Is 100% Proficiency Possible? You Betcha

Since its gaining its moniker, No Child Left Behind has faced growing scrutiny about its goal — ensuring that every student is achieving at grade level.  On the reading side of the coin, when NCLB was passed into law, only 60 percent of fourth graders were proficient or better at reading.  Two of every five students was struggling at reading.  The goal was to get all five of them reading, offering scientifically based interventions to fill the gaps.

Such promises became a punchline for folks.  It seemed like some would have felt better if we had said “Only 10 Percent Left Behind” or “Just a Few Left Behind.”

Today’s Washington Post, though, shows that 100 percent proficiency is not just a campaign slogan, it can be a way of life for some schools.  Over at the Core Knowledge Blog, they’ve done a good job discussing this very topic, and the fact that a school in Ocean City has already completely fulfilled its AYP obligations.  Check it out at

Such gains are not just left to our beachside communities.  We are starting to see more and more examples of schools that have cracked the code and have figured out how to get every child reading and get every child performing.  Case in point, Pennsylvania’s Souderton Collaborative Charter School.

Full disclosure, I recently came across Souderton as part of my day job.  Based in Montgomery County, PA, this K-8 school has clear academic goals.  For language arts, that goal is to “read with comprehension, to write with skill, and to communicate effectively and responsibly in a variety of ways/settings.”

To achieve this goal, the school leadership adopted a scientifically based approach to independent reading.  The school provides books on topics of interest to the student, at reading levels and content appropriate to the students’ age.  In return, the students develop an interest and a passion for reading, developing the skills they need to succeed in ELA and other classroom results.

The result?  Success.  Don’t believe Eduflack?  Take a look at Souderton’s results on the PSSA for 2005-06 — Pennsylvania’s state assessment.  Third grade PSSA reading scores — 100% proficient or better.  Fourth grade PSSA reading scores — 100% proficient or better.  Even seventh grade reading scores — 100% proficient or better.  That’s every child reading at grade level.

Souderton achieved this, in part, because they are using approaches that are proven effective.  Their reading instruction models the best practices called for by the National Reading Panel and Reading First.  They are empowering both students and teachers, inspiring both to achieve.  And the results show.

Ocean City and Souderton can’t be the only schools with these sorts of results.  While schools don’t have to be 100 percent proficient until 2014, I have a feeling that these two schools are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unsung heroes that are achieving despite the white noise of failure and impossibility.  We should be modeling behaviors after schools like OC and Souderton.  And we, including Eduflack, should be doing a better job uncovering those schools that are doing it right.  Finding those schools that are achieving.  Throwing the spotlight on those communities where SBRR works, and where student reading proficiency is the norm, not the exception.

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