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PILOT EVALUATION REPORT


Dates: February 6 – May 24, 2013 (13 weeks, excluding school holidays)

School: Hope Elementary School, Santa Barbara, California

Principal: Barbara LaCorte

Participating Teachers (First Grade): Tim Barker and Adrian Talley

Participating Teachers (Second Grade): Theana Earls and Janet Longpre

School Librarian: Jennifer Wasem

*Download a copy of this report*

Overview:

All for Animals recently completed its ARF! (Animals + Reading = Fun!) pilot with phenomenal results and tremendous support and enthusiasm from the community! All for Animals begin laying the foundation for ARF! last November by sponsoring a 5-week therapy dog training class to train reading mentors to work with elementary school children with learning challenges. From that class, six teams (one person and one dog per team) joined ARF! as volunteer therapy dog team members. Each team completed a two-hour volunteer training workshop and they received a TB clearance and LiveScan Fingerprinting (background check) – both of which are required by the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

We selected Hope Elementary School for our pilot as approximately 25% of its student population is considered low-income and in need of extra assistance to develop their reading and comprehension skills. The teachers and principal chose 24 first and second grade students to participate in our program and we had all parents sign a permission slip for their child. ARF!’s program director and Hope’s librarian selected age-appropriate books about animals – specifically dogs – which allowed the children opportunities to increase their reading skills in addition to learning the importance of love and respect for animals. Each therapy dog team volunteered for 90 minutes per week for a total of 13 weeks. Each team was paired with four students and they worked with the same children throughout the pilot in order to develop trust and form a bond. The students received one-on-one reading intervention and they read to their dog friend for 20 minutes each week for a total of 4.3 hours of reading support per student.

In This Report:

  1. Survey results from participating teachers
  2. Comments and observations from principal
  3. Comments and observations from volunteers
  4. Standardized testing methods utilized
  5. Individual student reading scores

Survey Results From Participating Teachers:

Question 1: Please give your overall impressions of our program:

Outstanding: 75%
Good: 25%
Fair: 0%
Poor: 0%

Question 2: What have you seen that is most noteworthy about having the dogs “read” with the children?

  • The children are SO excited to go and read!
  • The enthusiasm of the children to go to ARF!
  • It’s great to see the kids that struggle with reading, excited!
  • I think the biggest performance indicators that we can directly link to ARF! are the excited testimonials of children that want to read to their dog friends and now miss them! I’m serious – when a low performing student is excited to read, we know the battle is won and they will become readers!

Question 3: Is the ARF! program providing benefits to the children? If yes, in what ways? If no, why not?

  • A few of my students do not like/choose to read at home, but they are excited to read with the dogs!
  • Enthusiastic about going.
  • Yes! Any additional exposure to literature that is positive is beneficial!
  • Yes, more practice and positive feelings around reading.

Question 4: Have you seen an improvement in the children’s motivation to read in general? Explain.

  • Yes! My ARF! students are more apt to pick up a book for choice and volunteer to read aloud.
  • Not sure.
  • Yes, all my students are reading well and want to read. All my students wish they could have been part of this program.
  • Yes!

Question 5: Have you noticed an improvement in their reading skills? Please explain.

  • Yes, their fluency is increasing.
  • I don’t think so, but it is a very short time there and it hasn’t been in place but for a short time.
  • With the motivation to read, my students’ skills have improved over the course of the year.
  • Probably not enough time to truly impact their reading, but it has enhanced the support already provided.

Question 6: What suggestions can you make to improve the ARF! program in the future?

  • If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, maybe the dog/owner could walk to pick up the students that are to read. I have so many students that come and go with pullouts that I sometimes forgot to send the kids. This would be a helpful practice and maybe fun for the kids and the dog to walk together, too.
  • Try to make it during silent reading time: 12:15 – 12:45 pm or afternoons only.
  • Bring more dogs!

Comments and Observations From School Principal:

Educational research targets first and second graders for reading intervention programs so that students can be fluent and comprehending by the end of third grade. Up to the end of third grade, children are learning to read and then after that, children are reading to learn. Strong reading skills will determine each child’s ability to learn what they need to become productive, confident adults.

