Adams-Cheshire First-Graders Find Success In New Reading Initiative

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff
November 28, 2014

First-grade teacher Mary Tanner presented data supporting the success of the Bay State Reading Institute (BSRI), a publicly funded initiative focused on promoting literacy, to the School Committee on Monday night.ADAMS, Mass. — Adams-Cheshire Regional School District first-grade teachers reported that pupils are responding well to a newly adopted literacy program.

She said because of the children’s fluency success, the institute challenged them to meet higher rates by winter. As of this week, 57 percent have already met the goal. She added 80 percent of the children already met the previous end-of-year goal.

Tanner said she expects even more to meet the goal by January.

“We are well on our way of dramatically enhancing student performance in our schools,” she said.

Superintendent Kristen Gordon praised the program and the teachers, and said the children enjoy it.

“Although many are standing out, this team is standing out as a superstar team right now,” Gordon said. “The kids are saying they are loving school, even our fifth-graders are saying they are loving school.”

Tanner said the students do some of the program work on computers. She said in the first grade, 87 percent of the kids are making recommended usage from 45 minutes to 80 minutes, depending on their ability level.

She said technology in the classroom brings kids up to speed quickly.

“Four iPads in a room would be heaven, and we know this because last year we were very fortunate and the fifth grade let us borrow them for an hour and a half every day,” Tanner said. “Our numbers went sky high and their abilities grew with them … it is a great tool and a great resource.”

Tanner said the program allows teachers to pinpoint where students are achieving and struggling and allows them to change their method of teaching to help different groups.

Often children enter the first grade at a pre-first grade level. She said the program allows “re-leveling” so pupils can be put into groups within which they are challenged.

Reading coach Elaine Hunter agreed that the program helps teach more specifically to kids because of the data it provides.
“Each teacher is differentiating based on the needs of those students present in their group so you are going to have a variety of learners,” Hunter said. “It is your job as a teacher to differentiate your instruction based on their individual needs. We now are able to look at each student and see what their needs are based on data.”

Selectman Joseph Nowak attended the meeting and said he often substitute teaches and can see the benefits of the BSRI program.

“The students seem to be able to help one another which is important. There is no airs among young kids, and they will tell it the way it is in a polite way,” Nowak said. “The children certainly go to the utmost to help one of their fellow students.”