Student Taking DISTAR Mastery Test
Nearly 100 pre-k students in Texas have reason to be proud of their newfound reading and language skills. IDEA Pharr Academy in Pharr, Texas introduced a pre-kindergarten pilot program in the fall of 2014 featuring Direct Instruction programs with the goal of reducing the achievement gap and ensuring students begin kindergarten on grade level. 80% of Pharr Academy’s students speak Spanish as their first language, and nearly all students, 97.3%, come from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

The year began with eight groups of students in Español to English and four more groups in DISTAR Language. Pharr’s goal for the half-day pilot program was for all students to  complete Español to English or DISTAR by the end of the year and be primed for starting Reading Mastery Signature Edition (RMSE) language and reading programs in the fall. With over 30 instructional days remaining until year’s end, 66 of the 99 pre-k pilot program students had already started RMSE K – some had completed over 60 lessons! The other 33 students were finishing up Español to English and were a few lessons away from being ready to placement test for RMSE.

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NIFDI Implementation Manager, Lyn House, pointed out the long-lasting impact this pilot program will have, noting, “The addition of pre-k to the IDEA schools has the potential to have a monumental impact on the number of students finishing kindergarten on grade level, especially for those campuses with large numbers of students who come from homes that speak only Spanish. Completing pre-k will give those students who speak only Spanish, or a very limited amount of English, the opportunity to complete the entire Español to English program in pre-k instead of completing that program in kindergarten BEFORE beginning the regular kindergarten curriculum. That means that students who complete Español to English in pre-k have a much greater chance of completing kindergarten at grade-level. As a result, the effects of adding pre-k to the campuses that have high Spanish speaking populations has the potential to increase the number of students who finish at or above grade-level in all grades throughout the years to come at IDEA. It's been a privilege to be a part of such an important pilot program at IDEA and a true joy to work with the staff at IDEA Pharr Academy.”

Pharr Academy, IDEA Public Schools and NIFDI were thrilled with the accomplishments of these students and are looking ahead to the impact it can have on students when IDEA expands the program to other campuses throughout Texas for the 2015-16 school year. For more information on IDEA Public Schools, visit ideapublicschools.org.

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