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Literacy tests for Jefferson's eighth- through 12th-graders
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Reading may be fundamental, but not all students do it well.

In an effort to ensure that they are graduating fully literate students, Jefferson High School officials have implemented a new universal literacy screening.

Eighth- through 12th-grade students in the Jefferson City School System recently completed a literacy assessment that will gauge a student’s reading level, rate and comprehension.

"This is the first year that we’ve done this; it’s part of the state mandated ‘response to intervention’ program. The response to intervention is a component of the pyramid of intervention process that schools are required to have to make sure all students are on track to succeed," said Kevin Smith, Jefferson High School principal.

"The majority of students are successful, but this is about responding to those who are not doing so well academically. You can’t just say, ‘OK, these kids just aren’t getting it.’ This is about what you are doing to help these kids get it."

Students wrapped up the initial screening on Monday and results are expected to be ready in May.

"The initial screening will allow us to see where the base line is and help us to make a determination about which students need the most help," Smith said.

"The students who need the most assistance will be placed in a content connection class next year. That course will help them improve their literacy skills. That course will also have a built-in progress monitoring component so that we can assess if it’s working for the students."

Although many schools choose a multi-pronged approach to response to intervention programs, Smith says honing in on literacy is a strategic move for Jefferson High School.

"If we can help those who need the most assistance in reading, that will touch every other subject we teach at the high school level," Smith said.

"If we can help students become better readers, they are going to experience success in every area at school."