Kindergartners screened on their reading readiness - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Kindergartners screened on their reading readiness

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Strum (WQOW) - To build something successfully you need a strong foundation which certainly applies to a child's education.

The state Department of Public Instruction is incorporating a program designed to give the youngest of students a solid start.

"It's so important that we know what skills the students have and what they don't have so we can start that instruction for that student where they are," says Eleva-Strum superintendent Craig Semingson.

That's why the Eleva-Strum School District launched the pals program for its students last year, which screens kids before kindergarten and identifies reading weaknesses.

"It gives the teacher a good idea of where the kids are coming into kindergarten.  They are all over the board usually," says kindergarten teacher Debbie Petersen.

Teachers provide individualized lessons to bring the pupils up to par and then re-evaluate their progress throughout the year.

"At the semester time then we can look at it and say, 'Okay we need to adjust a little bit here as far as our instruction is going for this student," says Petersen.

Included in those adjustments, districts are also evaluated with report cards, scoring their performance on a nationwide scale.

"Last year on our report cards we improved because we were able to take some of those students who were falling behind and catch them up to the rest of the students," says Semingson.

The success last year means they're expanding the program this year to 4k and first graders as part of a statewide effort to improve reading skills.

"We feel it's valuable for kindergarten and I think the first grade teachers will see that it is too.  4K, they're getting into more letter and sound recognition," says Petersen.

"With that we'll be able to improve skills further down the road as they get into middle school and high school," says Semingson.

Because reading is a building block skill that requires a strong base before you can advance any further.

"They keep adding skills and learning how to use them.  It just helps if you can focus on an early intervention, you know, right away," says Petersen.

An elementary effort to keep students at the forefront of the education evolution.

District administrators say these screening tests are part of a significant national education reform.

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