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Rainbow special education students reach national honor roll for reading

At Rainbow Elementary School, Maureen Haas, far left, and Emily Craig, far right, and their students admire the National Honor Roll banner that they earned from Accelerated Reader. (CONTRIBUTED)
At Rainbow Elementary School, Maureen Haas, far left, and Emily Craig, far right, and their students admire the National Honor Roll banner that they earned from Accelerated Reader. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – A dedication to better reading skills has placed students in special education at Rainbow Elementary School on Accelerated Reader’s (AR) National Honor Roll.

Emily Craig and Maureen Haas, developmental special education teachers, said their students fulfilled requirements with Renaissance Learning’s AR programs. Based in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., AR is a program for grades K-12 that personalizes reading practice while teachers monitor comprehension.

Craig and Haas set “data targets,” based on individual students’ reading abilities and scheduled daily AR reading time. “We set the expectation that students receive 85 percent accuracy or better on each AR quiz … a big challenge since most quizzes only have five questions,” Haas said.

Then, they set point goals for students and held conferences with them to plan for achieving goals. After quizzes, they reviewed results with students individually, recommended improvements, taught comprehension strategies and encouraged persistence.

To reinforce success, Rainbow PTA provides incentives. Craig and Haas reward students with certificates, gift cards, result graphs and immediate recognition with bell-ringing and silent cheers. “The children know they get to ring the class bell and add data to the graph for passed quizzes,” Craig said.

“We teach how to read nonfiction and its text features and require students to check out nonfiction books,” Haas said. “They know the expectation to pass three AR quizzes per week.”

Craig and Haas teach students in grades 4-6. Haas has eight students in AR and Craig has five. “Our AR readers self-select books at their levels and read to children who cannot read,” Haas said. “This extends AR to all students … a win-win situation.”

Practice is vital for students with special needs, Haas said. With teacher feedback and monitoring progress, students build confidence in reading.

“As teachers, it’s worth the effort to encourage students in reading. It builds a culture of reading for enjoyment, information and life skills,” Haas said. “The gift of reading opens the world to our students, gives them greater opportunities and helps them become more independent.

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