Eagle Ridge Elementary School principal Tim Green knew something needed to be done. The Silvis school in the Carbon Cliff-Barstow School District has some of the highest poverty numbers in the region. Of the school's 232 students, 72 percent qualify for free breakfast and lunch.
Many of those students also were struggling academically. According to the 2011-12 Illinois Standard Achievement Test, only 54.5 percent of third-graders were meeting or exceeding state standards in reading.
As a brand new group of 40 children entered kindergarten in the fall, only 10 were ready, Green said.
“This is the first year that we ever really analyzed that data, but we knew that our kids were coming to us below,” he said. “It’s taken us such a long duration of time to be at grade-level for these students, so we were able to break it down and know that this is where our focus needs to be.”
While trying to come up with a strategy on how to help the incoming students, Green looked to his wife, Elisa, a clinical instructor in the master of speech-language pathology program at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
Elisa Green sent two of her students, Camille Ponce and Pamela English, to do their clinical work at the school during the fall semester.
Elisa Green said the partnership between the two schools seemed to be the perfect solution.
“It was really a great opportunity, because they can have two students that semester come in and evaluate all the kindergartners to see where they were at, what they were dealing with and then actually do therapy with the kids,” she said.
The duo assessed children who were most in need on their overall language and literacy skills and then worked with them on basic concepts, tenses, verbs and overall grammar structures.
Ponce said she worked with eight students twice a week, using flash cards and games to help impart those lessons. Students with iPads provided by the school also used various literacy apps to learn how to sequence a story, Ponce said.
She said the children responded positively to the intervention.
“I think they were aware that this was something they needed help with,” she said. “I think they like the individual attention that they were receiving. Some of the kids were slipping, and it was nice that we were able to see and assess each kid so no one was falling behind.”
Tim Green said the intervention services are working. Overall literacy scores are increasing on MAP tests. A student who didn’t know his alphabet and had linguistic problems now is improving by leaps and bounds. A student from Africa who couldn’t speak English now is more fluent.
“It’s going to take a year or two before we see the great, grand picture of this, but it’s definitely a starting spot, and I’m excited to pursue this relationship with St. Ambrose and to getting the resources necessary for our kids,” he said.
Ponce decided to take things another step. She obtained a $1,000 grant and added another $1,000 from fundraising efforts to buy more books for the school library and to purchase more literacy apps for students’ iPads.
The United Way of the Quad-Cities Area and Silvis Library also partnered with the school and donated books.
On April 18, St. Ambrose staff held several mini-seminars for area parents during the school’s family literacy night.
During the seminars, parents learned tips on how to help their children become better readers and what they can do to help with vocabulary and other concepts.
For example, one St. Ambrose instructor told parents to ask their child to make predictions about what will happen next in the book, ask them what is happening in the pictures, and ask them open-ended questions.
Involving the parents is key to helping the students hone their reading skills, Tim Green said.
“If we don’t have a solid foundation around literacy and language, then everything is going to be a wash,” he said. “So, we need to strengthen this foundation in literacy and help the kids read for the pure enjoyment of it.”