Primary school sees big rise in reading scores

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By Molly Haines

With a philosophy of “mission possible” Owen County Primary School students are going above and beyond with test scores in the 99th percentile.

The school participated in a six-year federal grant, Group Reading and Diagnostic Evaluation, along with 75 other Kentucky schools.

Out of those 75 schools, OCPS ranked third in the GRADE assessment scores for kindergarten through second grade.

OCPS Principal Sharen Hubbard said when the school began with the program in the fall of 2004, only 31.9 students scored at or above grade-level reading.

“Through research-based activities and a data-driven curriculum, our students were able to improve to the 99th percentile in the spring of 2010,” Hubbard said. “This simply means that 99 percent of our students were reading on or above grade level at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. This score is also way above the state average of 75.5 percent.”

Hubbard said she attributes the school’s success to many different things, including daily instruction.

“Teachers received 80-plus hours of professional development during each year of the grant,” Hubbard said. “This (training) was based on scientifically-based reading research, which they in turn carried over into their classroom instruction. We are data rich at OCPS and our data drives our daily instruction. The strategic use of data ensures the success of all students. Our intervention groups provide the extra support needed for our most struggling students.”

Hubbard said the day students and staff learned of their achievement, it was an exciting and emotional time.

“We’ve set a goal each year and we’ve worked toward this goal each and every day of the year,” Hubbard said. “We talk about it daily, had T-shirts and banners printed, targets in each classroom and school-wide celebrations. I believe in having fun. Our kids work hard. They deserve to be celebrated and rewarded. The day we learned of our GRADE scores, we had a huge school-wide celebration with singing, dancing and even crying. The kids all know at OCPS we work hard and then we play hard.”

Hubbard said although scoring in the 99th percentile was a huge achievement, there is always room for improvement.

“Student engagement, best practices, differentiation and using data to drive instruction – these things are top notch at OCPS,” Hubbard said. “However, I believe we are all lifelong learners. There are always new and improved instructional strategies and activities to learn. Our focus as a school is to train new staff members in scientifically-based reading strategies and to sustain the program for many years to come.”

Hubbard said she is confident that her staff and students will make great strides once again this year.

“Our journey toward greatness continues,” Hubbard said. “We’ve set the bar high and are constantly pushing ourselves to reach higher and higher. I have great confidence that this year will be no exception.”