PATERSON, NJ  – Efforts by Paterson Public Schools to increase the percentage of students reading at or above grade level are paying off, according to school officials, as well as education advocates.

“We’re feeling pretty good about first year implementation,” Assistant Superintendent Eric Crespo, who according to a statement, presented the data at a board retreat on Monday evening. “That’s not to say that our work is done in improving elementary students’ reading ability, but the data indicates that our efforts are moving in the right direction.”

The 2018-2019 school year was the inaugural year of the district using McGraw-Hill’s Wonders K-5 reading program. The program helped the district provide a more rigorous reading education. New unit assessments were created that included longer texts that were of a higher reading level in order to be aligned with the program.

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At six percent students in first and fifth grade saw the largest increase in reading levels while third grade students came in with a five percent increase. The number of second grade students reading at or above grade level dropped slightly while kindergarten and fourth grade went up by one percent.

Crediting the district’s use of a more rigorous reading program Superintendent Eileen Shafer clarified that the District’s efforts in this area are far from over. “Clearly, there’s a lot we need to do in order to make (further increases) happen,” Shafer said. “But this data is encouraging and we will continue our efforts in providing rigorous reading education in the classroom, and fostering a love of reading in our students with the help of our community partners.”

Also celebrating the announcement was Rosie Grant, Executive Director of the Paterson Education Fund, the not-for-profit organization whose mission is to stimulate community action for change so that local public school students can achieve the highest possible standards.

In an email to TAPinto Paterson Grant pointed to the collaborative effort that has brought together a number of community partners under the umbrella of “Paterson Reads.” Included in the efforts to improve reading scores, Grant said, have been initiatives to reduce chronic absenteeism, amend the District’s suspension policy, and implement breakfast after the bell in schools across the city. 

As the 2018/2019 academic year drew to a close the Paterson Education Fund joined Shafer and other district officials to celebrate 2,165 district students who participated in the organization’s “50 Book Club,” membership in which included a requirement to read 50 or more books during the school year.

“One specific goal of the collaborative last year was to see an increase of five percentage points in third grade reading scores,” Grant said. “Goal met!” 

Like Shafer and other District leaders Grant is not ready to settle for the most recent numbers. 

“One longer term goal is that Paterson’s third grade proficiency will match or exceed the statewide data,” Grant shared. “This gives us hope.”


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