Oklahoma school exceeds state reading average despite high poverty rate

Eugene Field Elementary in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is 100 percent free and reduced lunch—and more than 100 percent committed to reading.

“Our teachers understand our children enter school with limited resources and a limited support system,” said Dr. Wilbur House, principal of Eugene Field Elementary for seven years. “By providing scientifically proven, research-based, and data-driven daily reading instruction, our teachers can fill this gap. If we don’t, the academic gains will be difficult to attain.”

Academic gains are clearly happening, and House says Renaissance Accelerated Reader® has played a direct role in the success. The program was brought on board over 10 years ago after reading data revealed that students were struggling and achievement on state testing was minimal. Eugene Field’s Academic Performance Index score has increased yearly—and remarkably—from 717 in 2003 to 1378 in 2009.

In 2010, there was a modest decrease to 1171 when the state developed a more rigid test. In 2011, the school scored 1272, exceeding the state average of 1000, making it one of just a handful of Oklahoma City Public Schools that consistently scores above state averages on reading and math tests despite a high poverty rate.

House and the teachers at Eugene Field know that children who are proficient readers will be proficient test takers. Accelerated Reader blends well with the school’s core curriculum, encouraging students to read and to practice reading. House says that this extended reading practice helps to reinforce critical vocabulary and comprehension skills and gives students the ability to “attack the state test rather than be attacked by the test.”

“By reading Accelerated Reader books and taking Accelerated Reader quizzes, they become proficient readers that think critically and carefully, when proceeding through the state test,” House said. “They will continue to gain confidence and enjoyment in reading, increase their Accelerated Reader points, and improve their proficiency.”

Using Accelerated Reader is not only improving reading proficiency, but also increasing our students’ confidence and developing them into independent, long-term readers.

Dr. Wilbur House | Principal | Eugene Field Elementary

This means a rippling of success on so many levels. Once children learn to read, they are able to read to learn. Eugene Field teachers can then easily integrate reading with math, science, social studies, and other instruction.

Learning to read is naturally more challenging for the nearly 70 percent of English language learners at Eugene Field Elementary. House said Renaissance Star Reading® is used to determine reading levels for ELL pupils, and Accelerated Reader is used to strengthen their skills, reward their progress, and improve their reading and overall confidence. Teachers use the program to emphasize not only vocabulary and comprehension concepts, but also fluency, phonics, and word-attack skills.

“Daily practice, reading books at their level, taking quizzes, and reading a variety of books provides confidence to these emerging readers,” House said.

Struggling readers are identified at the beginning of each year through a number of assessments, and students are categorized into benchmark, strategic, and intensive groups. Students at the lowest reading levels are placed in intervention groups to receive targeted instruction to improve reading proficiency, and Accelerated Reader provides the critical practice component for progress, which is tracked closely on an ongoing basis.

“The most consistent teachers in monitoring the Accelerated Reader progress of their pupils observe the highest increase in reading achievement,” House said.

Initially, the biggest challenge was getting all of the teachers on board. To increase teacher and student participation, House focused on increasing the library’s book collection, encouraging teachers to display Accelerated Reader progress in the classroom as visual motivation, and rewarding success.

“Competition to improve reading performance does benefit children, and visuals encourage them to improve their reading,” said House, who has seen overwhelmingly positive student responses and results. “Using Accelerated Reader is not only improving reading proficiency, but also increasing our students’ confidence and developing them into independent, long-term readers.”

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