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DIBELS program has third graders excelling

Butler County third graders are likely reading at the highest level they have ever seen.

The DIBELS program, which is short for Dynamic Indicator of Basic Earning Literacy Skills, is a program, which monitors students year round to identify and solve their reading problems.

Butler County third graders have proven just how effective the DIBELS program can be.

This year, the county's third grade students had 65 percent achieve benchmark, which surpassed most every school district in the area.

The benchmark for Butler County Schools is 110 words per minute. Students must achieve this number to move on to the next grade level.

This can prove to be difficult for some students, however, through hard work and a close eye by the teachers most are achieving this goal. Some even surpass it.

Betty McQueen, who helps oversee the program at Greenville Elementary School, said a lot of the success, comes from finding out where each student stands immediately.

"When the school year begins we assess the students right away," said McQueen. "The object is to find out how many words per minute they can read. It's a test of fluency."

McQueen said by testing right away problems could be identified and dealt with.

"We assess them to find out just where they are and get them the work they need," said McQueen. "Throughout the year we do small group work to target any weakness they may have."

Problems may come in a variety of areas. Some students may not read well because they don't recognize the sounds and some may just need a little extra practice.

No matter what the problem are the teachers of Butler County work hard to correct it.

"Teachers will work in small groups and do a lot of individual work to help those children with their areas of weakness," said McQueen. "We assess them at the middle of the year and also have a final. It is an ongoing process."

Michelle Barrow, a third grade teacher at Greenville Elementary, said she has seen the difference the program can make first hand.

DIBELS helps them read more fluently," said Barrow. "We practice every day with it letting them read out loud and timing them. It does make them more fluent readers."

Barrow said she was happy to see the progress from last year continuing to grow.

"I was very happy with our scores," said Barrow. "Last years scores at the end of the year were phenomenal. I think this year will be the same way."

Kathy Robertson, another third grade teacher, felt parental involvement played a huge role.

"I had wonderful parents to work with," said Robertson. "I did not have single parent last year that did not do this every night at home with their children."

The DIBELS program is simple. Test, test and test some more to make sure the children are making progress. Robertson said this is the policy they have taken with the program and it has worked wonders.

"We really zero in on it," said Robertson. "They come and read a selection to be and I listen, count the errors and give them a score. The lower readers do that once a week and the higher readers do it once a month."

Though it sounds like a lot of hard work for the children Robertson said she tries to make it fun.

"We want to make them lovers of reading," said Robertson. I want them to like to read and go pick up a book when they have nothing else to do."

Greenville Elementary takes two sessions a day to work on DIBELS. They begin with a session from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. and often have another time in the afternoon set aside just for reading.

The extra time gives them a chance to put in extra work with readers who may need a little more help to catch up.

DIBELS has one the support of the parents, teachers and most importantly the students. The scores tell the story. Butler County's 65 percent tops Auburn's 61 percent and Troy's 63 percent.

Both are well known as strong districts.