AMS takes top award for gains in reading
by Cheree Dye
Aug 17, 2014 | 1837 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Common Core standards dictate that middle school students should read a million words during the school year. At Adairsville Middle School, the students and faculty met that challenge head on and the results were award-winning. During the 2013-14 school year, approximately 700 students read 48,653 books equating to nearly 70 books per student. The investment into reading brought a return of improved Lexile scores and the designation of AMS as a High Performing Middle School. The school ranked top on a list of 23 middle schools throughout the state participating in the Striving Readers Grant.

In July, AMS Principal Brian Knuchel received the Crystal Apple Award as a token of the school’s increased scores on a reading program called Lexile. According to the website, www.lexile.com, “The Lexile Framework for Reading is a scienti­c approach to reading and text measurement.” Two Lexile measures are used to determine and monitor the student’s growth in reading ability over time. First, the Lexile reader measure identifies a student’s ability to read based on the Lexile scale. This operates in conjunction with the Lexile text measure, which classifies a text’s difficulty on the Lexile scale.

AMS Assistant Principal Suzi Lance attributed much of the success to the accessibility of e-books procured through money from the Striving Readers Grant.

“I believe the fact that our kids are reading and reading tremendously more because they have greater availability through the e-books and our regular library books. If they can’t get it in the library, they can check it out online through our e-book system with their laptops.”

As a requirement of the Striving Readers Grant, a participating school must test students three times a year to determine the school’s Lexile score. The test is a Scholastic Reading Inventory and measures the students reading and comprehension ability.

Lance said, “Last year we tested three times and our kids showed the greatest gains as far as middle schools. There were four middle schools and four elementary schools recognized for high scores. Kingston Elementary was another local school identified as one of the four high performing elementary schools.”

Other aspects Lance factors into the school’s accomplishment were the online remedial programs also purchased through the Striving Readers Grant, as well as the consistent approach taken by the AMS reading teachers across all grade levels.

Students are required to earn 30 points per nine weeks, which is counted as their final exam grade. Points are acquired through reading books and are assigned on the basis of the book’s size and difficulty.

Lance noticed a remarkable difference last year after the students received laptops for school use. It was the first year of the 1:1 Conversion in Bartow County, which replaced textbooks with laptops.

“Every student has a MacBook and having the ability to pique their interest through the online lessons is amazing. Everything they were able to do with technology last year really inspired the kids to read,” she said.

Every school that receives Striving Readers Grant funds must identify a specific goal, how the money will be used and the plan intended for accomplishing the objective.

Julie Morrill, literacy program director for the Georgia Department of Education, said, “Adairsville Middle had one of the highest scores in terms of growth. This award is well deserved and it shows they are strongly implementing their logistical plan.”

With 88 percent of the student body scoring proficient or above last year on the Lexile measure, Knuchel and Lance look to increase the precent of students considered proficient to 90 this year.

Knuchel said, “We have a great teaching staff here and while this technology has helped get the kids engaged, it is still the teachers that make the successes happen. If we didn’t have great teachers it wouldn’t matter what we have.”