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Friday, July 12, 2024

Adelante schools see increased test scores after early literacy investment 

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When an ongoing literacy crisis resulted in a drop in reading proficiency and test scores regionally and nationwide, Eddie Rangel, executive director of Adelante schools, decided to invest in early literacy.  

Now, this investment has paid off, resulting in increased test scores.  

Adelante is seeing continual gains in reading scores, which include a striking 50-60 percentage point gain in benchmark reading scores from grades kindergarten to second grade during the 2022-23 school year. Recent results also show a 73% gain among kindergarteners — 83% of kindergarteners are on benchmark compared to 10% at the beginning of this school year, Rangel said.  

“We did anticipate these types of scores,” he said. “We know using the research and science of reading that it is possible.” 

As scores continue to rise, so does the confidence of the students.  

Rangel recalled a first grader who came to Emma Donnan, an elementary and middle school managed by Adelante schools, who struggled early on but gained confidence and passed the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination (IREAD-3), an assessment used to measure foundational reading.  

“Literacy is access to opportunity,” Rangel said.  

“Aspirations change,” Rangel continued. “We see kids start talking about different things that they want to do when they grow up when they learn to read because they are learning about different things they can see themselves doing.” 

Because of Rangel’s implementation of early literacy teaching, done in partnership with Relay Graduate School of Education, instructors are taught the science behind how the brain learns so they can teach more effectively.  

In the classroom, this is done by analyzing student progress data to inform everything from seating arrangements to personalized plans — some of which include repeated practice or extra turns answering questions.  

Outside of the classroom, teachers have practice clinics where they can learn techniques, practice them and get feedback from coaches.  

Isha Nigam, a second-grade teacher at Adalente, said this has helped her teach topics students struggled with. “Reframing how we were teaching it, creating more practice, those were all part of the science of reading and that helped our kids ultimately reach … 80% mastery that week for an … in class assessment,” Nigam said.  

This year, Nigam shared that she had a student that was struggling but eager to learn. Through consistent practice and individual check-ins based on progress monitoring data, Nigam helped her grasp the concepts better. 

“She ended up passing the state assessed state reading assessment and left second grade being on reading level,” Nigam said. “Those are just heartwarming moments where you know the work is worth it.” 

Improving the scores of multilingual and special needs students is another focus at Adelante. Adelante has found that when reading comprehension improves — a skill needed to understand word problems — math scores do the same.  

Through differentiated learning, incorporation of kinetic movements, and the use of vocabulary drops — which involved introducing a “student friendly definition of a word” before hearing the word, Nigam said — both groups saw improvements. 

Specifically, the kindergartener class ended the year with 76% of multilingual learners being on benchmark compared to 11% at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.  

True to Adelante’s core value of ebullience, teachers make sure to celebrate these achievements through chants, cheers and fun activities like ice cream parties, Nigam said.  

Also deserving of celebration are the students’ parents.  

“It’s a partnership,” Nigam said. “We’re not the only ones doing the work.”  

The teachers provide parents with flashcards and other materials so that students can refine their skills at home. When students reach their goals, the teachers call the parents to let them know, something that Nigam said is the “best part.”  

Rangel shared that one of the calls made was to a family in the neighborhood. When they called the family to share that the youngest had passed IREAD-3, they cried, saying that child was the first of over ten from their family to pass the assessment. 

“That was one of the more pivotal moments for us, to know that the really difficult and challenging work that teachers do every day … is paying off in many instances that are life changing, history changing for not only just our students, but for families in our community,” Rangel said.  

Rangel noted that the work to improve literacy is driven by an understanding of “what’s at stake if we have a workforce that can’t read,” an understanding that has led Adelante to partner with local business and community leaders, some of which volunteer.  

The community support, Rangel said, has been very beneficial.  

“Any community members who are reading, if you’re wondering what you can do to help your school, go ask them how you can help them teach children how to read.”  

For more information on Adelante schools, visit adelanteschools.org 

Contact Indianapolis Recorder intern, Kayla Barlow, at kaylab@indyrecorder.com.

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