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District announces new literacy plan
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MONROE - Monroe elementary schools will use a new literacy plan next year that emphasizes students become better writers so they can improve as readers.

Monroe elementary school principals introduced the new literacy plan to the school board last week, along with a review of testing data that shows where students are currently.

Students at each grade level are displaying steady progress in meeting reading proficiency targets on state and district tests, Monroe School District Superintendent Cory Hirsbrunner said. But teachers are working to make sure that more students meet growth targets that show improvement over the course of a school year.

"We found the literacy of the curriculum is not where it needs to be," Northside Elementary School Principal Amy Timmerman said. "We have found that we need to be doing something differently and better. We will have to put in a lot of work to get it ready for the fall."

To that end, the district plans to implement a Lucy Calkins writing workshop model in the elementary schools next year. Calkins is a professor and founder of the reading and writing project at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The writing workshop Monroe will use includes writing lessons, book study groups, and aligned units of study.

"We know the more writing students do, the more improvement they make on their reading," Abraham Lincoln Accelerated Learning Academy Principal Sara Latimer said.

The district uses three tests including the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills test (DIBLES), the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) and the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination to assess students' ability in reading and math. The DIBLES test is used with kindergarten through third grade and measures fluency, phonemic awareness, accuracy and comprehension. The MAP test is a computerized test students take that is designed to measure growth and proficiency through progressively harder questions.

"All of those tests we use to see if students have the skills to be good readers," Hirsbrunner said. "We have always used proficiency targets, but the growth is kind of new. This gives us an indication if someone is not meeting a benchmark than we can offer some interventions."

Scores from the district's three elementary schools show the difference between testing data. For example, in fall 2010, 82 percent of fourth-graders at Parkside Elementary School were proficient on the WKCE reading test. In 2011, 74 percent of Parkside fifth-graders were proficient on the WKCE reading test.

But the MAP test that measures reading growth in students shows a different picture.

In 2010-11, 64.8 percent of Parkside fourth-graders met their reading growth target, compared to the national average of 75 percent. In 2011-12, 62 percent of Parkside fifth-graders met their reading growth targets; the national average is 65 percent.

The DIBELS test also backs up the MAP test data: In 2010-11, 60 percent of Parkside third-graders in the fall met the proficiency levels on the DIBELS test and 50 percent met the benchmark in the spring.

"I think out of all the assessments we look at, MAP is a pretty good measure of where students are," Parkside School Principal Todd Paradis said. "We know the WKCE is not a good assessment. I think the DIBELS is a good indicator.

"We want to be in the 90th percentile for growth," Paradis said of the long-range goal. "The goal this year is to be at 75-percent growth targets. We don't want to be at 50 percent of our kids reaching growth targets. That would tell you something about our core instruction."

On the DIBELS test, 58 percent of Abe Lincoln second-graders in 2010-11 met the benchmark in the fall and 50 percent met the standard in the spring. Last year, 62 percent of third-graders met the benchmark in the fall and 54 percent met the target in the spring.

"Students are growing, just not enough to hit that proficiency mark," Latimer said.

She said she restructured the schedule at Abe Lincoln this year to offer more literacy intervention for students to help them meet benchmarks.

Hirsbrunner said the district may use school building budget funds to send teachers to a summer training on the new literacy plan.

"The professional development has already started," Hirsbrunner said of the writing and reading workshop. "We have small pockets of teachers already trained."