Students' literacy needs, like their backgrounds, are diverse -- reading levels range from beginner to 6th grade and beyond. But once inside Ms. Perez's classroom, all students are presented with the same expectation: to take clear and measurable steps forward in their literacy development.
Ms. Perez identifies student needs through frequent formal and informal assessment. "Using assessment is the most important tool for me. It helps me to know the children: who they are, what they come with, the skills they have, and the skills they need to be working on." Ms. Perez formally assesses students four times a year using leveled readers from the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA). She measures students' progress against school benchmarks set for different times of the year, using results to guide instruction and grouping.
Trained as a reading specialist, Ms. Perez spends half of her time overseeing the school's reading program and the other half in the classroom. She uses a variety of sources when planning instruction and setting up her classroom. "A classroom like this doesn't get created overnight; it's a process. It takes a lot of thought and it takes a lot of different resources -- reading professional books, watching videos, asking help from veteran teachers."