May 21—LUMBERTON — Some primary students have shown promise in literacy improvements measured by end-of-year testing, according to the Public Schools of Robeson County.
The results come after about 4,500 kindergarten, first, and second-grade students completed their end-of-year literacy assessments on May 13. Early elementary students were assessed at the beginning and middle of the school year as well.
Oxendine Elementary School, East Robeson Primary School and Rex Rennert Elementary School were among the top elementary schools in the district to show significant growth.
Results in kindergarten specifically showed an increase in reading proficiency of approximately 50%.
At the beginning of the year, 1,152 kindergarten students, which accounts for 77% of the total number of kindergarten students, scored well below the benchmark, according to North Carolina state standards. Only 54 kindergarten students scored above the benchmark.
At the end of the year, 372 kindergarten students scored above the benchmark, accounting for 25% of all kindergarten students in the district. At the start of the school year, only 99 kindergarten students scored as proficient readers at their grade level in comparison to 511 students at the end of the year.
"The goal of K-2 literacy instruction is to ensure that students enter the third-grade reading on grade level and possess the necessary skills to be fluent readers," said Zach Jones, the district's K-2 Curriculum supervisor.
In addition, letter sounds fluency, which is one of the leading predictors of reading ability, increased by 53% from the beginning to the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
The results from the end-of-year assessment illustrate several areas of celebration for PSRC early elementary students and teachers.
The district's composite score in all three grade levels had decreased at the start of the school year when students performed below grade level, but increased when students performed at or above grade level proficiency.
This is a powerful indicator of how critical face-to-face instruction is for enhancing academic performances and outcomes, according to the school district.
Robert Locklear, assistant superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability states, "having students back in the classrooms on a daily basis made a significant difference on how teachers were able to work with students one-on-one based on individual needs. Our teachers and instructional support staff used weekly data points to drive their instruction, which in turn increased student achievement."
The focus on early literacy skills allows PSRC teachers and leaders to track cohorts of students beginning in kindergarten to ensure they remain on the path to college or career readiness.
"The goal of the Public Schools of Robeson County is to ensure that all students receive a quality education that leads to success as college or career-ready graduates of the district. This pathway to college and career readiness begins in kindergarten with systematic literacy instruction and early intervention when necessary," according to the school district.
mClass DIBELS 8 is the state-mandated reading assessment for kindergarten, first, and second grade.
When implemented as recommended, DIBELS results can be used to evaluate individual student development as well as provide grade-level feedback toward validated instructional objectives. This assessment helps teachers determine how students are performing concerning essential reading skills. The data from the assessment is critical so that teachers can target skills necessary for successful beginning reading.
The baseline data is positive news for the district as it prepares for Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) implementation at the beginning of the next school year.
LETRS is state-mandated professional learning that provides teachers and administrators with the deep knowledge required to be literacy and language experts in the science of reading.
The district anticipates the incorporation of the LETRS professional learning with other district initiatives launched this school year. All of these initiatives align with improving teaching and learning in our school district, which will increase student outcomes.
"I would like to thank all employees for their hard work this school year. We have asked a lot of everyone, so we can provide the best learning environment and opportunities for our students. This data is a powerful indicator of our turnaround work and how well our students can perform," said Freddie Williamson, PSRC's superintendent.