At Booker T., reading reaps rewards

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Students took center stage — in some cases literally — in honor of their reading excellence Tuesday at Booker T. Washington Elementary in Port Arthur.

The Third Annual Accelerated Reader 2017 Awards Ceremony was held in the school gymnasium with a number of special guests. The school’s corporate partner and award sponsor was Valero.

“We’re so excited to see you do well and do better each and every year,” Barbara Phillips, public affairs manager for Valero, said.

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She expressed her hope that the students in the gymnasium would go on to graduate and attend local colleges like Lamar University or Lamar State College-Port Arthur.

“And we hope to see at least some of you at our refineries,” Phillips said when choosing their careers. “We just want you to be successful.”

Phillips said that Valero was very happy to be a partner with Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

Booker T. Washington principal Erica Seastrunk gives opening remarks for the school’s AR ceremony on Tuesday. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

The special guests in attendance included PAISD superintendent Mark Porterie.

“I want to thank Valero for all of their work and to the people on stage,” he said, indicating the mayor, members of the police department and Valero representatives seated behind him.

Porterie congratulated the school, parents, family and faculty on a wonderful school year; although, he reserved his biggest congratulations for the children, whom he called “the greatest, most magnificent and smartest students in Port Arthur.”

Other guests included Port Arthur mayor Derrick Freeman, who appealed to the kids’ popular culture by referencing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other all-ages fare.

“I want to tell you ‘thank you’ because while you could have been outside playing, you were inside reading a book,” Freeman said.

He also took the opportunity to thank the parents who spent time each day to listening to their children read to them or just helping them along with their studies.

Members from Port Arthur Police Department stand with elementary school mascot Booker T. Bear. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

Booker T. Washington principal Erica Seastrunk explained that AR, or Accelerated Reader, is a computer program that aids teachers and librarians in managing students’ reading habits at their own level.

“They come and check out a book from the library,” Seastrunk said. “They read the book and take a short test on the computer.”

The AR program then gives teachers and students’ feedback based on the students’ test results. The teacher uses those results to set a new bar for that student and to manage ongoing expectations.

“They’ve met that bar and surpassed that bar,” Seastrunk said of the students who received awards on Tuesday.

Each book a student reads is assigned a point value, with most books being worth half a point. First grade readers were given a 15-point goal while second grade readers were given a 20-point goal.

The winners of the Accelerated Reader 2017 Program consistently ranged from 17 to 27 points for first grade and from 21 to 57 points for second grade. Each grade’s top three readers scored even higher than their respective classmates.

The top AR Readers for the first grade stand on stage with Booker T. faculty, mascot and special guests. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

For first grade, Ivory Davis won third place with 27.9 points; Chaydun Leger won second place with 28.8 points; and Jahzarea Jacquet won first place with 30 points.

For second grade, Thurel Malveaux won third place with 67.5 points; Michael Alpough won second place with 74.3 points; and Amyriah Emanuel won first place with 74.7 points.

According to assistant principal Fred Owens, there were 49 students who received awards.

“And we’re looking to double that number for next year,” he said.

The top AR Readers for the second grade stand on stage with Booker T. faculty, mascot and special guests. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

Seastrunk said Booker T. is a literary campus for Pre-K through second grade, wherein the school’s goal is to have second-graders read at or above their grade level by the time they leave they graduate.

“We’ve put programs in place to ensure they’re reading above,” Seastrunk said. “We work with librarians, teachers and computers to aid this.”

She said AR is just one such program to test kids’ reading levels so each kid knows their reading level as they move along.

In the short time AR has been active, Seastrunk said teachers and parents have seen improvements in students’ reading performance.

“It’s been a steady build, a steady climb for them,” Seastrunk said. “Parents know to expect more from the (students).”

As additional motivation, faculty has established an AR Wall in the school lobby where students could see their progress in the reading program. Each success is awarded with a star.

According to Seastrunk, every five tests students take, they receive a treat and get to visit the vice principal’s office.