Friday, October 28, 2011

TOP STORY > >Fund will aid military students

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District has been awarded a three-year $540,000 grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity 2011 grant program to fund “A Call to Arms: The Battle to Improve Literacy.”

The grant will help the schools implement READ 180 and System 44 programs created by Scholastic, Inc., that assist with increasing literacy achievement and promote positive reading attitudes.

Schools eligible to apply for the grant program must have a high percentage of military children enrolled. Northwood Middle School and North Pulaski High School were selected for the program.

“It’s (the programs are) really working for our kids. They’re growing,” said Lynn Terrill Walters, response to intervention coordinator for PCSSD.

The programs will be used by the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th grades, and could be expanded to other grade levels in the future, Walters said.

The grant will purchase interactive whiteboards, computers, audio books and textbooks and professional development and training for teachers.

Each READ 180 and System44 class can hold up to 21 students and will have an interactive whiteboard, seven student computers and one teacher computer.

The research-based programs address individual student needs through differentiated instruction, adaptive and instructional software, high-interest literature, and direct instruction in reading, writing, and vocabulary.

The classes will offer students the opportunity to engage in relevant, fun lessons, using specially designed books and technology to take the embarrassment out of learning to read and to have a positive relationship with classroom teachers.

PCSSD has already piloted the programs during the 2010-11 school year with a total of 450 students from seven schools — Fuller Middle, Robinson Middle, Robinson High, Jacksonville High, Oakgrove High (now Maumelle High), Jacksonville Elementary (the program has continued at Harris Elementary) and Star Academy.

Students in those classes made significant reading gains, improving their skills by one-, two-, three- and four-year levels.

The purpose of the grant program, which will not make new awards again until 2014, is to improve achievement, increase educational opportunities, ensure student preparation for success in college and careers, and ease the challenges military- dependent students have due to transitions and deployments.

The Department of Defense gave more than $65 million to 57 military-connected local education agencies nationwide. Participating schools serve communities near more than 30 military installations.

PCSSD is the first district in Arkansas to receive this grant. The district applied for the grant in February and was notified of its approval at the end of July.