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County schools say reading levels improving

Friday, July 26, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin staff writer

Students’ achievement levels through the READ 180 reading intervention program increased significantly during the 2012-13 school year, a Henry County Schools official said Thursday.

DeWitt House, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, spoke at a planning retreat of the Henry County School Board at Chatmoss Country Club.

READ 180 is a literacy program designed to accelerate the reading achievement of low-performing students, according to an online source. The goal of READ 180 is to address gaps in students’ skills through the use of a computer program, literature and direct instruction in reading skills, according to a U.S. Department of Education report.

House said that of the 504 total students in the READ 180 program, from the first test in the time period to the last test in the time period, the percentage of proficient students increased from 3 percent (17 students) to 34 percent (171 students); the percentage of basic students declined from 53 percent (267 students) to 47 percent (238 students); and the percentage of below-basic students declined from 44 percent (220 students) to 18 percent (90 students). The report did not specify the time period measured.

House also reported that the school division completed implementation of READ 180 at the elementary level and upgraded the middle and high school programs as one of the “high quality instruction” accomplishments during the 2012-13 school year.

He also mentioned curriculum development and professional development among the other accomplishments in instruction in 2012-13.

High-quality instruction is one of the school division’s strategies to achieve its vision and mission. Other strategies are high-quality professionals; safe and orderly schools; innovative and cutting-edge technology; effective and efficient resource management; and family and community engagement.

Accomplishments in 2012-13 and work in progress were given for each of the six strategies at the retreat.

In 2012-13, the school division:

• Implemented the teacher performance evaluation system and updated it to include a teacher self-assessment tool; restructured the performance evaluation system for classified personnel; and developed new recruiting materials.

• Implemented plans for additional security measures in school offices and other efforts to improve safety.

• Installed new high-speed fiber network and Internet upgrade for all buildings; and implemented new parental notification system.

• Added new technology for schools: iPads and carts in K-2 and 6-12; new laptops for elementary teachers; new mobile device manager for iPads; training for iPads in high school; upgraded middle and high school laptops on refresh program; had all servers upgraded in schools or media-on-demand; and LAN upgrade (switches, access points, wiring) for both high schools to implement BYOT (bring your own technology).

• Upgraded lighting in some schools with energy efficient lights and/or fixtures; had an energy education specialist meet with school staffs to provide continued awareness training in energy conservation and safety; and monitored idle time and fuel usage on buses for efficiency.

• Used technology to reduce paper consumption; Magna Visa received the Green Ribbon award for energy conservation; had all K-12 schools awarded Energy Star certification in 2013; and received Virginia School Boards Association’s Green Schools Challenge platinum certification.

• Formed a partnership with K12 Insight to coordinate at least three stakeholder surveys during 2013-14 (student, parent and staff); created a Twitter account for HCPS to provide another communication tool for all stakeholders @HCPS_VA; and developed an outreach website.

Work in progress includes:

• Continue READ 180 program; continue curriculum development; continue focus on career readiness; and continue development of grade-level projects.

• Implement the new classified performance evaluation system; conduct a salary study of both exempt and nonexempt compensation; and restructure and strengthen the professional development and mentoring program for new teachers.

• Provide bullying training for all HCPS staff; develop and train threat assessment teams; communicate new student reunification sites (designated locations for parents to reunite with their children following emergencies); and continue building security audits.

• Upgrade LAN (switches, access points, wiring) for middle and elementary schools.

• Add new technology: provide an iPad for each sixth-grader; training for iPads, iTunes U and iAuthor; district media-on-demand; new elementary laptops for students; new “cloud” library automation for elementary and middle schools; one laptop for each student at Warrior Tech Academy being constructed at Magna Vista; library relocation at Magna Vista; and technology plan update.

• Had an energy education specialist continue to train staff and students in energy conservation and educate staff on the availability of the GreenQuest link available on the school website to track home energy use; and work to reduce paper consumption.

• Develop newsletters and plan at least two parent workshops based on high-needs topics for parents.


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