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Benedum Grant Recipients

Berkeley County Schools

Name: Berkeley County Schools Teacher Literacy Bootcamp
Project: Literacy bootcamp and revised instructional practices for in-service teachers
Focus: Learning loss in grade transition

Project Description: Third grade literacy assessments for Berkeley County students have declined over the last three years. First semester first grade report cards reflect a 15% increase in failing grades, attributable to a curriculum gap between kindergarten and first grade. Berkeley County Schools (BCS) will create a Summer Literacy Boot Camp for kindergarten, first grade, Title I and special education teachers from four high poverty schools: Berkeley Heights, Burke Street, Tuscarora and Winchester Avenue Elementary Schools. The Literacy Boot Camp will be directed by a WVU Professor of Literacy Education and will focus on intensive instruction in critical literacy concepts that are generally missing from teacher preparation programs, such as phonemic awareness, print concepts, and writing. The intensive summer program will be designed to revise first grade instructional plans, create kindergarten through first grade team teaching partnerships and create individualized learning plans that follow the student from year to year. The individual learning plans will include periodic parent review and home learning activities. The WVU director will provide individual technical assistance to the participating educators through the 2021-2022 school year as new curricula and teaching methods are tested. The project is expected to engage 54 educators. 530 kindergarten and first grade students will be tracked using the Yopp Singer Test of Phoneme Segmentation and STAR reading assessment. WVU plans to use this demonstration as an applied research opportunity to revise teacher preparation content for elementary education teachers.

Hancock County Schools, Weirton Elementary

Name: Read with Me Weirton
Project: Extended day/extended year instruction through community learning hubs
Focus: Low-performing students and students experiencing the greatest COVID-19 learning loss

Project Description: 52% of Weirton Elementary School (WES) students are below the poverty line, and only 35% read at the proficiency level. This project is designed to provide summer literacy instruction and concentrated afterschool instruction to elevate the lowest performing students and avert summer learning loss.

Community learning hubs will be created at Weirton Christian Center and Mary H. Weir Public Library. WES will provide literacy specialists to train and coach the staff of these two facilities, both of which have existing summer and afterschool programming. 120 of WES’s lowest performing first and second graders (based on the STAR Reading Assessment) will participate in a coordinated program of one-on-one and small group lessons at these community sites. In addition to training and coaching, the reading specialists will provide STAR testing, monthly progress monitoring and data analysis necessary to ensure that instruction is responsive to individual student needs, WES curriculum and State standards. Project leaders expect at least one-and-a-half years’ reading growth on the STAR assessment by the summer of 2022. During the COVID-19 school closings, many schools looked to community learning hubs as safe, small-group alternative learning sites. If the pilot is successful, WES plans to incorporate the community learning hub model as a permanent and integrated part of the public education system, not just as an emergency measure.

Hardy County Schools, Moorefield Elementary

Name: Forging Foundations for Families
Project: Family literacy tutoring;
Focus: English as a second language students

Project Description: Research has shown that a significant predictor of student achievement is the extent to which caregivers communicate expectations for their children’s achievement and become involved in their education at home. In the eastern part of West Virginia, there is a growing population of families for whom English is a second language. Hardy County’s immigrant population has grown 137% over the past 10 years. It goes without saying that mastering a new language adds to the challenges of learning for students and parents alike.

This project will serve as a pilot for parent engagement that involves an elementary school and three employers in Hardy County: Moorefield Elementary School (MES), Pilgrim’s, American Woodmark, and the local office of the West Virginia Department of Highways. Since it is often difficult for working parents to come to the schools for training on in-home instruction, these three employers will allow employee parents of MES students to be trained at work during working hours. A series of sessions will be planned throughout the 2021-2022 school year to provide parents with at-home reading activities and resources for their children, as well as counseling to address their own adult literacy and social needs. These sessions will be delivered by a team that includes an English Language specialist, curriculum specialist, Communities-In-Schools social worker, Title I parent liaison, and a Marshall University Harless Center Family Support Specialist. The target population for this pilot will be 120 kindergarten students and their parents. Student progress will be measured by STAR Reading Assessment.

