Reading tool helps students in Elmsford get ahead of the class

Some local students are ahead of the game, thanks to a new reading assessment tool.
Learning to read and pronounce words can be a lot of fun, but not every student gets the hang of it at the same time.
That's why the Elmsford School District, with the help of United Way of Westchester and Putnam, rolled out A2i last year, a reading tool being used around the country.
Carl L. Dixson Primary School first grade teacher Courtney Velardo says it helps assess what each student is struggling with.
"If they can spell CVC words, then they get into longer words for them to spell, and then it's auditory where they're listening to words and choosing the two words that would go together," Velardo says.
Students are broken up into groups, with kids at the same level. Each group is given personalized lessons suited for their goals.
"The children are actually getting to take ownership of their own learning because some of their learning is teacher-managed with a teacher and some of their learning is child-managed, and they are accomplishing goals together and growing together," says Andrea Cleveland, interventionist at Dixson Primary School.
Of the 189 students in kindergarten and first grade who were in the program last year, 93% were six months ahead of schedule.
School Superintendent Dr. Marc Baiocco says they plan to bring A2i into higher grade levels.
"We had 13 students just to get in the weeds a little bit ... that needed a tier 3 intervention, which is our highest level of intervention. By the end of the year, we were down to zero," Dr. Baiocco says.
United Way of Westchester and Putnam hopes to inspire other schools to benefit from A2i as well.
"One of the best and proven interventions to rise out of poverty is education and the best form of education is investing in early childhood literacy," says United Way of Westchester and Putnam President & CEO Tom Gabriel.