(Special to westernkansasnews.com)
ST. FRANCIS, Kan. — A new program helping students read at grade level, a prospect with life-changing benefits, is coming to St. Francis, Kansas.
Supt. Robert Schiltz announced that St. Francis Elementary School has been awarded a grant for the 2018-2019 school year to take part in the Kansas Reading Roadmap (KRR), a program already underway in 63 sites across the state.
KRR works with public schools to make sure all children are reading at grade level by the second semester of the third grade. Longitudinal studies show that children reading at grade level by the fourth grade are four times more likely to graduate high school on time.
In January, St. Francis Elementary School will launch the after-school program designed to help children in grades K-3 raise their reading proficiency. Targeting, but not limited to, striving readers, the program aligns afterschool instruction with what students are taught during the school day.
“In my 32 years with the district, I think this may be the best academic opportunity we’ve had,” Schiltz said. “In time, we expect this to help our state assessments and our ACT scores to go up, and for this to ensure no student leaves our district as a struggling reader.”
Directing the reading program at St. Francis will be Program Coordinator Kattie Aldaco, a 2008 graduate of St. Francis schools, who most recently served as a paraeducator at St. Francis High School.
KRR used the grant award ceremony at St. Francis to announce the release of its annual report for the 2017-2018 school year. The report can be viewed at www.readingroadmap.org/kansas
“Over the past several years we have developed a program that is really successful at driving achievement,” said KRR Director Andrew Hysell. “We are excited to partner with St. Francis Elementary School to produce the kind of data-driven progress we’ve seen at other schools across Kansas.”
Recent evaluation shows that KRR afterschool participants are five times more likely to achieve grade-level reading than their peers, as measured by school-administered assessments.
“Rural schools are the backbone of so many Kansas communities,” said Sen. Rick Billinger, who attended the announcement. “The return on investment from the Reading Roadmap in a school like St. Francis, there’s just no way to calculate it.”
Students identified through screening as needing additional support in literacy will meet after school, Monday through Thursday, for individualized programming aligned with in-school instruction. They will improve their skills through stories, songs, poems and reading activities, receive a healthy snack and engage in active Healthy Kids sessions. As an extension of the school’s intervention system, progress in the afterschool program is monitored by school data.
One feature of KRR is an eight-session series called Literacy-integrated Family Engagement (LIFE) that brings parents and siblings of students in the program to the school to support children’s reading. Participants eat a meal together and engage in relationship-strengthening activities centered around literacy.
KRR also provides curriculum and support for a summer enrichment program that helps combat “summer slide,” when many students experience atrophy in their reading skills. On average, students lose two months of reading skills during the summer break.
KRR is a partnership between local schools, the Kansas Technical Assistance System Network (TASN), and the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). Through a multi-year partnership with KRR, participating schools and Boys & Girls Clubs have dramatically increased reading proficiency among third graders.