North Central News

Research supports early focus on reading

Michaela Puffer, a reading special hired by Midtown Primary School in Phoenix, worked so successfully with the school’s third graders last year that all of them passed the AIMS reading test. Puffer was later hired as a staff member (photo courtesy of Midtown Primary).

Michaela Puffer, a reading special hired by Midtown Primary School in Phoenix, worked so successfully with the school’s third graders last year that all of them passed the AIMS reading test. Puffer was later hired as a staff member (photo courtesy of Midtown Primary).

Recent research indicates that third graders who can read at grade level are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. These findings led Arizona and 31 other states to pass laws that identify and retain students if they are unable to read by third grade.

In Arizona, this year’s third-graders are the first group impacted. It’s estimated that about 3,000 students could be retained because their reading levels put them in the “falls far below” category on the AIMS test. The law does provide exemptions for some special education students and English Language Learners. A key aspect of this law is that it encourages schools to identify at-risk students earlier, providing students with the support and tools to succeed all the way to graduation.

Midtown Primary School leader, Judy White, said her K-4 charter has implemented this policy since the school opened its doors in 2002.

“If we keep passing the students who aren’t ready, we are not giving the kids the ability to be successful,” said White. “Our observation is that, for most kids, third grade is the right place to retain students. I’m glad that Arizona is now recognizing and enforcing it.”

Over the last two years, the legislature also appropriated an additional $130 per pupil to schools that serve K-3 students. Schools can use the funding for reading intervention, teacher training and other reading strategies.

Midtown had a reading specialist interning in the third grade last year. One-hundred percent of the third graders passed AIMS reading and there wasn’t a student on campus in the Falls Far Below category in reading. The reading specialist, Michaela Puffer, has been added to the staff this year to continue the strength of Midtown’s reading program, which relies on small group learning and the use of hands-on activities.

Midtown Primary School, 4735 N. 19th Ave., received an A-rating from the Arizona Department of Education. For more information, visit www.midtownprimaryschool.com or call 602-265-5133.

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