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Ferry visit highlights literacy efforts

Krystle Wagner • Feb 28, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Students at a Grand Haven elementary school were working on reading and writing when community leaders visited their classrooms Tuesday morning.

The community leaders saw firsthand the efforts in place to help improve student proficiencies at Ferry Elementary School and Voyager School.

Throughout the year, the leadership group has visited Grand Haven High School and Mary A. White and Peach Plains elementary schools to learn about the work happening within the school district. While the tours highlight efforts in the Grand Haven district, Superintendent Andy Ingall said he believes they will also find similar efforts in other local schools.

In sharing the district’s One-Page Strategic Plan, Ingall said they want to help students acquire the knowledge they need for today and the future.

“We want to create life-long learners,” he said.

The school improvement process involves looking at data, planning, implementing, reflecting on progress and making adjustments, said Mary Jane Evink, the district’s director of instructional services.

The comprehensive needs assessment involves four types of data — demographics, achievement, process and perception. Evink said they look at data and research to make informed decisions. She said it’s urgent they help students grow a year or more in their learning each school year.

The Grand Haven district receives more than $2 million in state and federal funding that is tied to specific purposes.

— Title 1 funds are used to support disadvantaged students by providing reading and math interventionists, as well as reading assistants. Evink said the funds are split proportionally between Ferry, Lake Hills and Griffin elementary schools.

— Title 1C funding supports migrant students with a recruiter and assistant, as well as summer school. Between 50 and 100 migrant students attend school each year, Evink said.

— Title 2A funding supports professional development.

— Title 3 funding supports English learners.

— The state 31a funds support direct services involved with helping at-risk students, third-grade reading proficiency, and college and career readiness for high school students. Services the district provides with those funds includes interventionists and assistants, guided academics at Grand Haven High School, a mentoring program at Central High School, a migrant recruiter and assistant, parent involvement coordinators, and an English as a Second Language assistant.

— The district also receives the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grant to provide resources for students considered homeless. With the funding, the district provides students with school supplies, transportation and other needs.

For 30 minutes a day, students work in small groups, with partners and individually to focus on literacy during interventions named Soar Time. Students who need additional support work in small groups with teachers and assistants. This year, students who need the most assistance work with their teacher, said Michele Shelton, a literacy coach for Grand Haven Area Public Schools.

Three times a year, students participate in a Dibels Reading Screener. Educators use that information to adjust instruction and interventions to best meet each student’s needs.

In looking at the assessment between fall and winter during the 2015-16 school year, Shelton said they didn’t see any change in students needing the most support, but there was some improvement in other student proficiency.

After visiting the Ferry/Voyager classes, community leaders and district officials reflected on what they noticed in the classrooms that helps contribute to the district’s “success for all takes us all.”

Sharon Yonker, a Bucs Pride committee member and former student, commented on the smaller class sizes. She said she believes it’s beneficial for students.

Bonnie Suchecki, the human resource director for the City of Grand Haven, spoke about seeing students using technology as an enhancement to their learning in addition to using pencil and paper. She said that is similar to how technology is used in the workplace.

Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger commented on the number of adults in the classroom during Soar Time. Since Soar times vary for each classroom, it provides an opportunity for more adults to be in the class to help students practice their lessons correctly, Shelton said.

In two classrooms Suchecki visited, students wrote journals based on prompts on the notebook’s cover. Suchecki said she felt encouraged that students went right to work on their own entry instead of being competitive and looking at what their peers wrote. She said that aspect is important in the real world.

“I need independent thinkers in the workplace,” Suchecki said.

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