Kacey Harper is a Third Grade Teacher at Webb Elementary School. She knows the importance of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Initiative—or STEM—but said a missing letter is equally as important: “R.”
“If you can't read, then, I mean, they won't know what's going on in the world, or how to get anywhere. It's just very crucial. It's very important,” said Harper.
However, when the Annie P. Casey Foundation found a large number of 4th graders in Alabama are not reading on grade level, department heads became concerned.
“We want our kids on grade level by the third grade,” said Anthony Stewart, Elementary Curriculum Supervisor of Houston County Schools.
Stewart said their reading rates are above that study simply because cognitive reading goes beyond the classroom.
“We do a lot of group work. We pull kids back into small groups. We also challenge those kids that are already there. As parents, we want to know that our kids are being challenged,” explained Stewart.
Houston County’s School System uses a program called DIBELS—a series of short tests that keep track of a child's reading comprehension.
Stewart said, “If they don't have the reading, they're not going to get the math, they're not going to get the science, not going to get the social studies. So, it's no doubt the most important goal that we have in elementary education.”
For Harper, the proof is in the performance.
“In the beginning of the year, I had to do a lot of modeling. Now, when I give the students a question, they know what to do.”