Program results in improvements with writing, reading

CALCUTTA — Efforts to improve the reading and writing skills of Beaver Local elementary school students are paying dividends.

Molly Young, the school district’s K-2 literacy coach, told the school board before this week’s meeting all of the 24 first-grade students in the pilot program classroom saw their reading skills improve last year, some significantly so.

“I’ve seen positive growth,” she said. “I won’t say it was off the charts … but it’s only going to get better from here.”

Young, an elementary school teacher at Beaver Local with more than 20 years’ experience, was chosen last year by the administration to become the district’s literacy coach through the Literacy Collaborative program at Ohio State University. The purpose is to train teachers to become in-house K-2 literacy coaches for other teachers in their district.

“Our goal is for all students to become independent readers and writers,” she said.

Young is actually the third literacy coach in as many years. The first one left for a job in another district after one year as literacy coach and the other dropped out after finding the commitment too great.

After undergoing four weeks of instruction in Columbus last summer, Young continued her interactive studies for another 15 weeks via Skype as she began rolling out what she learned in the classroom of first-grade teacher Anna Boso.

“What they were teaching me I was implementing immediately,” she said.

All 24 first grade students showed improved literacy skills, seven of whom reached or exceeded third-grade reading levels by the end of the year. Four of the first-graders who began the year as the worst performing in terms of literacy skills were reading at the appropriate grade level by May.

Young is convinced this is a worthwhile program based on her personal experience. Her children attend the United Local school district, which has Literacy Collaborative program, and as a parent she has seen its benefits first-hand.

Elementary school Principal Brianne Hall said Young’s efforts will help teachers and their students when it comes to passing the third grade reading guarantee. The state requires third grade students pass a reading comprehension test before being allowed to move onto the fourth grade. The test is administered in October, and those third graders who fail have until the start of the next school year to retake the test in an attempt to pass.

While all or nearly all Beaver Local third graders pass the guarantee test every year, she said not all are scoring proficient while doing so, which is separate and higher state standard. Hall pointed out the number of their third graders who achieved proficiency in on the state test increased from 49 percent in 2016 to 70 percent this year, thanks in large part to the district’s extra focus on literacy.

The Literacy Collaborative is one of several programs undertaken by the board in recent years to improve literacy skills at Beaver Local. While some of the focus, like the collaborative, has been on teacher instruction, federal grants have been obtained to pay for additional tutoring for K-2 students.

“The buy-in from everyone is what make’s it successful,” Hall said.

Young said this upcoming school year she will be rolling out the Literacy Collaborative to the other classrooms in K-2. This will be an evolving program undertaken in partnership with the teachers, whose input is wanted and needed in making the program work as they go forward.