Miano fourth-grader’s score is literally off the chart

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 1, 2013 

— An R.M. Miano Elementary fourthgrader scored more points in 100 days in a reading program than any of her predecessors had done in seven years.

"Before the year, I set a goal," Linda de Alba, 10, said, adding it was 1,000 points.

She racked up 1,022 Accelerated Reader points in this year's 100-day Top Reader scoring period. To put that in perspective, the school's points record-holder scored 794.4 over an entire elementary school career.

Accelerated Reader is a computerized reading comprehension program used widely by elementary schools. Books are given a point value, based on length and reading level. After reading a book, students log on to school computers and take a test to prove they read the book.

To keep it fair and comparable, pupils are only allowed to take the tests during regular school hours, and only the first 100 days of the year count for Top Reader rankings.

"I really like fiction -- adventure stories," the fourth-grader said. "And, I also like Greek mythology a lot."

Linda read five books from Rick Riordan's "Heroes of Olympus" series, which are several hundred pages each, during the last weekend of the testing period. At Miano, pupils can only earn points from books at or above their reading level.

Linda's 1,022 points translates into more than 7 million words read, compared to fewer than 1 million for most students. Linda said she spends many free hours reading, but also gets outside to run around. She's involved in kickball, basketball, four square and other tournaments at Miano.

Linda wants to study neurological science at Stanford University. A member of Miano's Doctors Club, Linda said she wants to work in neurological research.

"The cure that I want to find is for Alzheimer's," she said, "because my grandpa, it looks like he's at the beginning of Alzheimer's."

Linda's mother, Eliane, and father, Sergio, teach at Miano.

Aaron Cotta, Linda's teacher, said his next highest-ever scoring student topped out around 200 points in a year.

"An average student will score 100 or less," Cotta said, adding that the schoolwide goal for children is 75.

Cotta said Linda routinely reads chapter books, and often juggles several at one time. Yet, Linda must keep them all straight in her head to answer specific multiple- choice questions in the program.

"For me, this is like the first time a student has that kind of recall capability," Cotta said, adding he's a 15-year veteran of the classroom. "Monday morning, she'll come back (and) she'll have read three or four books, go take the test and just go bang them out."

Cotta said the program is a good force to get students to read on their own. Pupils are drawn to scoring points, and can earn pencils and other knickknacks, Cotta said.

Linda, who has set a goal of 2,000 for next year, offers this advice for other students:

"Just find a book that you like."

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562.

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