In January, many of our students were stumbling over the words as they were reading, but by June, their reading fluency had increased greatly. I attribute this to their increased motivation and confidence to read aloud to their dog friend. In addition, I heard from several parents that their children loved being in the ARF! program. The kids talked about it all the time and they wanted to read to their own dogs at home!

For me, the qualitative data is much more important than the quantitative data. ARF! has shown the children’s motivation and confidence increased greatly over the course of the13-week pilot. Motivation and confidence to read is the foundation upon which learning takes place. Without them, children start to feel bad about themselves and they shut down and they don’t even try to read. I think it is clear that, in addition to gains in reading comprehension and fluency, our students experienced gains in their motivation and confidence as well. The kids always ran to read to their furry friend each week. These students enjoyed reading with their doggie and human mentors and we are looking forward to having the ARF! teams return this fall!

Comments and Observations from Our ARF! Volunteers:

  1. My students really enjoyed coming to read to Lucky. Some enjoyed petting him while they read and others enjoyed giving him treats or taking him for a walk when were done. My first grader made the most progress because she was more relaxed while petting Lucky. In the beginning, she would stumble over almost every word, but at the end, she could read sentences and pages with no mistakes, as long as she was relaxed. I really enjoyed the contact with children and being in a positive school setting. I am looking forward to our summer events and to being at a school again this fall. –Diana B. and Lucky
  1. On Day 1 of our pilot, my first student arrived and let me know that she was “an animal lover through and through” (complete with a little head and wrist snap!) and proceeded to name every pet she cared for at home. The other children were a bit shy at first, but as soon as they saw Sandy’s tail wagging wildly, they relaxed and started smiling and—more importantly—started reading with enthusiasm! Most of the children took time to sound out unfamiliar words while one little girl always asked for help. If a child washaving trouble with a word or phrase, I would always include Sandy by saying, “Let’s see if we can help Sandy figure out this word” and we’d all look up the word in the dictionary. For each book the kids read during their 20 minutes with us, they were allowed to give Sandy one treat. This motivated the kids to read as many books as possible. One week, Sandy received FOUR treats from one little girl! As the president of All for Animals, I have witnessed ARF!’s progression from a simple idea shared at a board meeting to a full-fledged program that is having profound effects in the lives of some very deserving children. I am very much looking forward to watching ARF! flourish in the months and years to come! –Karen S. and Sandy
  1. Zoe and I really enjoyed the ARF! reading program and the opportunity to be part of the pilot launch. The four little girls we met with really bloomed over the 3-month period, gaining both confidence in their abilities and in their reading skills. It was a joy to see and to get know them and see them progress so beautifully. Mainly, it was a lot of fun for us all – from picking out our books, to reading them, giving Zoe her treats and taking her around the library or outdoors for a walk when we done reading. The girls clearly loved to come every week and viewed the experience as a treat and not a chore. It would be wonderful if more kids could have that experience. –Mary Ellen H. and Zoe
  1. From the day I brought Buddy home at 9 weeks, I always wanted him to become some kind of therapy dog, and although he is quite young, he has proven to be an eager and dutiful participant in the ARF! program. Every Friday morning when I approached him with his ARF! bandana (uniform), he would howl with excitement. I didn’t believe at first that the kids would actually think the dogs were listening to them, but they absolutely did, and even wanted to show him the pictures from page to page. It was clear from Day 1 that the children were incredibly motivated and felt like superstars on campus for being one of the few lucky ones to have been selected to participate in ARF! From what I witnessed, all of my kids’ reading skills evolved over the course of the semester, as well as their comfort level around an exuberant 80 lb. dog, which I also think is a valuable asset. I very much hope to continue volunteering with ARF! this fall, and I’m certain Buddy does as well. –Karen P. and Buddy
  1. My dog Pedro and I really enjoyed going to Hope School every Friday for the ARF! program. The librarian at Hope School put together a variety of dog books for every reading ability and every child had about 15 minutes for reading. We spent the last 5 minutes of our 20 minutes session talking about Pedro. The children could hold his leash, walk around with him and I showed them how to interact with him. This was also a very important part of the program – not only to give the children the experience how fun reading can be, but also how to treat an animal with respect and love. One of our students told me one time that he would like to read at home but he can’t because he does not have a dog at home. So we talked about that and a few weeks later he told me that he is now also reading at the YMCA while he is there in the afternoon. Sometimes he would read to someone, sometimes he would read by himself. I was happy to hear that and his reading skills were really getting better! I noticed that the children who were part of the ARF! program for the last few months felt special and they really seemed to enjoy it, especially those who were probably struggling in class. Now they were getting some special attention from a dog who came to visit every Friday and who was listening without judging. I am convinced that we were able to show them how fun reading can be and hopefully this experience will have a positive effect on their school life. – Brigitte H. and Pedro
  1. I have enjoyed participating in the ARF! program with my dog Olivia. It is amazing to see how much the children have improved their reading skills. At the beginning of the program, several of my students would come to a word they didn’t know and just stop reading and not try to sound out the word. I try to make their learning environment as stress-free and nonjudgmental as possible and reward any attempts a child makes to read a word they don’t know. Many times, I have seen a child who is struggling to make sense of the letters on the page reach out and touch Olivia. Then the child would usually take a breath, relax a bit, and keep trying to read. During the last two weeks of the program, I rarely saw any of the students we worked with get stuck on a word and quit reading. The children would keep trying to sound the word out or give their best guess at what the word was. Another thing I love about the program is how the dogs and children formed a partnership. When we would walk down the halls we could hear the children saying, “That’s the dog I read to!” proudly to their friends. The ARF! therapy dogs are great motivators. The children were eager to finish reading so they would have time to do tricks or pet the dogs. I believe that having children read to a dog in a relaxing atmosphere can be very beneficial. –Andrea B. and Olivia

