The Cheektowaga-Sloan Union Free School District looks to improve pupil performance by integrating a nationally recognized reading program.
Kindergarten and first-grade classrooms are using Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, which School Superintendent James P. Mazgajewski said he hopes to extend into the second grade next year and other grades in subsequent years.
"We are trying to lower the number of students who are indicated as needing special education resources," reading specialist Tarrie Klapp said last week during a presentation to the School Board. "We are trying to stop the downward spiral with early intervention."
The district added the program after Klapp and Janet Millard, a speech and language specialist, discovered that kindergartners were performing poorly in reading.
Klapp and Millard presented data that they said indicates the program is working.
The program includes testing pupils on five aspects of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension. Through a series of one-minute tests, Klapp says she and Millard can pinpoint kindergartners at risk of poor reading skills when they reach the first grade.
Klapp said 80 percent of pupils are expected to respond positively to the core program, while 15 percent might not respond well to the core program but might excel with small group instruction. The remaining 5 percent are not expected to respond well to the core program or small group instruction and will need intense one-on-one instruction, usually through special education programs.
Statistics showed 49 percent of the district's pupils reading at their proper grade level during the last school year, compared with 63 percent this year. Numbers also show that only 9 percent need intensive instruction this year, compared with 11 percent last year.
"We are trying to do as much as we can so we can come to a mastery level," School Board President Claire Ferrucci said.