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Superintendents Join Forces to Improve Regional Reading Scores

West Michigan educators are taking a collaborative approach to boost third-grade student reading proficiency up to the 80 percent mark in five years.

Superintendents are joining forces in the new Region 3West Michigan K-3 Reading Now Network to glean knowledge from each other in meeting the goal for third-grade students in all demographic groups, and to zero in on intervention strategies for students not up to par. Region 3 is represented by 100 superintendents in 13 counties: Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa.

“It’s truly about replicating our strengths,” said Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Pete Haines, a member of the Reading Now Network steering committee.

The goals of the network were recently introduced at the Michigan Association of School Administrators meeting.

“It’s creating a much bigger pool of potential resources,” Haines said.A Byron Center Public Schools elementary student works on a reading activity

What is the Need?

The focus on third grade is crucial because research shows children who do not read proficiently in third grade are at a much higher risk of failing to graduate from high school, struggle in other areas of school and end up in jail or on welfare.  

“Reading is probably the most important skill in terms of being successful,” said Region 3 President Tom Reeder, Wyoming Public Schools superintendent.

In West Michigan, 67.84 percent of students scored proficient on the reading portion of the MEAP test in the fall of 2012. Statewide, that number was 66.5 percent. The region as a whole has improved from 61.17 percent proficient in 2008-2009.

Reeder said the network aims to look at practices that are working at schools, and see what lower-performing schools can learn from higher-performing ones.

“How do we take the concern around not only third-grade reading, but reading in general and how do we support each other?” he asked.

Peer-to-peer visits, shared knowledge, resources and professional development are great ways to start, he said. Helping each other will hopefully improve test results statewide. 

“This would open up avenues for more teachers to make connections,” Reeder said.

Districts considered to be “beating the odds” despite an at-risk population can demonstrate how they have achieved good results. Eighteen schools in the region have been recognized as “Reward” schools for narrowing the gap between the lowest and highest performing students.

Haines said commitment from schools will require collaborating, cooperating and not competing.  

In his own district, two lower performing elementary schools collaborated with higher performing ones to model successful efforts. All schools saw improvement by sharing strategies, he said.

Other goals include assisting parents in helping their children read, including non-English speaking or non-reading parents.

CONNECT

“Third Grade Reading and Reality” by Ron Koehler, Kent ISD assistant superintendent   

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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