Lewis County Schools

Name: Lewis County Schools Remote Tutoring Program
Project: Remote tutorials for students and parents
Focus: Lowest performing students and learning loss attributed to Covid -19

Project Description: Lewis County Schools (LCS) are housed in a low-income, rural district in which 61% of families live below the poverty line and the students have a third-grade reading proficiency rate of 26%. Last year’s school closures due to COVID-19 threaten greater learning loss for already poor performing students.

LCS will implement a two-tiered remote tutoring program that can reach the lowest achieving elementary students and their parents/guardians. Live tutors will provide direct tutoring sessions to the students, followed by caregiver consultation regarding home reading activities customized to the specific difficulties their children are experiencing. For the pilot, eight tutors will serve 192 kindergarten through third grade students from Jane Lew, Peterson Central, Leading Creek, and Roanoke Elementary Schools. The highest-need rising kindergarten students will be selected using the iReady assessment. Readiness kits containing reading materials, suggested activities and parent guidelines will be distributed in the summer to students entering kindergarten in the fall. If they don’t have devices, laptops will be distributed to all participating families. If the family does not have internet access, they will be directed to the closest library or afterschool site for the tutorials, which are expected to be delivered three times per week. The tutors themselves will be elementary school teachers or retired teachers. It is expected that 95% of students participating in the tutoring program will move from Tier III to Tier II on the iReady assessment.

Logan County Schools

Project: Extended day/extended year program
Focus: Grade transition and summer learning loss

Project Description: Logan County Schools (LCS) have been tracking DIBELS (Dynamite Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) scores for the past three years and have found a significant slide in learning from kindergarten to first grade, primarily due to summer learning loss.

LCS will run an extended day/extended-year pilot based on Best Practices for Learning Loss Recovery (Hanover Research, 2020), which calls for high-dosage one-on-one tutoring, additional learning time, individualized learning plans, cross-grade collaboration, and integrated school day/afterschool curricula. LCS will introduce and test these practices with 150 rising first graders from Chapmanville, Logan, Omar, Man, and Buffalo Elementary Schools. 15 teachers and 15 Early Childhood Assistant Teachers will start day learning activities in the summer of 2021, provide individual tutorials during the 2021-2022 school year and extend those same activities through July 2022. Kindergarten and first grade educators will meet weekly to assess individual student learning impediments and plan individual learning activities that will be the focus of the intense afterschool tutoring. The Marshall University Harless Center will provide professional development for summer and after-school experiential learning and individual student diagnostics. Teachers will assess student progress using the CLASS Intervention, a comprehensive assessment designed for kindergarten students. LCS expect 90% of the participating students to advance one level on DIBELS.

Monongalia County Schools, Mylan Park Elementary

Name: Bridging the Literacy Gaps Through Looping, Learning, & Play
Project: Looping: teachers stay with classes from one grade to the next
Focus: Learning loss in grade transition

Project Description: The implementation of universal PreK has been shown to reduce the achievement gap between marginalized and privileged students at kindergarten entry. Unfortunately, a National Institute for Early Education Research study reveals that by the end of kindergarten, these positive impacts were no longer apparent.

This project addresses this gap within the context of the transition between preschool, kindergarten and first grade at Mylan Park Elementary School (MPES). MPES has a student body of 450 with 53% receiving free or reduced lunch subsidies. MPES will pilot a looping program for 60 preschool to kindergarten students. In the looped classrooms, the entire class of students will remain together and have the same teacher the following year. Research shows that student-teacher familiarity created by looping enables the repeating teacher to better target and improve their own teaching style while improving student performance. Keeping children together will bring more consistency to their transition between grade levels, and the familiarity of last year’s classmates will bring students some level of comfort after the unpredictable year of COVID-19. During the pilot, teachers/assistants will have additional time to meet as a professional learning community, and the preschool teachers will serve as “coaches.” It is expected that by Spring of 2022, 70% of targeted students will increase their skill scores on the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening test.

