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BMS goal: Better reading scores

By By MICHELE GERLACH- Publisher
Overall, Brewton Middle School students scored where they generally score in reading tests conducted at the end of school last year. But the scores of sub-groups of students weren't quite high enough to meet the standards of No Child Left Behind, a federal program backed by the Bush Administration.
Under No Child Left Behind, a school must make annual yearly progress (AYP) in each subject area. In other words, the number of students who are proficient in a subject area, like reading, must increase each year, with the long-term goal for 2014 being 100 percent proficiency. The progress must be reflected in the school's overall scores, and when broken down to sub-groups. At Brewton Middle School, the scores of minority students and students who receive free and reduced lunches didn't satisfy the AYP requirement.
Consequently, Brewton Middle School has developed a school improvement plan which it presented to the Board of Education Monday night. The board's approval now means the plan goes to the state department of education.
Prater said part of BMS's challenge is that its baseline scores were higher than most schools' when the program started. AYP is based on progress over previous year, so the school's students must perform better when compared to the previous year's scores rather than be compared to state averages.
To improve the scores, the school has begun working on skill-building both in the classroom and in after school and morning programs. During the school day, the students who have been identified as most needy work on skills in groups so small they almost receive individual attention daily.
Board member Lillie Dove, who is a former educator, suggested that students assigned to Saturday school work on skills there, and said she believes the encouragement students receive at home has bearing on how well the students succeed in school.
Prater said, &#8220We have to focus on what we can change, not what we can't. The children still are our responsibility.”
Board member Ola Bell questioned why students score well in reading through the elementary grades, but not as well in middle school.
Both Prater and Superintendent Lynn Smith said that, before the requirements of NO Child Left Behind, data received by the schools wasn't broken down to the level that they do now. It's also more difficult to get middle school students to read, they said.
Already, Brewton Middle School uses Dibels, the reading program used at Brewton Elementary School, to boost reading skills. BMS will implement the Alabama Reading Initiative, a program already being used at the elementary school, next year.