District kicks off second year of "100 Book Challenge"
Shortly after the first day of school on August 30, students in the Oxford Area School District kicked off the second year of participation in the “100 Book Challenge,” part of the district’s partnership with the American Reading Company’s “Action 100” literacy initiative.
The 100 Book Challenge is designed to encourage students to read independently, and is being used successfully in more than 1,400 schools in 256 school districts across the United States. As part of the program, students select fiction and non-fiction books at their developmentally appropriate independent reading levels which they can read at school and at home.
Teachers offer daily Reader’s Workshops to connect classroom instruction to independent reading and to conduct one-on-one conferences with students focusing on issues such as book selection and reading comprehension. Each district elementary school and Penn's Grove Middle School present students with rewards such as prizes, certificates, or medals as they achieve various “steps” in the program. One step is equivalent to 15 minutes of reading, and students are expected to achieve at least two steps, or 30 minutes of reading, at home each evening. Program materials are sent home to help support parents in serving as their children’s “reading coaches.”
The 100 Book Challenge is part of the Action 100 initiative established in the Oxford Area School District in the 2009-2010 school year. Essential to the success of Action 100 is a commitment to teacher training, which has resulted in dramatic improvement in student reading test scores.
For the first time since 2002, all district elementary schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation by meeting or exceeding the requirements for student proficiency in reading and math on the 2010 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA). Remarkable gains were also made in reading by the district’s special education students, the population of which is higher than average in Oxford schools.
When compared to their test scores as third graders in 2009, 40 out of 43 special education students at Nottingham School showed improvement in their reading scores when tested in fourth grade this past school year. Similarly, 198 out of the 225 fourth grade general education students at Nottingham improved their reading scores on the PSSA. Of those 198, 152 increased their scores by 100 points or more.
Superintendent Dr. Raymond A. Fischer credits the instructional leadership in the buildings as one of the driving factors behind the improved test scores. “The instructional leadership was supported by Action 100, which the district implemented using stimulus funds,” he noted.
Action 100 is designed to ensure assessment of independent reading while also training teachers and administrators on how to assess, identify and monitor student reading progress. Teachers took part in 30 days of weekly on-site training, where they were introduced to the reading program materials and worked side-by-side with American Reading Company coaches to enhance their knowledge of reading instruction.
“The coaches came back every week and modeled quality reading instructional practices for our teachers,” said Dr. Fischer, adding that the persistence and urgency the coaches exhibited was motivating for the teaching staff. “Our teachers are dedicated to continuous learning, and the result has been tremendous growth in student achievement this year.”
Dr. Fischer added that Action 100’s element of accountability kept teachers engaged. “When coaches would come back to examine student progress cards, it was clear which students were meeting reading level expectations and which ones were not,” he explained. “Working together, American Reading Company coaches and Oxford teachers could pinpoint strategies for helping individual students progress with their reading skills.
“Action 100 has helped us to see that meeting the needs of students with varying abilities is an exciting challenge that could be accomplished. One of our goals was to have a whole building of reading specialists, and that’s what we were able to accomplish with Action 100.”