Education

Bibb students make big gains on reading achievement

These barbers did more than cut hair when they visited a Macon elementary school

Boys at Hartley Elementary School got free haircuts on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, during the "Books with Barbers" event at the school. A partnership between several local barbers and the school’s Family Engagement program made the haircuts possible. T
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Boys at Hartley Elementary School got free haircuts on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, during the "Books with Barbers" event at the school. A partnership between several local barbers and the school’s Family Engagement program made the haircuts possible. T

The number of Bibb County third- and fifth-graders reading on grade level has increased substantially since 2015.

Seventy percent of fifth-graders earned “on-grade reading status” on the 2017 Georgia Milestones, compared with just 29.1 percent two years ago when the district started using the new test. The percentage of third-graders meeting that goal increased from 38.1 to 65.2 percent, according to a report from the district.

Bibb County’s goal for next year is to increase reading levels in each grade by 5 percentage points, said Tanzy Kilcrease, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.

The district has always focused on literacy, but it wasn’t until Curtis Jones become superintendent in spring 2015 that a specific plan was created to address deficiencies. Reading is one of his priorities for the district, in addition to enrollment, attendance and discipline, Kilcrease said.

“I think that his leadership really and truly is what sparked the interest of improving literacy across the district,” she said. “With having that direction and understanding, then we knew how to channel our energy and how to revamp.”

Research shows that children will struggle if they’re not on reading level by third grade, and the district has implemented several learning initiatives to support students.

After an assessment, the district found that literacy instruction time was not consistent in elementary schools, Kilcrease said. Now, all kindergarten through second-grade students get two hours of reading and writing lessons, and third- through fifth-graders get 90 minutes, as research recommends.

All of the district’s schools are now using the Accelerated Reader incentive program. Students get points for books they read on their skill level, and the schools offer special rewards if they meet their goals. Students are given reading level scores based on their progress.

“(Students) understand that reading is important and this is where they are currently and this is where they need to be,” Kilcrease said. “When you involve students in that process, that’s when you see achievement.”

The System 44 program offers reading assistance to third-graders, and individual plans are developed for struggling students through the Response to Intervention program.

“We saw it as our responsibility to make sure that each elementary school had a research-based intervention program to assist students, and I think that has been a key component,” Kilcrease said.

United Way’s Read United volunteers tutor students at the district’s 11 lowest-performing elementary schools. This is the third year they have worked with students.

In addition, the district’s English language arts coordinator and intervention coaches have been doing guided reading training with elementary school teachers and tutors. Teachers have been doing a great job implementing literacy strategies so students can be successful, Kilcrease said.

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea

Reading is one of the Bibb County school district's main focuses. New approaches to instruction and intervention programs are being implemented to help struggling students. Reading tutors, partner and independent reading, and incentive programs ar

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