Kindergarten literacy rates are rising in the Pendleton School District, and school officials are pointing to the data as proof that the district’s early learning efforts are working.
At a Pendleton School Board meeting Tuesday, staff from the Pendleton Early Learning Center presented data from assessments from the previous three school years.
Whether it was knowing all 31 letter sounds or all 26 lower and uppercase letters, identifying 10 consonant-vowel-consonant words, or writing out word sounds, almost every statistic rose from the end of 2015-2016 to the end of 2016.
In some categories, as little as 0.5 percent were able to meet benchmark at the start of the year. By the end of the school year, no less than two-thirds of the kindergarten population was proficient in each category.
The data for 2017-2018 showed positive signs as well.
The early learning center tested kindergartners in fall, winter and spring and organized them into tiers, with Tier 1 being the lowest and Tier 4 being the highest. In Fall 2017, 64 percent of students were in Tier 1 while 1 percent were in Tier 4.
By Spring 2018, 93 percent were in Tier 4 and 6 percent were in Tier 3. None were still in Tier 1.
The district is pinning much of the kindergartners’ success on its decision to focus its resources from Title I — a federal funding program for schools with high numbers of low-income students — toward the Pendleton Early Learning Center when it opened in 2015.
Two teachers and six assistants now work under the center’s Title I program.
Title I teacher Melissa Monkman explained that the teachers spend most of their days either pulling out students to work on literacy activities or “pushing-in” to support their classroom teachers while the students are in class.
They do this several times per day and Monkman estimated that the Title I team works with a fluid group of about 80 students per day.
The school is managing to raise literacy despite the data showing that fewer and fewer students are starting the year kindergarten-ready.
Carol Aldrich, the other Title I teacher, told the board that she issued an assessment at the beginning of the year where students could score a maximum of 194 points. Nearly 100 students scored less than 20.
“They just had no understanding of letters, and that letters have sounds,” she said.
Lori Hale, the center’s principal, theorized that parents were exposing their children to less reading than they used to and said the school is meeting with local daycare centers to try to boost pre-kindergarten literacy.
Matt Yoshioka, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, said first grade teachers are starting to notice incoming students are more prepared for first grade than they had been previously.
For school board member Steve Umbarger, the data was vindication.
“This is just the proof of why we chose to do the early learning center,” he said. “It’ll be exciting to see how this progresses on through.” Finished in 2015, the early learning center is a centralized kindergarten in addition to offering space to Head Start and daycare centers.
Contact Antonio Sierra at email@example.com or 541-966-0836.