Haslett builds readers, 20 minutes at a time

Twenty minutes a night. That number is drilled into Haslett kids in this mid-Michigan suburb by teachers in classrooms and parents at kitchen tables. Read for 20 minutes a night. Read Tolstoy. Read a comic book. Read the New York Times. Read the back of a cereal box, if you have to.

“It’s like sports,” said Judy Tegreeny, principal of Ralya Elementary in Haslett Public Schools. “The more you practice, the better you get.”

Practice paid off in Haslett, where the district’s students are Bridge Magazine’s Division 3 Academic State Champions of 4th Grade Reading.

Among last year’s Haslett fourth-graders who took the Michigan Educational Assessment test, 97 percent scored at proficiency level or higher. In its peer group of affluent city and suburban districts, Haslett edged out Grosse Ile (96.8 percent), Forest Hills (96.7) and East Grand Rapids (96.5). Haslett also has about twice as many students receiving free lunch as the other districts in the top four.

Haslett uses a mastery model, assessing students’ progress and moving kids who are falling behind into small intervention groups.

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None of it would matter without “the community being behind us 110 percent,” Tegreeny said. “They support us. They help with homework.”

'Triple Crown' for Godwin Heights

Meanwhile, Godwin Heights Public Schools fourth-graders won the equivalent of the triple crown in Bridge’s Division 2. Students in the Wyoming, Mich., district earned state championships in reading, writing and math.

“We have extremely high expectations,” said Mary Lange, principal of North Godwin Elementary.

Godwin Heights is a poor, urban district, with 69 percent of its students receiving free lunch, according to Bridge’s database. High levels of poverty are often associated with lower test scores. “Just because they’re poor doesn’t mean they can’t learn,” Lange said. “At a lot of schools, people don’t believe that. With that attitude, you can’t achieve."

"We have families working two, three jobs,” Lange said. “They’re sending us the best they have. They want (their children) to succeed. They’re desperate for help.”

Sounding like a football coach giving a pre-game pep talk, Lange exhorts her staff to do whatever it takes to make their students successful.

“Our teachers are here before school and after school,” Lange said. “They’re contacting families, they’re eating lunch with the kids. Here, failure is not an option."

 4th Grade Reading Champions

The division winners of 4th Grade Reading are:

Portage, Division 1

Godwin Heights, Division 2

Haslett, Division 3

Grand Haven, Division 4

Clintondale, Division 5

Spring Lake, Division 6

Harbor Beach, Division 7

Northport, Ewen-Trout Creek and Wakefield-Marenisco, Division 8

4th Grade Writing Champions

The division winners of 4th Grade Writing are:

Ann Arbor, Division 1

Godwin Heights, Division 2

Northville, Division 3

Swan Valley, Division 4

West Ottawa, Division 5

Spring Lake, Division 6

Chassell Township and Les Cheneaux, Division 7

Frankfort-Elberta, Division 8


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