Peoria Journal Star -
Mrs. Hoffman’s classroom at Norwood Elementary School is buzzing with sound. The sound of small groups of students reading to each other.
Sixth-graders Jason Sparks and Andrew Clark are on the floor, flat on their stomachs, facing each other. They take turns reading paragraphs of “Ghosts in the Attic” to each other, then writing answers to questions on a worksheet. Teacher Sarah Hoffman and reading specialist Melissa Grant move from group to group, observing their work.
A fly catches Andrew’s attention. Jason pulls him back to the reading at hand. Andrew wants to know if Jason can write with either hand.
“No, let’s keep reading,” Jason says.
Pretty soon, they are arguing about whose turn it is to read. But they keep working.
Norwood’s improvement in reading scores on the 2014 Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT, is an offshoot of the guided reading program taking place in the classroom, says principal Erik Estill.
The progress students are making wouldn’t have counted for much under No Child Left Behind, the federal reforms that ushered in a tough new era of accountability. Neither Norwood or any other school in the area would have made adequate yearly progress based on NCLB guidelines.
But Illinois’s public education system is in the midst of a massive overhaul. Thanks to a federal waiver, many of NCLB’s guidelines no longer apply. School performance will be based on far more than how Jason and Andrew perform on a single test — the ISAT — given once a year.