Early learners in Bensalem schools are growing as students alongside adventurers like Oswald, Alf and Fritz.
The common thread among these and other characters is the ability to help students in kindergarten- through second-grades transform words in a catchy song–and later on a page–to reading comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, writing and more.
“It’s a balanced literary program,” Benjamin Rush Elementary School Principal William Gretzula said of Super Kids, a new district curriculum addition among the six elementary schools. “Kids are building their own stories by the time they leave second-grade.”
Bensalem introduced the Super Kids program at the beginning of this school year, Gretzula said, adding that the curriculum was put in place, in large part, because of historically lackluster Pennsylvania System of School Assessment reading scores for district third-graders.
Similarly, the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s recently released Pennsylvania School Performance Profile, which takes into account academic achievement, academic growth, the school’s ability to close the achievement gap and related factors, showed half of the district’s elementary schools scoring in the 60s and 70s out of a possible 100 points.
“Rather than having to provide extensive intervention in grades three through six,” the district opted to change its approach, Gretzula said.
In classrooms, students work independently reading books, or in small groups sounding out and spelling memory words and looking at photos in the Super Kids story books and deciphering how a character is feeling or what his or her actions are saying.
The reading curriculum is built around daily routines, which include time for spelling, handwriting, blending and decoding, as well as expressive writing, library time and guided reading.
“It’s all about teaching it in a fun way,” Gretzula said.
According to Bensalem's Elementary Director of Curriculum, Maribel Camps, the implementation cost was $187,000, which includes materials for all kindergarten- through second-grade students, free on-line access and two days of in-class coaching per teacher. The cost annually, which covers student consumable materials such as customized writing pads and paper workbooks, is approximately $61,800, she said.
Terri Magerr, a Super Kids coach and former Neshaminy School District teacher of 30 years, said Super Kids was introduced at Neshaminy in 2009 and has proven helpful in raising reading proficiency levels.
“All the different levels – high, middle and low – all moved up,” Magerr said.
Magerr was on hand in Bensalem schools recently to observe the classrooms and to ensure that the Rowland Reading Foundation program is “implemented with fidelity.”
While still too early to determine how Super Kids will benefit Bensalem students, Gretzula said he’s seen a “high level of student engagement.”
“The kids are all highly interested in reading and they feel successful,” he said.