Second-grade teacher Leanne Mebus reads with (from her left) Landon Olson, Danica Dahm, Tessa Traugutt and Chase Nunez. Don Tjossem, KP News

Something called a “flexible classroom” is being this year at Minter Creek Elementary School. When asked for a definition of this new concept, Principal Ty Robuck said, “I’ll show you.”

Leanne Mebus sat in her second-grade classroom at her learning table listening to a student read from his fluency folder. Three other students followed along in their own fluency folders. The folders contain 14 vocabulary-appropriate reading exercises, about 200 words long, and exercises.

The student reading snapped his fingers to indicate a period. Mebus discussed difficulties that came up in the reading as they arose. One point she discussed was the information provided by capital letters. She provided individual instruction to four students at a time for the duration of the reading sessions. There was a feeling of accomplishment among the students as the number of errors declined during the exercises.

While this went on, most of the rest of the students were paired up on the other side of the room, taking turns reading quietly to each other; each was a reader and a coach.

The second-graders at Minter have been grouped into three classes according to their reading ability. Students in the advanced group are provided enrichment opportunities when they become proficient in the skills being taught. Extra help is given to those in the least proficient group.

Learning Assistance Program coach Sally Gallagher and the three second-grade teachers evaluate the students every six weeks. A student who is progressing well may be moved to a more proficient class, while one who needs more help can move to where more help is provided. The classrooms are adjacent to one another so students who move just go to the class next door.

“Students whose parents read to them have a big head start when learning to read,” Gallagher said. “One of the most important factors affecting student performance in school is their parent’s attitude toward learning. If their parents think learning is important, then students generally do well.”

Gallagher said the reading program has been in use for five years and students have improved every year. It is federally funded under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Title I provides financial assistance to schools with high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet academic standards. A similar, state-funded program called What I Need (known as WIN) is used for the fifth-grade math classes.