Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2001

Lexington Trails earns top rating on state reading assessment tests

September 6, 2001

As Lexington Trails Middle School seventh-grader Jordan Gartland listened to student teacher Kelly Lawson read last Friday, her hand kept touching the book "Fig Pudding" that lay closed on her desk.

Normally, Gartland and the other seventh-graders in Mike Wiley's math class would be reading their own books during the daily sustained-silent reading period. But, Wiley explained, he or Lawson, a Kansas University student teacher, read to the students one day a week.

Friday, it was learned that last year's Lexington Trails eighth-graders attained a standard of excellence in reading on assessment tests given last spring. Fifth-graders and juniors were also tested in reading on the state assessment tests.

In the two weeks since school started, Gartland has finished about three-quarters of "Fig Pudding."

"I can generally read a couple of chapters in silent reading," she said. "If I get in a good place in silent reading, I read in other classes."

That is the idea behind the reading period, said Lexington Trails Principal Mark Schmidt.

"The theory is that you get better by practicing," he said. "What we've found since we started the program is that kids take books to other classrooms. When they get done with their class work, they crack open a book."

The achievements were the result of the silent reading program and other initiatives taken at the Lexington Trails, Schmidt said. The school's reading curriculum includes lessons designed to make students think about comprehension and build vocabulary, he said.

District curriculum director Doug Powers said he is still disseminating the thick notebook of data on the district's assessment scores that he received from the Kansas Department of Education late last week. Schmidt called his attention to Lexington Trails' success, he said.

Last year's Lexington Trails' eighth-graders bested state averages on all four components of the reading assessment test, Powers said.

Reading and writing scores outdistance those in math at the middle school, Schmidt admitted.

"We're showing steady improvement, but we're not where we want to be," he said. "Our emphasis has been on reading. Before that, we attacked writing. Math is next up."

It is a logical sequence, Schmidt said. Reading skills are essential in successfully performing the math problems being taught at the school and used in state assessment tests. The emphasis is on using math skills in real-world applications, he said.

"The math test is now 50 percent a reading test," he said. "Students have to be able to read the problem, figure out what it is looking for, search for the relevant information and figure out how to solve the problem. Then, they do the math. If you foul up early, you can't do the math."

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