We are rapidly approaching one of my favorite activities of the year — Read Across America Day on Friday, March 1. I love that it celebrates reading with in-classroom events, decorations and dress-ups and, in particular, that it honors Dr. Seuss books because of the whimsy and delight his stories and artwork inspire. So many of us became reading lovers because of him!
When it comes to language arts and literacy, there’s a lot to celebrate in Hawai‘i. We’ve made 3rd grade literacy a focus because it’s predictive of readiness for more complex work in the upper grades, and it spotlights where we need to bolster early childhood educational supports. Literacy also holds the key to understanding all subjects. As such, it’s an indicator in our Strategic Plan and will continue to be data we track.
The statewide data show that our 3rd graders are on a literacy rocket ship:
- Hawai‘i saw a 7-point increase, year over year, in the percentage of 3rd graders reading near, at or above grade-level on the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). At 73%, I have great confidence we’ll exceed our statewide target of 76% by 2020.
- Our 3rd graders who are meeting and exceeding the achievement standard for Language Arts on the SBA has jumped 7 points from our first SBA assessment three years ago to 53%. They’re helping to drive across-the-grades increases in language arts achievement. (Incidentally, our 3rd graders are also up 5 points in math over that time.)
These results reflect our students’ greater knowledge under more challenging Common Core learning standards. From a skills standpoint, our students are more prepared for upper grades and post-secondary.
The achievement here is rooted in the increased collaboration among our teachers and a commitment by schools and Complex Areas to engage our students. Take Keaukaha Elementary in Hilo. Their drive to spark a love of reading includes daily SURF (silent uninterrupted reading for fun), a lip-sync battle and a student project showcase of their favorite books. In three years, 3rd graders at Keaukaha went from 17% meeting/exceeding the SBA language arts achievement standard to 43% last year.
That kind of growth happens organically when kids love learning and they can show it.