Glencoe Elementary Named Reading School in the Spotlight

Pictured: Administrators and teachers from the local school gather for a photo during the Glencoe Primary School Literacy Summer Camp. Pictured, from left: April Daugherty, GES Reading Coach; Tiffany Scott, director of federal programs for the Etowah County School Board; Dr. Alan Cosby, Etowah County School Board Superintendent; Dr. Cynthia McCarty, District 6 Education State Board Representative; Laura Sims, Director of GES; Etowah County School Board Square 2 Representative Scarlett Farley. (Photo submitted.)

By Emma Kirkemier, Editor-in-Chief

In a June 9 resolution, the Alabama State Board of Education named Glencoe Elementary School a Reading Science Flagship School.

Glencoe Elementary was one of 12 schools recognized as 2022-2023 Spotlight Schools.

The schools were selected based on their “strong commitment to Alabama’s K-3 learners,” the resolution reads.

“I am very proud of our teachers for this,” said Laura Sims, Director of GES. “Obviously this is all for the benefit of our children, and we are so excited for this to happen. But the fact (is) that the teachers here are willing to go above and beyond to serve their students. They are dedicated , they are committed, they want to see success with their children.

In a 2021 U.S. News & World Report analysis, GES students showed a reading fluency of 57%, higher than the district and state averages at 56% and 43%, respectively.

“These (selected) schools have demonstrated reading growth in their third-grade outcome data that exceeds the Alabama State average third-grade reading growth,” the resolution reads.

Sims explained that GES was chosen both for its “significant gain” in grade three reading results since 2019 and for its hands-on programs and teacher involvement – inside and outside the classroom. of class.

“We’ve made sure our teachers are involved in the science of reading, and that’s programs like LETRS, which stands for Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling,” Sims said.

A two-year certification program, LETRS is conducted as professional development for instructors outside of the classroom, and sometimes outside of class hours.

“Right now we have 75% of our K-3 teachers who have completed the program,” Sims said. “It shows their commitment and dedication. Also, 100% of them are in progress, which means we have a few teachers still working on them. »

The more instructors can learn about the reading process itself, Sims noted, the more effectively they can teach it.

“It makes more sense to them,” she said. “Teachers understand through LETRS the story or the reason behind (the methods). And because they know the reason, the students acquire this knowledge. It is no longer “just because”; they really understand why.

While LETRS is a state-sponsored reading science program, Sims said GES uses several programs of its own, such as the Orton-Gillingham approach.

“Orton-Gillingham programs are for students with dyslexia or dyslexic tendencies,” she said. “These are strategies that work for everyone, but they also help these particular children.”

The program involves hands-on learning and teaching, including not only auditory and visual elements, but also tactile ones.

“We use multi-sensory instructions,” Sims said. “They use movement with sound when they do things so the students have that muscle memory. This is what we have seen (to be) the key.

Glencoe Elementary students use “mixing boards” and sandboxes when learning to write letters. Teachers show students which shapes to form in the sand while having them repeat the corresponding phonetic sounds.

“Students seem to be more excited,” Sims said. “They are engaged in their classes and, as I said, there is a lot of movement. They are not just sitting at a desk. There are a lot of tactile activities, where they feel different things. Because of that, it sticks.

One of the school’s main reading programs is its summer literacy camp, which runs for five summer weeks from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday. Camp participants can be any K-3 student who falls below the benchmark reading scores. According to Sims, however, student selection is “not just cut and dry by an assessment grade.” Glencoe faculty use teacher recommendations to “look at the whole child” and ensure that no student falls through the cracks.

” The base of [literacy camp] is for students to prevent that ‘summer slide’ that we all have,” she said. “These students who are in our literacy camp, they will not have such a deficit during the next school year. We are closing this gap. We help them become better readers.

Multisensory strategies used at GES, Sims noted, showed both improved test scores and more confident students.

“You can see it in their work, you can see it when they walk into the building,” she said. “And that’s what’s important, that’s how the whole child feels. We want them to be academically prepared. But if you help the whole child, you’re going to see that growth anyway.

Glencoe Elementary teachers use other tools such as Heggerty Phonemic Awareness. They also enlist the help of the school’s reading monitor to help their students acquire the basics of literacy.

“It’s like a tool kit,” Sims said. “Every kid has different tools they need to make them click, and when that happens, the world opens up for them. I’m glad we’re part of it.”

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