FLINT TWP. — Eighthgraders reading at a firstgrade level is probably enough to make any teacher cry. But so does one whose reading comprehension improves nine grade levels after a few months of work in a reading intervention program.
Just ask Sarah Strouse, an English teacher at Carman- Ainsworth Middle School who was one of five teachers specially trained last summer to work in the district’s new AARI program that began last fall.
AARI is short for Adolescent Accelerated Reading Initiative, a literacy improvement intervention for young people that has produced dramatic results in Oakland County schools.
Two C-A middle school teachers and three high school teachers are leading the small group AARI programs for the district’s lowest level readers.
Early test results are in and Strouse got a bit choked up last week while sharing some success stories in a presentation to the board of education. She presented data from the first group of 10 students she worked with last semester who all started at a first-grade reading level, as determined by pretesting, and improved three to five grade levels, according to post test results.
But Strouse got choked up talking about two students in her second semester group who have just completed post testing. One showed nine year’s growth and one showed six year’s growth,
“This makes me very happy,” Strouse said, emotionally. “They were both primer when I got them,”
Ironically, the students started out opposed to be singled out for AARI training.
“These two girls in the very beginning of the class said they did not need to be here,” Strouse said. ” They said they did not have a reading issue and were very adamant that they were misplaced.”
Pre-testing proved otherwise. Now the two students are the program’s biggest cheerleaders, she said.
Jennifer O’Brien, a secondary reading interventionist coach, who presented preliminary results with Strouse, said they would return in August to present a full year’s progress report to the board.
“So far we are very optimistic about results we are seeing not just in data but in the students (attitudes) we work with,” she said.
Second semester gains look even more promising as AARI instructors — running two classes each and the high school and middle school — become more familiar with working with the materials, she said.
Dr. Sharon Russell, AARI creator and trainer, has visited C-A several times during the year to observe and coach teachers working with the students, she said.
After the presentation, C-A Superintendent Steve Tunnicliff commented that AARI is their most expensive intervention to date because of investment in teacher training and the small class size — only 10 students per semester.
“This is not about raising MEAP scores,” he said. “This is about taking kids who cant read period and saying we are not OK with that and that we are going to do something about it,”
He noted that CA offers other interventions for students but AARI targets the lowest level readers.