Dolores third-grade reading scores show improvement

Dolores third-grade reading scores improved on the state standardized test this spring compared with last year.

The percentage of third-grade students who met or exceeded the state expectations improved to 72.3 percent, up from 67.3 percent in 2013. The current percentage of students in these two categories is now on par with the state average.

Dolores Elementary School Principal Sherri Maxwell said she was pleased with a continuing trend of third-graders scoring advanced proficient in reading. This year, five students, or 10 percent, scored advanced on the test. The percentage has continued to increase from 6 percent in 2012 to about 8 percent in 2013, according to state data.

"I'm really tickled," Maxwell said about the trend.

Another positive trend was the low number of students who scored unsatisfactory on the test. Last year, two students scored in this category.

Third-grade reading scores are released before the other state standardized test scores because the research shows that third-graders who unable to read at grade level continue to struggle. The state emphasizes identifying students who are struggling early, she said.

Maxwell attributed the success of her students partially to reading tutors who spend time with the students in small groups. The elementary school has employed eight people - four teachers and four paraprofessionals - who spend time tutoring reading and math for five years.

Unlike other local districts, the Dolores Elementary school decided not to employ a Burst reading interventionist that would have been funded through the Colorado READ Act but chose to continue with the Orton-Gillingham curriculum, which is a multisensory phonics program. The reading tutors at Dolores have been using the program for four years, and classroom teachers started implementing it last fall.

However, the district did take state funding for the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills test, and Maxwell said she is pleased with those reading test scores, which are also evaluated by the state.

"Our DIBELS scores are out of this world," she said.

She said only 13 percent of the students in kindergarten through third grade require intensive intervention. Only 2 of the 60 Dolores kindergartners show need for intensive intervention in reading.

The Dolores schools, like all the districts across the state, expect scores to dip next year after new state tests are introduced. Dolores students took the computer-based tests this past spring, but the districts will not be held accountable for those scores when they come back.

The new tests are based on revised state standards and fall into two categories:

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests will focus on English language arts and mathematics.

The Colorado Measures of Academic Success will test science and social studies. Fifth- and eighth-graders will be tested in science, and fourth- and seventh-graders will be tested in social studies.

Maxwell said the school was preparing for the new tests by continuing to build curriculum around state standards.