Spokane Public Schools trying new ways to improve students’ reading test scores


SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Public Schools says test scores of elementary students fell 10 percent in English Language Arts.

Just before the pandemic hit, students tested at 56 percent, which is at or above grade level.

SPS says they are working hard to address it.

“Having the right structures in place like class sizes, like professional development, having the right resources in place, encouraging kids to participate in extracurricular activities, making sure we have mental health services… all those go into having that holistic approach,” SPS Superintendent Adam Swinyard said.

Stevens Elementary School students are testing their reading skills one game at a time. The district utilizes Lexia, an adaptive blended-learning program, to help its elementary students.

These students use the program for 20 minutes a day. Students have used the tool for a couple of years now.

“It tells me as a teacher they are approaching that goal, and then it tells me the skills that they’re working on, so it’s a lot more specific than just like these are the games they played today,” First-grade teacher at Stevens Elementary School Brianne Williams said.

Williams can then provide her students with the right instruction. The district is also exploring the idea of a new literacy curriculum.

“The beginning of a kid’s school experience needs to be incredible,” Swinyard said. “That includes a great early learning experience [and] a really thoughtful and intentional [one] into Kindergarten, and then that strong emphasis on kids building literacy skills K-3 so they can be successful the rest of the grade span.”

The new program SPS is considering using focuses on kids recognizing words that rhyme as well as syllables. They are also looking to use a phonics-based approach, meaning students learn the relationship between the sounds of words and groups of letters.

The new curriculum would involve a wide range of textbooks for students that are at the right level for them.

Now that schools are going into a post-pandemic way of learning, the district is focused on giving all needed tools to teachers to help support their students.

“It shows that if our students are given that foundational literacy instruction there’s only a small percentage of students who just acutely learn how to read on their own,” SPS Literacy Coordinator Katie Jensen said. “It’s over 50% of students that really need to have that explicit instruction.”

Teachers say children should be reading books at home. Interacting, and asking questions while reading and involving them in everyday life plays a big role. They say being able to comprehend stories is key as well.

It can also be as simple as playing games in the car looking at license plates, street signs etc.

The district will be presenting an Elementary Foundational Literacy presentation at Wednesday’s board meeting.

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READ: Nation’s report card: Massive drop in math scores, slide in reading linked to COVID disruption