Big Strides in Reading Seen at Local Schools

The Bay State Reading Institute (BSRI) released good news about its partner schools in Everett, Malden and Revere – three Massachusetts Gateway Cities.  Working with BSRI, an innovative educational partnership, reading fluency of kindergartener at 11 schools in these districts has dramatically improved.  Getting kids up to grade level in kindergarten is especially important as it sets the foundation for higher student achievement in all the following grades.

When they entered kindergarten last fall, half of Revere students were at high risk of reading difficulties.  By May, a wide majority of those students—9 out of 10—progressed out of the lowest achievement level.  The number of student placing in the highest level doubled over the kindergarten year, from 44% to 88%.  Malden kindergarteners made equally impressive gains.  Last fall, 44% of Malden children were at high risk of reading difficulties.  The May reading assessments show that nine out of ten kindergarteners at Malden’s four elementary schools accelerated to the highest achievement category.  And in Everett, kindergarten scores show four in ten Keverian School students moved out of the lowest achievement category between the fall and spring assessments. 

The Revere, Malden and Everett schools partnering with BSRI use DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) to assess student reading fluency.  DIBELS is used widely across Massachusetts and the U.S. to measure reading fluency—how well a student can turn letters into the proper sounds and words—through a sequence of one-minute tests. 

DIBELS testing allows teachers and specialists to catch and fix reading difficulties early on, which leads to increased student achievement in higher grades.  When students are not struggling with reading fluency, they can focus on reading comprehension, or understanding of the words they read.  DIBELS also allows teachers, coaches, and principals to quickly measure what kinds of instruction are helping each student, and change the instruction if it’s not. It allows teachers to chart the improvement in their students, which gives them a sense of success, and no one is falling through the cracks. This transforms the culture of the school in a positive way.    

“Progress on the DIBELS is a sign of successful teaching throughout the building,” says BSRI Chairman and co-founder Ed Moscovitch.  “Kids are getting their problems fixed sooner, and getting work that really targets their abilities. The students are proud of their success, and they end up doing work that’s far more challenging than was previously thought possible.  We’ve got kindergarteners writing sentences and identifying parts of speech and 10-year-olds organizing debates. It’s astounding.”  

Started in 2005, BSRI is a non-profit that currently teams with over 40 high-poverty elementary schools across Massachusetts to transform schools by giving teachers and principals the support they need.  Using BSRI’s model, schools institute a variety of modern, science-based instructional strategies which allow teachers to teach to each student’s ability, beginning in kindergarten. 

BSRI first partnered with Revere and Malden schools in 2006, and with Everett’s Keverian School in 2011, to provide embedded training, coaching and support.  These and all Massachusetts Gateway City schools serve populations with higher rates students with high needs (low income, ELL or SPED).  On average, 81% of Revere, 70% of Malden, and 76% of Everett kindergarteners are identified as high needs.

“BSRI is built on the premise that young students—at all levels and from all demographic backgrounds—are capable of doing much more we think they can,” Moscovitch adds.  “To achieve this, we help teachers to set much higher expectations for student performance and to provide students the skills they’ll need to meet these expectations.”

BSRI is a Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Preferred Provider.  In 2010, the organization was awarded a $5 million Invest in Innovation (i3) grant by the US Department of Education.

Watch how BSRI transforms schools in their Summit Creative Award-winning video.

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