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Chief Leschi reading scores soar

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PUYALLUP, Wash. -- When it comes to reading, Chief Leschi Elementary is now
the model school in the BIA.

Test scores of kindergarten through third-grade students show that ongoing
curriculum implementation and training opportunities, made possible through
a Reading First grant, have resulted in dramatic progress in the key areas
students need to become fluent readers.

Particularly impressive are the students' scores, which ranked above both
the BIA Reading First average and the national Reading First average. In
fact, during the grant's first year, third graders had a 39 percent gain in
reading at grade or benchmark level. Students made such significant gains
that school staff recently gave the keynote address on the program at the
BIA Reading First training in New Mexico.

Principal Bill Wyant said the Reading First program has helped lead to
higher expectations, increased morale and fewer behavior problems.
"Students are more engaged; and because they are taught at their
instructional level, in a program specifically suited to their needs,
they're able to succeed," Wyant said.

Increased teacher training and learning different instruction techniques
has been key to the program. Teachers have attended three different
three-day training events as well as several one-day workshops. "They now
know more about teaching reading and reading programs than ever before,"
said Wyant.

Some of the opportunities available to students include two hours of
reading time each day, frequent testing, and the Walk to Read program.
Abigail Chandler, Reading First literacy coach, credits that program for
much of the student success. "Students walk to a classroom that is geared
toward their reading skill level. The greater the student's need, the more
intensive, systematic and explicit the reading program is," said Chandler.

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Testing places students at one of three levels: "grade," or benchmark;
"strategic," for students who need more assistance; or "intervention,"
where they receive the most services. Kim Boynton, coordinator for the
Washington Reading Corp. program, said students respond well to the
increased attention to reading skills. "All students who are reading below
grade level receive a double or triple dose of reading time with up to 60
minutes of additional instruction. This has really added to each student's
level of success and they are excited about reading," Boynton said.

Two hundred and fifty kindergarten through third-grade students take part
in the Reading First classrooms. Nearly 40 staff members work with students
on their reading abilities. Each reading block has two adults to help kids
with fluency, phonics, vocabulary and comprehension.

Curriculum Director Rick Basnaw said the Reading First grant has
far-reaching implications. "It has profoundly changed the way we do
business with literacy in the primary grades. As these students transition
into the intermediate grades, they will have the reading skills necessary
to unlock future learning," said Basnaw.

Coaching is an integral part of the reading program at Chief Leschi. Erika
Hope is a K -- 6 reading coach who works with teachers to review the
curriculum and the best ways to present it to students. She said having
families take part in their children's learning is important to their
success. "Families have been involved in attending curriculum review night
and conferences. Some adults cannot attend all school events because of
limited transportation or work schedules, but they still try to find the
time to read with their children," said Hope.

Chief Leschi Superintendent Ray Lorton attributes commitment and
accountability for the remarkable results. "The administration and staff
are to be commended for an outstanding job," Lorton said. "The real success
story has to go to our students. Their growth over the past two years has
been astounding. Chief Leschi's national recognition as a Reading First
school is attributed to the teamwork and dedication of staff, students and
families."

Plans call for reapplying for the Reading First grant and to continue the
program during the next three years. "Test scores are going up and we have
scientifically based reading material in the hands of every student," said
Chandler. "We have consultants who work with the staff and coaches who
support teachers on an ongoing basis," she added. "I know that Chief Leschi
will continue to provide the best reading instruction possible for our
students."