Palo Alto Unified School District's early literacy program, the Every Student Reads Initiative (ESRI), is showing major improvements within each student group tested this year, the second year of the program, the district said in a statement released on Tuesday, June 6.
The results have greatly advanced the district's equity in learning goals, with double-digit increases in every grade and across all ethnic and racial groups. During the 2022–2024 school years, student groups in the K-5 Every Student Reads Initiative are targeted to reach a 5% increase each year in the percentage of students reading “on or above grade level” on the End of Year i-Ready Diagnostic Reading assessment.
Results for 2022-2023 from the assessment showed the highest gains among Black students, English learners and Hispanic students. Black students had a 33-percentage-point increase, English Learners grew by 37 percentage points, and Hispanic students jumped 36 percentage points for reading on or above grade level respectively.
Pacific Islander students also made impressive gains, with a 29 percentage-point increase, the district said.
Socioeconomically disadvantaged students and Hispanic students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged both gained 30 percentage points.
Students with disabilities within the district also showed increases in the literacy goals – a 19-percentage-point jump since the beginning of the school year.
In the context of baseline numbers and goals the district adopted for each group at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, the gains are even larger.
While 47% of Black students were at or above grade reading level and the school board-approved goal was to raise the number to 55%, by the end of the year, 80% of the students were reading on or above grade level, according to the data.
Hispanic students started with a 29% baseline for reading on or above grade level, with a district goal of 37%. By year end, 65% of students had reached reading on or above grade level.
Hispanic students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged went from a 19% baseline reading at grade level, with a 24% district goal, to 49%. Pacific Islanders rose from 27% baseline and exceeded a 39% district goal by reaching a 56% grade-level proficiency.
English learners, who were at a 29% baseline with a 34% district goal reached 66%.
Socioeconomically disadvantaged students started with a 33% baseline and a district goal of 42%. They increased to 63% grade-level proficiency by the end of the year. Students with disabilities started with 34% being grade-level proficient at baseline and a 39% district goal. By year end, 53% of students were on or above grade-level reading, the data showed.
For all groups of students in the program, those who are reading at or above grade level include: 91% of kindergarteners; 77% of first graders; 73% of second graders; 81% of third graders, 59% of fourth graders and 62% of fifth graders.
"By reviewing each student’s assessments, teachers are able to address challenges and provide high-quality instruction in specific domains in order to continue improvement in reading and comprehension skills. PAUSD teachers and students apply tremendous effort into growing grade-level readers by developing essential skills that have a lifelong impact," the district said.
The data also evaluated students who are reading at two and three grades below grade level.
At the Tuesday, June 6, Board of Education meeting, members were elated with the results.
"The real challenge, and the reason we did all this, is for kids who are two or three grades behind. … How do you even have a hope of catching up?" Board Member Todd Collins said.
"And we know in the vast majority of venues across the United States across the world those kids never catch up. … So look at these numbers. I mean, for kids three or more grades below, median growth was 248%. And then for kids who are two grades below, it was 170%. I don't even know how to process this. It's so amazing."
Districtwide results can be found here.
The third year of the Every Student Reads Initiative begins in the fall. The spring 2023 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), English Language Arts (ELA) test results and reading results for third grade ESRI groups will be presented to the board at that time, the district stated.