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School Takes Steps To

Lee McMinn examines the Star Student reading list with Water Valley School Superintendent Kim Chrestman. Books on the reading list will be placed in each classroom in grades kindergarten through eighth as result of a fundraiser.

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – A focus on reading at Davidson Elementary School is helping students improve their reading skills, a fundamental building block for learning.  The results are already in from fall reading assessments indicating substantial growth in reading and reading comprehension for all grade levels at DES. 
    This is especially important as the Mississippi Department of Edcuation implements the Third Grade Reading Gate this spring semester, a test to ensure that third graders can read at grade level before advancing to the fourth grade.
    To build on this success, Superintendent Kim Chrestman is seeking the public’s help to raise $6,000 to purchase books aligned with Accelerated Reader (AR), an online assessment tool that measures students’ reading comprehension.  The money will be used to purchase at least two 50-book collections of AR books for each grade level, kindergarten through eighth grade. The books could be assigned to students based on their reading level and be read at home with their parents. Students would be assesed afterwards using the Accelerated Reader software, which the school has already purchased.  Students would earn points, which would enable teachers to set up some type of reward system.
    Lee McMinn will lead fundraising efforts with help from others in the community to meet the goal.  “This effort is very important on several levels. I have a wife who is a teacher and two kids with another on the way,” McMinn explained. “The Water Valley School District plays huge role in my family’s future as well as the future of our community,” McMinn said.
    Chrestman acknowledges the $6,000 needed doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but emphasizes community engagement is important for the school’s success.  Chrestman also mentioned school board trustee Cayce Washington’s technology project that provided grades K-6  twenty-five technology devices (IPads, laptops, Chromebooks) each. These two projects, reading and technology, actually compliment each other. “All of this ties together,” Chrestman explained.

Reading Is Key 
    The superintendent can point to countless statistics that show how critical reading is to a student’s success in school and in life. Currently about 70 percent of the school district’s eighth graders are reading below grade level. But the problem starts before the student enters the first year of school, Chrestman explains. 
    “Based upon the Mississippi 2014 MKAS2 Kindergarten Assesment, two-third of students across the state come to school with little or no pre-school readiness skills,” Chrestman said. “If a student can’t read, he/she will struggle with english/language arts, math, science and social studies throughout their education experience, They must be able to read, pull out information, and apply it,” he adds.
    The focus on reading and reading comprehension also comes as the Mississippi Department of Education reports reading instruction has to be a major focus of kindergarten through third grade, citing third grade as the year that students “transition from learning to read to reading to learn,” according to the department’s website.

Steps Already Taken 
    Chrestman said the district has reached out to work with the pre-school programs and daycares, starting at ages three and four.
    “Students who are involved in the DES Pre-School Intitiative are getting many of the foundation skills that will enable them to learn when they enter school,” he explained.  Another step taken by the school was implementing Star Reading this school year, which measures the reading level and reading comprehension of the students. “Now, we must get the teachers the resources they need in the classrooms and grade levels to ensure the students have the opportunity to grow their reading skills,” he added.    
    People in the community that would like to contribute to the “Literacy Initiative” can contact Kim Chrestman (662) 473-1203 or Lee McMinn at (662) 816-8204.

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