Chuckey-Doak High School is taking steps to ensure freshmen are on high school reading level using a program called Reading Plus.
National data show that students’ reading levels drop between grades four and eight, so high school teachers are left playing catch-up on top of their regular high school workload.
Reading Plus, implemented by both C-DHS and South Greene High School, is a tool ninth-grade teachers use to combat further decline of reading levels.
“I come from an elementary and middle school background, so knowing that reading and reading comprehension is the key to learning, we found that one of the issues we had was a gap in their learning, their reading levels,” C-DHS Principal Shelly Smith said.
Reading Plus is an online program that was implemented as a pilot program mid-year last year at C-DHS.
C-DHS implemented its one-to-one initiative this academic year, so each student has been equipped with a Chromebook computer to use the service.
Smith explained that research pertaining to the Reading Plus program shows that it aides in increasing students’ reading and learning levels “significantly.”
Ninth-grade English teacher Tara Baker believes that starting the program at the beginning of the academic year has made it more successful.
All 150 C-DHS freshmen spend roughly 15 minutes on the program on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as a “bell-ringer.”
“A ‘bell-ringer’ literally is what it sounds like, when they walk into the classroom, that’s what they first work on as the bells ring,” Baker explained.
The program is divided into three categories: vocabulary, visual literacy and reading skills.
“It really helps you like improve your reading and like how fast you read, like at a pace,” C-DHS Freshman Stacy Kidd said.
Other 9th graders echoed that the program aides them in building comprehension skills.
“I know bigger words now,” Andrew Monk of C-DHS said.
The Reading Plus program assists students in more than just English class, as several subjects have become more reading-intensive.
“We’re trying to implement literacy throughout in all of our core classes,” Baker said. “It can help them either get above grade-level or up to grade-level, because we do have a lot of reading gaps especially in this area.”
The Reading Plus program also assesses students’ reading levels and can indicate to the students what grade level they are reading on.
“We read books in different classes, and it helps us comprehend like the words that are used,” freshman Rachel Ricker said.
C-DHS students echoed that the program is helping them read faster as well as improve their comprehension skills.
“It’s easier to comprehend the words in like other articles that you read in other subjects,” C-DHS freshman Wade Fletcher said.
Smith explained that the school is trying several additional methods to make the transition into high school easier for the students.
“We also do the freshman academy this year, which is something new for us so all of our freshmen are in one area of the building for their core classes and the teachers are teaching in teams,” Smith said.
Smith also added that the teachers work together to “do things to help with that camaraderie and help with that transition to high school that’s so difficult.”
HOW IT WORKS
The Reading Plus program offers students various categories of articles to select. Once the student has chosen a particular article on a specific topic, the screen will blur and individual words or short phases will begin to be highlighted within the article for the student to read along with.
As soon as the student begins to read, the user-friendly program software will adjust to the student’s reading level and reveal the next word or phrase at the speed befitting that level.
After the article is read, the student will have to answer several questions pertaining to it. Students will only have two or three more chances to go back and search for answers in the article before the timer runs out, depending on their reading grade level.
“You can choose, like if you get through an article, if you want to increase your words per minute or go faster or slower,” Monk said.
Monk and Fletcher both said that though the reading program is not necessarily used in the agricultural classes at C-DHS, they have utilized skills obtained through the program in those classes since they can sometimes be more reading-intensive.
Since the program is online, additional articles are constantly being made available to students.
“Everything from sports to history, food, anything that they may be interested in — there’s categories that they can choose,” Baker said. “I think that is what helps make this more successful than other reading programs, that choice in the beginning.”
Students explained that the program is similar to the iReady software also used by the Greene County School System. However, the students agreed that Reading Plus is preferable to iReady due to the option to choose their own reading topics.
The iReady software is used to test the school district’s kindergarten through eighth-grade students to compare results against national achievement and growth data.
Sometimes teachers are not able to grant students the full 15 minutes to devote to their work on Reading Plus, so the program can be paused and returned to later.
“It’s also really good because if you’re trying to fly through it, it will slow you down or if you’re moving too slow, it’ll tell you to pick up the pace and, you know, focus,” Baker said. “It’s kind of a teacher in itself, for sure.”
Smith announced that the freshman class at C-DHS has improved reading skills by one grade-level through the use of the program.
The program also has a social media aspect so students can communicate openly with teachers if they have any pressing concerns or questions.
The online program also helps students prepare for online testing in the future.