Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | May 30, 2017

Pence literacy test scores jump

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Feb 27, 2017

Pence Elementary School principal Chuck Benge might be seen by some as a man of few words, and lately he’s been letting his students’ test scores speak for themselves.

The school’s most recent Formative Assessment System for Teachers scores rose from 58 percent at the beginning of the year to 66.67 percent — effectively raising the school out of the red zone for the state.

According to the Area Education Agency 267 website, the FAST literacy suite of assessments is used to assist school districts in meeting the requirements of the Early Literacy Initiative as part of Iowa Code Section. FAST, which was recently adopted in Iowa, is a highly efficient assessment tool designed for universal screening, progress monitoring, and program evaluation as part of a Response to Intervention or the Multi-Tiered System of Support model of service delivery.

Benge said the school had fallen below 60 percent proficient, which caused the state to intervene with a clear directive for the school. However, now the school is beginning to see the light of day.

Currently, students receive reading intervention for 20 to 30 minutes per day, in addition to 90-minute reading blocks per day. Since the reading interventions began, kindergarten proficiency rose from 65 to 90 percent.

“Although first grade proficiency took a dip from 74 to 64 percent, they still had an average growth of 17 points or 17 words correct per minute,” Benge said. “Second grade went from 41 percent to 46 percent proficient with an average growth of 31 words per minute. Third grade went from 49 percent proficient to 56 percent proficient, with an average growth of 26 words per minute, and fourth grade went from 61 percent proficient to 76 percent proficient with an average growth of 24 words per minute — they are really going to be better prepared for middle school.”

Although the numbers have substantially improved, the work isn’t done yet.

“We’ve passed the red area, but that’s not going to change our instruction,” Benge said. “Until we get our scores up to where we want them, which is at least above 80 percent.”

Benge said the entire school worked together.

“Our library associate, Title I teachers, reading teachers, literacy associates, classroom teachers and the Talented and Gifted teacher have all been working together to achieve this goal,” Benge said.  “I give credit to my teachers; they are just an amazing group of adults.”

Benge said things could change this year due to the impending Libertyville Elementary School closing, but he’s hopeful.

“All of this could change with grade alike; we haven’t talked about it yet with the district,” he said.

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