John and Lamarion both started at NACS in the 5th grade, reading significantly below grade level. Both were in Georgia, and had Savannah Hagan and Julianna Musselman for Literacy.
“I didn’t really like books. They made my head hurt,” says Lamarion. “It was hard.”
John felt similarly to Lamarion. “I didn’t like [reading] because I had a little trouble with it.”
“When I first met them, they were significantly below grade level, and they did not like reading at all,” adds Musselman. “They were opposed to the idea of reading and didn’t feel any confidence in it. They didn’t feel that reading was attainable to them.”
The story of Lamarion or John is the expectation, not an exception. Over 40% of 5th grade students arrive below grade level. Once they start at RePublic, there is no time to lose. Research shows that a student’s third grade reading level is predictive of high school graduation. According to a 2011 study, a child who does not read on grade level by the end of third grade is four times less likely to graduate from high school on time than a proficient third grade reader.
The same study shows how both poverty and race magnify the problem: a child who has lived in poverty and is below grade level in third grade is six times less likely to graduate from high school. Over 30% of black and Hispanic students who live in poverty and are below-grade-level readers in the third grade fail to graduate high school on time.
In the first few years of a student’s life at school, they are learning to read. Then, once they are beyond the third grade reading level, they become truly independent readers. At this point, students are reading to learn. Students must read proficiently to be successful in any content area--whether a novel for Literacy, a primary source for History, or a lab report for Science.
In their previous schools, John and Lamarion had been overlooked. They learned how to avoid reading.
“They didn’t realize they could get help. This year is like night and day,” says Musselman.
This is where Guided Reading comes in. At RePublic, all students who are 1.5 years or more below grade level take part in Guided Reading groups several times a week. This small group instruction meets students at their level, working with them to close foundational gaps in their reading ability.
“We give them opportunities to feel successful. The reading is on their level. They are able to feel success quickly because it is something they can do. ‘I can read these words. I can understand this.’ Then the skills transfer to class.”
“I did this in guided reading; I can do this in class too.“
To see Guided Reading at RePublic in action, you can watch Ms. Musselman's group here.