Standardized Testing Methods Utilized for ARF! Pilot:

  1. Accelerated Reader (AR)
  2. Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
  1. AR is a progress monitoring software assessment tool in wide use by primary and secondary schools for monitoring the practice of reading. AR tests students’ grade level reading comprehension.

Note from school principal about AR: Some of the first graders’ reading skills are at the emerging level and therefore are not quite ready to begin AR. Other students began AR at the end of the school year (just as the ARF! pilot was ending), so the school was unable to measure their progress in reading comprehension.

  1. DIBELS are a set of standardized assessments used for universal screening and progress monitoring in grades K-6. DIBELS tests students’ reading fluency – how many words a child can read accurately in one minute.

Note from school principal about DIBELS: Every ARF! students’ reading fluency scores improved – some dramatically! All students had accuracy measures of 80% or higher.

Student Reading Scores, January-June 2013:

AR Grade Level Equivalence

DIBELS Words per Minute

Name

Grade

January

June

January*

June*

Student 1 (male)

1

0.9 – 1.9

7

15

Student 2 (female)

1

22

49

Student 3 (female)

1

1.8 – 2.8

20

55

Student 4 (female)

1

1.1 – 2.1

1.8 – 2.8

15

42

Student 5 (female)

1

1.4 – 2.4

1.6 – 2.6

27

50

Student 6 (female)

1

22

49

Student 7 (female)

1

28

45

Student 8 (female)

1

23

62

Student 9 (female)

1

1.2 – 2.2

14

34

Student 10 (male)

1

18

44

Student 11 (male)

1

17

48

Student 12 (male)

1

22

44

Student 13 (female)

2

0.7

0.9

37

55

Student 14 (female)

2

2.5

2.5

90

112

Student 15 (male)

2

2.7

3.4

77

95

Student 16 (female)

2

0.8

2.2

22

31

Student 17 (female)

2

2.7

2.7

97

125

Student 18 (male)

2

1.7

1.7

49

52

Student 19 (male)

2

1.8

2.0

74

95

Student 20 (male)

2

1.3

1.7

39

67

Student 21 (female)

2

2.6

3.0

82

95

Student 22 (male)

2

1.3

2.5

65

80

Student 23 (male)

2

1.6

2.1

59

90

Student 24 (female)

2

2.0

3.0

56

75

 *First grade standard = 40 words per minute *Second grade standard = 90 words per minute