Mesquite Elementary School students asked that their principal, Dr. Kris Reed, be sent to the roof as their reward for meeting their schoolwide goal of reading 4,000 books over the past seven weeks.
Students voted to have their teacher sit up on the roof during lunch Tuesday and also to opted for a crazy dress week with a different theme every day, allowing them to be uniform-free for the week.
Through a program called Accelerated Reading (AR), which began on campus last year, students at Mesquite have read 10,173 books since school started in August.
Their goal before the end of the year?: a total of 15,000.
Anne Bodine, PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) president, explained that at the beginning of the year, all students were tested through AR to determine their individual reading level and set a goal for themselves each quarter as to how many books they want to read.
Students not only read the books, Bodine said, but they also are tested on every book they read and have to receive an 80 percent or higher to pass.
Completely run by PTO and funded by parents, AR came with a price tag of about $6,000 to implement schoolwide and will require yearly fees to renew their license.
“It's a big fee ... but it's worth it, most definitely,” said PTO volunteer coordinator Kathy Wyer. “It's been a life changer for our school.”
From kindergarten through sixth-grade, all 635 kids on Mesquite's campus are involved in the program, said Reed, noting that the program has truly improved their reading comprehension skills as well as their AIMS scores.
For the first time, Reed said, Mesquite joined only four other schools in Yuma that received the Arizona Learns score of an “A” from the Department of Arizona last year, which she believes was due in part to the AR program.
“Their scores are zooming up since they started this program. I really see a difference.”
Students have the opportunity to visit the school computer lab every day from 9 to 11:30 a.m. to take quizzes on the books they've read.
There is also an element added into the program that restricts students from taking a quiz on the same book twice to prevent any overlaps in what the students have already read.
“AR is amazing because the questions are targeted to what is in the book,” Bodine explained. “You'll fail if you decide to watch the movie instead of read the book.”
School librarian Jane Holman noted that since the implementation of the program, she has seen an influx of students in the library on a daily basis.
“Our mission is placing the right book in the hands of the right child at the right time. AR allows us to do that — the response has been amazing, and kids are reading at the right level. It sets them up for success.”
Bodine said that thanks to the help of parent volunteers, every Mesquite library book that qualifies for AR has a color-coded label so students can easily find books at their reading level.
She said that ELL (English Language Learner) students have also been excelling in the program, despite the fact that English is their second language, so much so that last quarter every fourth- through sixth-grade ELL student received at least one certificate for the amount of books that they read.
“We're really proud of that,” Bodine said.
Next year, she said, they hope to also bring in a similar program called Accelerated Math to help students work at their own level on math subjects that are in line with Arizona State Standards.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.