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New Reading Strategy in Colquitt County Gets Attention

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Story by Lou Ann Lardy, The Moultrie Observer
August 15, 2017

Science and math teachers, and even P.E. coaches, teaching reading?  At two Colquitt County Schools campuses reading is a daily event for students and teachers, and an additional two schools will implement the same schoolwide program this year.

Colquitt County School System leaders recently presented their experiences to educators from all over the world at the International Literacy Association Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Their presentation was titled: Closing the Reading Achievement Gap at Secondary Level: A Practical Approach. Additionally, they focused on sharing the Extended Learning Time (ELT) framework being implemented at Willie J. Williams Middle School and Charlie A. Gray Junior High School, along with the outcome data that shows promising gains in reading ability.

ELT is part of Colquitt County’s multi-tiered system of supports at the secondary level. It is a designated time within the school day, in which every student and every adult in the building is engaged in a research-based reading strategy. Students are grouped according to need so that every student’s potential is maximized.

“Probably the most amazing thing about ELT is you can walk down the halls of either school peering into classrooms, and you will see a math or science teacher facilitating a reading group and then across the hall, you will see a P.E./baseball coach implementing the same reading strategy,” said Tabathia Baldy, director of Response to Intervention & Positive Behavioral Interventions/Supports. “Literally, every adult and every student is engaged in improving literacy. When other leadership teams come to visit our schools during ELT, they are always amazed at how engaged our students and staff are in the process, and how smoothly things are operating.”

This doesn’t happen by chance. Both Williams and Gray have an ELT team made up of about eight  to 10 teacher leaders. They work with Baldy over the summer to develop and revise their school’s implementation plans. They are responsible for training all of the other faculty and staff members, as well as creating the materials everyone will use during ELT for the entire school year.

“ELT is only possible because of the great efforts of the ELT team. They ensure this process is a fundamental practice of our learning environment at C. A. Gray,” said Fred Smith, Principal of Charlie A. Gray Junior High School.

Baldy began the presentation by sharing the district’s three year plan for Intervention & Positive Behavioral Interventions/Supports as well as the district’s ELT framework, including how it is implemented, who participates, how students are grouped, and how progress is monitored. Debra Lightsey, Hamilton Elementary School Math Intervention Specialist and Smith shared details specific to their schools, such as what they did to prepare for implementation and how they currently manage and monitor implementation.

“ELT definitely would not happen if it weren’t for the team members at both schools putting in the extra hours and making it happen,” Baldy said.

Audience members were curious about the details of how and why a leader would take on such a large undertaking as schoolwide ELT.

“Being able to read and understand what you are reading is a fundamental skill that all learners must possess if they have any hope of being successful in a modern society. No matter if it’s being successful in the classroom, playing a sport, or being prepared to fulfill a learner’s goals and aspirations, being a good reader is paramount,” Smith said.

“Having the opportunity to share on a national stage an innovative practice that I believe is making a difference in my students’ reading performance was exhilarating. It was also eye opening in the fact that many of the challenges educators are facing in Moultrie, Georgia, are evident throughout the world. ”

Colquitt County’s three year plan involves all four secondary schools implementing ELT. Williams was the first school to implement the program in 2015-2016, with C.A. Gray following suit in 2016-2017. Colquitt County High School and Colquitt County Achievement Center will begin implementation this school year.

Those who would like to learn more about the ELT Framework or would like to know how to help in the effort, may contact Baldy at tabathia.baldy@colquitt.k12.ga.us.

Read the story on moultrieobserver.com.