Kindergarteners work together during a reading intervention session Wednesday, January 23, 2019 in Katie Hoiland's kindergarten classroom at Aragon Elementary in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

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It’s the third week of school at Remington Elementary in Colorado Springs and the first-grade teachers gathered in a small classroom say more students than usual are struggling with letter names and sounds — skills typically mastered in kindergarten.

A bar chart projected on a television screen bears out these observations, showing that 40% of the school’s first-graders are behind in literacy, with most of those scoring in the lowest “red” category and the rest in the second-lowest “yellow” category on a common reading assessment.

“Yeah, that’s scary,” said Principal Lisa Fillo, who’s led a reading instruction overhaul at the school over the past several years.

Now, educators at Remington, like those across Colorado and the nation, are beginning to size up the challenge ahead, particularly in the early grades where the building blocks of successful reading are formed. The pandemic torpedoed many of the school’s recent literacy gains and thr The pandemic torpedoed many of the school’s recent literacy gainsew an especially disruptive wrench into the education of Remington’s 105 first-graders, whose pre-K year was cut short and whose kindergarten year was marked by flip-flops between online and in-person learning.

“Kindergarten was broken up so much,” said Fillo. Last year, “they had like … three first days of school.”


Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat Colorado covering early childhood education. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and the Denver Post. She holds a master’s degree in education policy from the University...