Roseville’s new reading program is seeing success

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published August 13, 2014

ROSEVILLE — Two years in, a long-term project to improve reading comprehension in the Roseville school district is starting to show positive results.

During the school board’s Aug. 4 meeting, Assistant Superintendent Mike Lafeve said the administration felt that the Roseville Middle School reading comprehension test scores were below expectations, but the administration felt that the only way to actually tackle the problem was to start in the elementary schools.

“We knew this was not something that started in middle school,” Lafeve said. “It was a systemic issue, and we had to fix it.”

He said that after looking at other districts, they decided the Reading Mastery program was the best choice: a research-based method that uses a specific, direct instructional method. It was implemented districtwide in kindergarten through second grade in the 2012-13 school year, while fourth through sixth grades had a corrective reading program put in place.

“We implemented corrective reading for grades four through six because we wanted to help the middle school immediately to try and get a jump on that to reduce the number of kids in the middle school that needed it,” Curriculum Director Mark Blaszkowski said.

This past school year, the Reading Mastery program was implemented in the third and fourth grades, and in the upcoming year, it will be implemented in fifth grade, as well. Lafeve said they are seeing positive results.

Since implementing the program and the corrective measures, the district has seen upticks in the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests in third, fourth and fifth grades. The third grade has seen a 5 percent increase, the fourth grade a 9 percent jump, and the fifth grade a 4 percent increase. While all three grades are still below the county average, Lafeve said the results are encouraging and that the gap is closing fast.

“I also want to mention that the sixth grade went up, and the eighth grade,” he said. “The only one that didn’t is the seventh-graders, and as we talked about, our sixth-graders two years ago were all over the place. There was no consistency in delivery or results.”

Blaszkowski said the district uses reading tests given out three times a year to check the progress of the students, and this past year has seen a positive trend from the fall through the spring. He said in the third, fourth and fifth grades, the number of students who could comprehend the material improved, while the number struggling shrunk.

Around 360 kids were tested in the third grade, 375 in fourth grade, and 340 in fifth grade. By the spring, the number of students understanding what they were reading increased from 45 percent in the fall to 53 percent. The fourth grade went from 52 percent to 58 in the same time frame, and fifth grade from 49 percent to 56.

“Next year, the fifth grade will have the Reading Mastery program,” Blaszkowski said. “Those kids in third grade next year will be having it for the third year.”

He said next year the struggling third-grade students also will be able to get reading “interventions” and tutoring, which is paid for out of grant money.

Blaszkowski said the district is looking at using a more rigorous reading curriculum in the middle school and high school to try and help the students improve their reading comprehension.

“The old-school method is to read a bunch of short stories,” he said. “But now we’re throwing at you a reading passage that has science, social studies, with a lot of technical vocabulary and comprehension that has to go with that.”

He said intervention programs at the high school have some difficulties because the materials to help students improve are not “age appropriate” and too cutesy, but he added that the people developing it are confident they can come up with something helpful.