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Reading efforts highlighted at Peach Plains

Krystle Wagner • Jan 31, 2018 at 2:00 PM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Ongoing efforts to improve reading at Peach Plains Elementary School were highlighted Tuesday morning.

More than a dozen community leaders and district officials learned about the efforts during the latest key communicator meeting.

Throughout the year, community leaders are being invited to learn and see firsthand the efforts happening within the Grand Haven school district. Earlier this school year, Mary A. White Elementary School’s early literacy efforts were highlighted.

Peach Plains Principal Kate Drake said their goal was to provide the group with a snapshot look at their continuous improvement efforts, particularly related to reading. The school’s staff participated in professional development trainings and instructional coaches spent a week looking at what Essential Instructional Literacy practices mean for each student, said Jennifer Kenny, a literacy coach for Grand Haven Area Public Schools.

While the Grand Haven Township school outperformed others with comparable poverty rates on state assessments, Drake said they wanted to improve. To help improve, educators reached out to the Reading Now Network and formed a partnership.

Kyle Mayer, assistant superintendent for instructional services for the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, said he typically works with schools with higher poverty rates to help raise student achievement with the Reading Now Network. Mayer said they help schools find their strengths and provide support to strengthen their weaknesses.

After observing classrooms, the Reading Now Network officials had three recommendations for improvement: define what it means to be great; ensure Essential Instructional Literacy practices are involved in every lesson, for every student, every day; and use data to help guide instruction during interventions.

When asked what recommendations the staff would like to follow, Kenny and Drake said 100 percent of the Peach Plains staff voted to implement all of them.

To set the stage for change, Drake said they created a vision and work to ensure grade-level collaboration. They already had support from the district’s shift from reading specialists to instructional coaches, she said.

Previously, the small number of students who needed interventions were pulled out of the classroom, and now that happens in the classrooms.

Classes follow the reading workshop model, which consists of a mini-lesson, independent reading, a mid-workshop teaching point and sharing what they learned. During the workshop, teachers work with students individually or in small groups to provide additional support.

After learning about the ongoing efforts, the key communicators had a chance to see the reading workshop in action at Peach Plains. 

After visiting three classrooms, Lauren Grevel, education and youth initiatives officer for the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, reflected on what she noticed so far — students were engaged, and they’re given ownership of their learning.

“It’s great we’re able to see students learning at their own place,” said Grevel, a former Peach Plains student.

After visiting the classrooms, the group reflected on what they saw as contributing to success and areas they feel the building could make improvements.

Annie Ratke, a fourth-grade teacher, affirmed her fellow educators for their willingness to grow and step outside their comfort zone. 

Grand Haven school board Vice President Carl Treutler commented on the collaboration between grade levels and that staff had a vibe that indicated they were ready for the day. 

One man said he noticed there was a common language used in classrooms from Young Fives through fourth grade. Moving forward, the man said he would like to see the school maintain their efforts and show progress as it’s being made because it helps propel that momentum to continue.

“That’s encouraging,” he said.

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