Steamboat Springs A comprehensive South Routt Elementary School reading initiative created hard work for school staff and students, but it's unlikely there will be complaints from either group as the positive results continue to roll in.
Over the past two years, the percentage of South Routt third-graders reading at an advanced or proficient level has risen from 82 percent in 2001 to 93 percent this year, according to Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) test results.
Although comparing groups of third-graders from two different years is like comparing apples to oranges, the scores do show continued progress, teacher Gay Linke said.
Principal Troy Zabel attributes the progress not only to "outstanding students and a very dedicated staff," but also to the reading initiative that addresses the needs of individual students while continuously evaluating progress and keeping reading fun.
The initiative's different programs, from a "Literacy Carnival" to "Reading Challenge," are like "spokes in a wheel," Zabel said -- no program is more important than any other.
But it's the Yampa school's reading flooding program that provides first- through fifth-graders extensive individualized reading help on a near-daily basis.
Zabel introduced school staff to the flooding concept more than two years ago, after he attended a seminar where the program was discussed.
By the beginning of the 2002-03 school year, school staff had the program up and running.
Under the flooding program, teachers use assessments to determine each student's individual instructional level. Students are grouped together based on those levels -- groups never exceed six students and can be as small as just one -- and for 30 minutes a day, four days a week, a teacher or staff member works with each group, in effect "flooding" the class with instructors.
Flooding instruction is guided; that is, it emphasizes reading strategies and fundamentals in coordination with each group's instructional level. Because teachers reassess students as often as every two days, the flooding groups are dynamic, with students often moving around as their skills progress.
"It's such a positive interaction," Linke said of the flooding program she heads. "(Students) love to show off their reading skills, hoping to move on to the next level."
The flooding program has been so successful that there has been talk in the district of incorporating the program into other curriculum areas, Zabel said.
When the flooding program is accented with fun events such as the Literacy Carnival and Reading Challenge, kids learn to love reading, Zabel said.
"If all you did was guided reading, kids would hate it. You have to have a blend of both" guided reading and activities that foster a love of reading, Zabel said.
The school's Reading Challenge offers students fun incentives for reading. From having pies thrown at his face to being duct-taped to a wall, Zabel has shown his students just how much he wants them to enjoy reading. If the school's students read a total of 200,000 pages by the end of the school year, Zabel will even wear a dress to school.
In March, the South Routt County Literacy Carnival offered preschoolers through fifth-graders a chance to earn free books -- more than 1,000 of them were donated by sponsors -- by participating in activities in two dozen learning booths.
The carnival was a perfect example of how important parental and community support are, Linke said.
Other programs, such as the new "Book PAK-RS" -- Parents and Kids Reading Stories -- help involve parents in the literacy process. The results often are parents who are proud of their child's progress and enthusiastic about the school's programs, Linke said.
Recently released third-grade CSAP reading scores affirm the hard work and reading initiative programs of the school, Linke said.
The 93 percent of South Routt third-graders reading at an advanced or proficient level this year was the highest in the county. Hayden and Strawberry Park Elementary School third-graders tested at 91 percent.
This year's impressive third-grade CSAP results leave teachers like Linke excited for next year's tests.
"Our hard work has paid off and our kids are getting it," she said.