Literacy Test Helps Educators Place Students

Rahsaan Bigham taking the test.
Rahsaan Bigham taking the test.

It's tough being the new kid in school. Especially when the classes may be taught a little differently than what they're used to. But one Chatham County elementary school is making sure its new students get in the right classes with one simple test.

Teachers at Garrison Elementary in Savannah are using one sheet of paper to determine a student's reading level, and that's making a world of difference in the kids' academic careers.

It's the first step in seven-year-old Rahsaan Bigham's career at Garrison. As a new student to the school, the reading test will determine his current education level.

"While they read it, I have a copy, watching to see if they make any omissions, substitutions, skip a word, can't pronounce a word," explained literacy coach Linda Farley. "Then I mark it on the test."

Called the Developmental Reading Assessment, the test shows reading and comprehension levels, which will allow Rahsaan to be placed in the correct classroom and have a curriculum tailored to his educational needs.

"So the teacher gets all this information and right there knows what this student is all about and what she needs to do for instruction," said Farley. "What the problems are, what the strengths are."

Garrison principal Dr. Karen Grant personally goes over all the test results herself, and puts her new students where she feels they fit the best. "I need to know the red flags, the kids who need extra work as soon as they walk in to the building, instead of just happening upon it," she said.

The test is given one on one, and Garrison Elementary is one of only two schools in Chatham County that actually administer the exam to students.

"We're trying to make sure we have the best fit for every kid who comes into this school, so we can have them perform at optimum levels," said Dr. Grant. "That's what it's all about."

And the success rate for students continues to climb. Not only in reading, but other academics too. "Math, social studies, science, it's gone up across the board, because reading is the foundation for any course," said Dr. Grant.

Garrison Elementary offers the literacy test to all its students at least three times a year to make sure the kids are still at the right levels and improving.

The exam is not mandatory. The only other school to give it is East Broad Elementary.

Reported by: Melanie Ruberti,