a love of reading.”
Last year, CES implemented Letter Land, a phonic-based program, in Kindergarten. This year, that program will be implemented in Pre-K through first grade as well as a new program to help with vocabulary development for grades 1-5 called Words Their Way.
“Your testing data drives everything you do,” said Principal Coker. “So, we looked at what we could do to improve reading. We’re getting there, but we still have a ways to go.”
For the 2011-12 school year, Reading EOG (end-of-grade) scores for CES were as follows: third grade (53 percent), fourth grade (54 percent), and fifth grade (56 percent). The statewide scores for those grades were: third grade (62.9 percent), fourth grade (66.1 percent), and fifth grade (65.6 percent). The statewide score for American Indian students in grades 3-8 was 51.3 percent.
“Test scores are so important,” Principal Coker related. “That’s what we are judged by, but the ultimate goal is for students to be able to read. I think if we do our job with teaching and learning, the kids are going to do what they need to do on the tests.”
Students will choose their books for the Read Bravely program from selections in the Accelerated Reader Program in which the school already participates. The twenty minute reading sessions will be in addition to the daily reading instruction.
CES is also beginning to work with Agelink and the Dora Reed Childcare Center to make the transition from pre-school to elementary school smoother.
Principal Coker commented, “The ability to read defines a person’s life.”
Walkingstick added, “Reading is so fundamentally important. It opens up many opportunities…we want them to be lifelong readers.”