I consider us to have pretty rigorous expectations here, but even with those expectations I worry myself sick about how our students are going to "measure up" with the rest. Will his freshman English teacher ask, "Who was your teacher last year?" and then judge us because he is not measuring up? Will she have difficulty adjusting so much that she falls apart in the fall? The high school IS big, and sometimes the shock is enough to send a kid into melt-down mode.
But most importantly, as a reading specialist, I shake in my shoes as I send kids over - hoping that they've been able to stock up on the most essential skills and praying that the communication I have with the high school will be enough to provide them a window into the students' reading skills and build upon the work we have done here.
Honestly, I'm proud of what we have accomplished this year, so I thought I'd make a list of all of the things that make me most proud in hopes that the rest of you can see just how far we have come.
- I have worked with every LA1 teacher in the building to support them in benchmarking their own students in comprehension using the Performance Series test.
- After I determined which students needed it, every LA1 teacher in the building made an attempt to benchmark at least some (and many - all) of their necessary students in fluency - and FAST. Whatever they were not able to finish, I picked up or helped with the process.
- A collaborative atmosphere was maintained, which allowed decisions to be made and for us to make schedule changes when appropriate.
- I was able to get lists to our schedule guru for SLC classes for next year (because of our timely testing) so that we can deliver more fluency practice (Tier 2) and some additional vocabulary interventions (Tier 2) to those students whose scores and performance show they might need it.
- Trained expert teachers in the building delivered multisyllabic training as a Tier 2 intervention in SLC to students who showed gaps in their decoding skills.
- Expert intervention teachers showered our struggling students in their LA1 classes with good, solid comprehension skills and devices to use when tackling complex text (Tier 1).
- Many of our LA1 teachers and I shared test scores with our students, and some of us even made time to have students set goals and review them at each benchmarking time! Some of us used these scores to help narrow down reading material in the library, and our ET students used them to find more challenging material! (Tier 1) Awesome!
- Every week during grade level meetings, specific students-of-concern were discussed. This often led to Tier 1 strategies and Tier 2 interventions for these students, which were then evaluated and tweaked until we could find the right plan for some of our strugglers.
- Every few weeks, our school psychologist, social worker, speech pathologist, reading specialist, and an administrator were able to meet and review data, student concerns, and next steps for some of our kiddos who were brought up as concerns to the grade level teams. This led to a small group of Tier 3 students.
- Several teachers and administrators in the building, along with myself, set aside time once every two weeks to help progress monitor our 120+ students who were receiving Tier 2 and 3 interventions. Much of this took place during SLC time.
- I have had conversations with reading specialists at all of our feeder elementary schools regarding specific students who will need support next year. Communication between myself and the bilingual teachers of transitioning students have occured. And I have been able to sit and discuss individual students with our high school reading specialist, as well, so she knows which students to target at the beginning of the year.
- More content area teachers have expressed interest in collaborating with me on projects, reading skills within the content areas, and using student data to explain student learning. Much of this happened this year, and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn from these teachers and work with their students.
- And last of all, we have worked together to create readers. Are they all readers? No, but how can they not see the passion that many of our teachers have for reading? Some of our SLC interventions were delivered flawlessly and skillfully by teachers with expertice in subjects other than the language arts. We had teachers of several content areas require independent reading every day. And over twenty teachers in the building participated in reading and writing questions for our 2013 Battle of the Books! Incredible.
I also have lists of students who I am watching carefully, and once we finish benchmarking in January, I will spend springtime working on diagnostic testing on students who still seem to be making little progress. I'm excited for this new plan! Additionally, we have some specific, strategic interventions put into place for our students who, even after the multisyllabic training, have made little to no progress in their decoding and fluency. Plans for including parents are also being developed, and a new system for Tier 2 and Tier 3 communication amongst staff will be up and running when school opens in August.
What I have learned this year is that the role of the reading specialist is a bit of a tight-rope walk around here. It's a walk between reading and literacy, in my opinion: reading being the actual skill of reading and literacy being the ability to tackle more complex text, grappling with the meaning, and making beautiful connections. Literacy is at the heart of Common Core, but in order to be literate, you have to first be able to read. In order to learn how to read at this age, you have to want to be literate. In order for us to build these types of learners, we have to have passionate teachers. And that, friends, is the foundation and why my year has been one of gratitude for the passionate people with whom I work.
Have a restful summer. Read a lot. Get ready to run again next fall!