Pocahontas County Schools

Name: Building Literacy Leaders
Project: A peer learning network
Focus: Learning loss in grade transition

Project Description: Pocahontas County covers 940 square miles, making it the third largest county in West Virginia yet with a sparse population of 8,450 people. Pocahontas County Schools (PCS) house three elementary schools (Green Bank, Hillsboro, and Marlinton). The distance between the northern and southern elementary schools is more than 40 miles, which inhibits face-to-face collaboration, co-teaching and sharing resources. Literacy leaders in these schools noted a 61% decline in grade-level reading from kindergarten to first grade and a 13% decline from first to second grade. To address reading level declines across grade levels and mediate the geographic isolation of educators, PCS will build a peer learning network of all kindergarten through second grade teachers, aids and specialists in the three elementary schools. This group of 34 educators will collaborate to prepare customized kindergarten to first grade and first grade to second grade transition plans. To overcome the barrier of geography, educators will rotate through the three schools for in-class observation. The Marshall University Harless Center, WVU College of Education, and WV Department of Education will provide consultation to the cohort on specific subjects. The overall emphasis will be on individual student diagnostics and professional development through in-class observations and presentations to colleagues (similar to clinical rounds in medical school). All 180 kindergarten through second grade students will be tracked for reading improvement using the iReady assessment.

West Liberty University, College Of Education and Human Performance

Name: Future Literacy Leaders
Project: Mentoring for literacy specialist graduate students
Focus: Preparing graduate students for individualized and multi-sensory learning plans

Project Description: West Liberty University (WLU) is launching The Children’s Center for Literacy and Language (Center), which will include a resource center, meeting rooms, and a model classroom that incorporates state-of-the-art design for multi-sensory learning. WLU proposes to use the Center as a new mentoring program for graduate students seeking a Master of Arts in Education in the Reading Specialist M.A.Ed. Program.

In this pilot, 20 graduate students will be placed in preschool and elementary residencies in Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel County classrooms and will work alongside 10 experienced literacy experts, who will also serve as the graduate students’ mentors. Each graduate student will be responsible for case analyses of three to five high-risk students. The mentors will coach the graduate students on the range of assessment instruments, methods of diagnosing individual learning styles and individual impediments to learning and matching instructional strategy to need. Diagnostic assessments and progress monitoring data logs will be used to measure elementary student growth, but since part of the graduate student learning experience is to match assessment to need, no one instrument will be used to evaluate the pilot. The Center will be used for observation and peer review of individual student demonstrations and future research. WLU anticipates that the mentorship component and clinical rounds will inform new standards of teacher preparation for the State.

WVU School of Medicine, Pediatrics (Mon and Wood Counties)

Name: Born to Achieve—I Can Read!
Project: Parent training for reading instruction at home
Focus: Low-income families with children aged birth to five

Project Description: 61% of low-income children have no children’s books at home. By age two, poor children are already behind their peers in listening, counting, and other literacy skills. By age five a typical middle-class child recognizes 22 letters of the alphabet compared to 9 for a child from a low-income family. Research has found that these children may hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their middle-income peers before reaching kindergarten.

To correct the gap in school readiness due to economic disparity, the WVU School of Medicine will employ pediatricians and related healthcare staff to promote literacy to low-income parents of children aged birth to five. Historically, pediatricians have been the first point of contact for parents, and parents value their recommendations. This pilot will train pediatric staff at four clinics: Monongahela County Health Department Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), WVU Pediatric Clinic in Monongalia County, Cardinal Pediatric Clinic and Mid Ohio WIC in Wood County. During birth to five wellness visits at these clinics, care providers will distribute books and suggest reading strategies emphasizing vocabulary acquisition. Clinicians will write “prescriptions” urging caregivers to read aloud to children every day, and upon conclusion of the visit, children will select developmentally appropriate books which will contain parent friendly information sheets. The pilot is expected to reach 9,600 children through the four clinics, and they will be evaluated for literacy gains using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test.