Iowa public schools are putting in place stronger ways to support struggling readers. Meet Curtis, who was recently placed in the top reading group in his class. Curtis was identified as as “at-risk” of reading difficulty during third grade. Read to find out how his school, West Monona Elementary in Onawa, helped him get back on track.


Fourth-grader Curtis Richards recently called area education agency employee Teresa Murray at home one night to share the good news of his reading progress. He said to her, “Thanks for never giving up on me and believing in me…I did it!” 

While many children should be very proud to be listed among the top readers in their class, few could be as proud as Curtis Richards from West Monona Elementary in Onawa. Curtis, who is in fourth grade, was recently placed in the top reading group in his class. This feat meant so much more for Curtis and his family because of his involvement in the Comprehensive Intervention Model during his third grade year.

Curtis was identified by the data obtained from the district’s Comprehensive Assessment System. This system includes a process of screening students to identify those students who are at-risk of reading difficulty.

Based on the collection of data for Curtis, he was identified as a student in need of intervention. It was determined that Curtis was just over a year behind the third-grade (his current grade at the time) literacy expectations. He lacked the confidence necessary to be an efficient problem-solver capable of making meaning during reading. This transferred to his view of himself as a writer, as well.  Neither reading nor writing was an enjoyable experience.

“Curtis participated in a layered intervention design consisting of Guided Reading Plus, Writing Aloud and Comprehension Focus Group,” said Teresa Murray, educational consultant at Northwest Area Education Agency.

Murray explained that these interventions, along with dedication and hard work by Curtis, made a huge impact on his self-image. He also became efficient with strategies in his reading and writing, boosting his confidence. 

In addition, Curtis’ success in literacy led to his discontinuation from a behavioral intervention, Check-In/Check-Out. He had received 100 percent on his behavior reports for three weeks straight, allowing him to exit the plan. 

Murray is an interventionist and a Comprehensive Intervention Model coach to 32 of the 108 interventionists implementing this model, and she sees the direct impact it is making every single day. 

“The fact that he was finally feeling success touched me in a very special way,” revealed Murray.

West Monona Community Schools is in its fifth year of the Comprehensive Intervention Model. They have trained numerous teachers in the model, as well as trained two Comprehensive Literacy Model coaches at the Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy at the University of Northern Iowa.

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