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Parish implementing programs to try and help reading scores

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / January 21, 1998

Although reading scores for second- and third-graders in St. John theBaptist Parish aren’t considered high, the school system isn’t giving up.

With the new state grant, called K-3 Reading Initiative, the parish wasallocated $264,548 to implement programs that will help improvestudents’ reading skills.To get the grant money the parish had to test kindergartners throughthird-graders, Stephenie Watkins, Head Start director, said.

Watkins added that every parish chose a different method of testing, butSt. John Parish used a placement test called D.C. Heath Basal ReadingSeries.

“We administered a reading passage and students were asked questionsabout it,” Watkins said.When scores came in, 52 percent of the second-graders read below theirgrade level and 57 percent of the third-graders fell below theirs. This leftonly 31 percent of the second-graders reading at their grade level and amere 17 percent above their level.

Thirty-three percent of the third-graders were reading at their gradelevel and only 10 percent were considered above their grade level, Watkinssaid.

Watkins said that St. John’s scores couldn’t be compared to other parishesuntil next year. “We will have a statewide assessment next year so thatthe scores will be consistent,” she said.

The reading programs that the grant funded are just being implemented insome of the schools.

“We have received most of the materials and are training the teachers,”Watkins said.

The materials they received are for programs called Land of the LetterPeople for kindergartners, Accelerated Reader and Project Read.

“They are also getting lots and lots of books so classroom reading cornerswill be developed,” Watkins said.

Watkins said grant money for these programs will continue next year ifthe Legislature sees positive results from the parish’s scores.”We’ve got to show some positive results, but we have to be given thetime to implement the programs,” she said. “I’m optimistic about theprogram.”

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