Juliette is reading at grade level thanks to New Worlds Reading Scholarship Account
BY ROGER MOONEY
Juliette Doyon was elated to score a Level 4 on her FAST ELA Reading for Progress Monitoring assessment test this past spring. It was almost two points higher than she scored at the beginning of the year.
“I was really, really excited,” said Juliette, who completed the third grade at Valleyview Elementary School in Lakeland in May.
This means she will begin the fourth grade in August reading at grade level. And it means the New Worlds Reading Scholarship Account that Juliette received this past school year worked.
“The scholarship was helpful because it paid for the (reading) tutor,” said Gerri Doyon, Julliette’s mom. “Juliette really made a huge stride. It was largely attributed to the tutoring that we were doing because it built her confidence. It was geared towards all the critical skills she needed, because we were using a third-grade teacher who knows the criteria.”
Managed by Step Up For Students, the New Worlds Scholarship Accounts (as it is now known after expanding to include math for the 2023-24 school year) is an education savings account worth $500 that can be used toward tutors, programs and materials to improve a child’s reading and. It is available to Florida students in public and charter schools in Grades 3-5 who:
- Scored below Level 3 on the statewide, standardized English Language Arts (ELA) assessment in the prior school year (2021-2022).
- Score a Level 1 or Level 2 on the Grades 3-10 FAST ELA Reading for Progress Monitoring 1 (PM1), PM2 or PM3 in 2022-2023.
- Or students in grades K-2 in 2022-2023 who are identified with a substantial reading deficiency per Rule 6A-6.053 F.A.C.
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Juliette, who was born in Lakeland, moved with her family to Virginia, where she attended kindergarten and first grade. The family returned to Lakeland the summer before Juliette began second grade. At the start of the school year, Julliette tested at 0.9, which is reading at kindergarten level.
“That caught us off guard,” Gerri said. “There were no concerns in kindergarten or first grade, but it was apparent when we moved back here.
“We didn't have any warning signs. I guess our situation is a little bit different because we came from out of state, but it was like, ‘Whoa!’ Not only did she test low, she tested very low.”
It explained why Juliette was struggling in her other classes, too, because she struggled to read and understand assignments and questions on tests.
“Second grade was tough,” Gerri said. “We were trying to bridge that gap. We were hustling all second grade and she got a 1.5, so that's like mid-year first grade.
“In third grade we wanted to get her to a place where she truly was on point, reading at a level she needs to read at.”
Gerri found a tutor at the start of the past school year. She paid out-of-pocket until she learned of the New Worlds Reading Scholarship Account. That allowed for year-long sessions with Lori Irwin, a reading tutor from Lakeland who teaches third grade.
Juliette met Irwin for one hour a week at the Lakeland Public Library. Irwin realized Julliette lacked confidence and second-guessed herself when answering questions.
Irwin worked on building Juliette’s vocabulary, which helped her identify clues that enabled her to better understand what she was reading. She gave Juliette exercises to work on during the week. That, Irwin said, aided by the support of Juliette’s parents and the attention from Juliette’s reading teacher at Valleyview Elementary helped Juliette improve gradually over the course of the year.
“It took a whole village to get here there,” Irwin said.
As her reading improved, so did her grades in other subjects. Juliette’s final report card showed A’s in everything but Language Arts, where she earned a C. But that C was her highest mark in the subject during her two years at Valleyview.
“It helped me with knowledge that I was missing in class,” Juliette said of working with Irwin.
The FAST ELA Reading for Progress Monitoring test is administered three times during the school year. Juliette scored in the low 2s the first time. She showed signs of progress the second time when she raised her grade to the high 2s. A Level 3 would man she was proficient at the third-grade level. Those first two tests serve to monitor a student’s progress. It’s the third test that counts.
And Juliette nailed it.
“Honestly,” Gerri said, “we were hoping she would be proficient.”
Irwin, who has taught third grade for 18 years, said students are under a lot of stress to pass the reading assessments tests.
“I thought she’d make a 3,” Irwin said. “So, when she told me she made a 4 I was so proud, because that meant she gave it everything she had. It was in there.”
With the help of the New Worlds Reading Scholarship Account, Juliette received the necessary tutoring to help her reach her potential.
“It was a good year,” Gerri said. “A really good school year.”
Roger Mooney, manager, communications, can be reached at email@example.com.