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GH schools highlight early literacy efforts

Krystle Wagner • Oct 25, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Educators highlighted the ongoing early childhood literacy efforts at Mary A. White Elementary School during a tour Tuesday morning.

Community leaders saw firsthand the efforts during a key communicators meeting. The goal of the meeting is to give community members more information about efforts in the school district so they can share it within their circles of influence, said Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Andy Ingall.

Later this school year, key communicators will visit Grand Haven High School, Peach Plains Elementary School and Ferry Elementary School/Voyager School.

Although students take state assessments, they only show a snapshot, like a box score of a sports game, explained GHAPS Director of Instructional Services Mary Jane Evink. Throughout the school year, students take smaller assessments so educators can track progress and make changes to instruction to address proficiency.

According to the state assessments, the Grand Haven district is outperforming predicted measures based on its size and number of students who qualify for free and reduced-priced meals. Evink said that although they believe the district is on the right track, they’re dissatisfied until all children are proficient.

According to research, children whose parents are involved had 2-3 times as much growth in an academic year, Evink said. Research also shows that academic performance accelerates by 2-3 years with targeted interventions, she said.

GHAPS spends about $1.6 million on supporting student interventions.

The way reading is taught has evolved, said Mary A. White Elementary School Principal Valerie Livingston. Teachers now use a reading workshop, which concludes with the group sharing and reflecting on the lesson. An additional 30 minutes a day has been planned for extra intervention time, Livingston said.

To reach the goal of all third-graders proficiently reading at their grade level, the Michigan Department of Education has put funding toward literacy coaches, said GHAPS literacy coach Amy Miller. The district has eight literacy coaches, who work alongside teachers to listen, ask questions, co-plan, explore student data, and provide support for teachers and the school. Teachers select goals for their class and the literacy coach helps them achieve those goals.

During two classroom visits on Monday, community leaders saw the reading workshop in action. First-graders read with their reading buddy as the teacher met individually with students. In a third-grade class, students shared with a partner, and then reflected as a class about figurative language.

Following the classroom visits, the group reflected on what they saw and provided feedback for how the district can move forward.

Livingston said they are looking for ways to engage with parents, and have goals set for providing parents with ways they can help their children.

With teachers working to build their classroom libraries, one man inquired about using technology for many books as opposed to thousands of physical books available. Literacy coach Chris Working shared that younger students work on reading print text, which is different than digital text. With books physically in hand, Working said students can quickly make notes to stick on pages they want to highlight, as opposed to making them with different applications on technology.

Students also spend time working on reading digital text, Working noted.

Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis affirmed the district for their efforts to help children succeed and acknowledged that students are faced with challenges outside of school, such as housing and poverty.

“We all have to continue to work on social issues,” he said.

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