As Link Community Charter School opened its doors to its first 5th grade class ever in September 2014, we were so excited to work with younger students—deeply valuing starting earlier and gaining two years to work with them. We knew we would see students whose skills were below grade level, but we found that the gaps were even greater than expected, particularly in reading. With a nimble and responsive mindset, our team of 5th grade teachers recognized our students’ heightened needs and we quickly went to work to identify and obtain the necessary resources.
In January 2015, we launched Guided Reading with the Reading and Writing Project from Teachers College, Columbia University. Link devoted time, resources and training to this intensive literacy push, committing full day professional development days, the Units of Study curriculum, leveled book sets and classroom libraries, and a literacy coach. Last school year (2015-2016), we expanded our work with renewed commitment to language literacy and saw great results.
When students arrived in September, 2015, 69.5% of the class was reading well below grade level, while only 11.9% was reading above grade level. We recognize that reading is a foundational skill without which success is severely hampered. With the support of strong dedicated teachers armed with a nationally recognized successful curriculum and the expertise of a literacy coach, Link teachers guided students through strong growth. By the end of the school year, the number of students reading well below grade level was cut by more than half, from 69.5% to 30.5%, and the number of students reading above grade level grew, from 11.9% to 32.2%.
This impressive growth was supported by resources delivered through Link Education Partners which augments public funding with private donations and enables Link to drive strong student results.