Davie Students Sharpening Literacy Skills at 2019 Read to Achieve Camp

Teachers engage with Read to Achieve Camp students during the combined camp opening session.

Teachers engage with students during the combined camp opening session.

By Jeanna Baxter White
Can 16 days transform a child’s educational experience? One hundred forty-four Davie County students are finding out as they attend this summer’s Read to Achieve camp at Cornatzer Elementary School.

Read to Achieve camp is designed to help third-graders meet state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade. The intensive four-week camp also includes first and second graders who demonstrated the potential of reaching grade-level proficiency in reading with extra help in the summer. This year’s camp will serve 87 third-graders, 29 second-graders, and 28 first-graders.

Davie County’s camp is based on the A+Schools of North Carolina Program which combines interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction to offer children multiple opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning and showing what they know.  

Teresa Carter teaches a Hill Center reading session at 2019 Davie Read to Achieve Camp

Teresa Carter teaches Hill Center reading session

With $99,000 provided by the Mebane Foundation combined with state funds, students attending the 2019 Read to Achieve Camp will actively learn through visual arts, drama, music, and creative writing, as well as tailored instruction through Hill Center reading sessions and small group literacy circles. Each week has a different theme with most activities revolving around that topic to reinforce student understanding. Campers also learn techniques to reduce test anxiety.

This year, in addition to a traditional hands-on art class, third-graders will also benefit from a “maker space-style” STEM-based art class designed to provide hands-on learning for students and enhance their problem-solving skills. For example, during the first day of this new art class students were tasked with creating Goldilocks using various plastic pieces. Once Goldilocks was complete they created a bed from popsicle sticks and tape. The bed had to be strong enough to support Goldilocks.  At the end of the assignment, they wrote out directions explaining how it was done, making it another literacy activity.

“Early introduction to STEM-focused activities and procedures can help them prepare for the rigors and expectations of a 21st-century workforce as well as prepare them for possible high school paths,” said Jeremy Brooks, camp director.

Julie Marklin leads a small group literacy session during Davie’s 2019 Read to Achieve Camp

Julie Marklin leads a small group literacy session

Jeremy Brooks says the students love the multiple pathways we offer them throughout the day. “The learning environment is always changing. We keep things interesting and dynamic from arrival to dismissal. All of our different activities have literacy embedded in them. Kids don’t realize that they are actually working on reading and writing because they are having too much fun! From reading scripts in “theater” class to following  a set of written directions in maker-space, they are always sharpening literacy skills.”

Past results have been inspiring. During last summer’s camp, 32% of the county’s non-proficient third-graders reached the required reading achievement score to move on to fourth grade, and an additional 25 the campers passed the Read to Achieve test in the months following the camp. A remarkable 85% showed positive growth on one or more reading assessments. Furthermore, 85% of the first-graders and 80% of the 2nd-graders demonstrated significant growth over their initial scores on formative evaluations. All of the students achieved a substantial increase in confidence, engagement, and stamina in approaching new learning experiences.

The innovative nature of Davie County’s camp, as well as its high success rate, has garnered notice from the North Carolina Department of Instruction as well as school systems across the state.

Karen Henson guides students through a Hill Center reading session

Karen Henson guides students through a Hill Center reading session

Davie County was one of six districts chosen from across the state to serve as a spotlight district during the Read to Achieve Summit in Greensboro. Jennifer Lynde, DCS chief academic officer, and Christy Cornatzer, camp curriculum coordinator, had the opportunity to share about the different aspects of the camp.

“During the state’s Read to Achieve Summit, we had a wonderful opportunity to share how our district’s RTA summer camp has demonstrated significant gains in student achievement,” said Lynde. “Specifically, we were asked to focus on the hiring and retention of highly qualified reading camp teachers from year to year and practices that we’ve used during our camp that have resulted in positive outcomes.  We were able to provide practical resources for other RTA summer camp leaders and share ideas about what we believe has made our camp successful.”

DCS also hosted the Piedmont-Triad Read to Achieve meeting. “The teachers from our camp were able to lead around 50 district RTA summer camp leaders and representatives from their teams through each of the components of our camp,” explained Cornatzer. “We’ve also had several districts reach out requesting our schedule and asking for suggestions of how they too can integrate the arts.”

Students learn about rhythm and sound in a music and theatre session

Students learn about rhythm and sound in a music and theatre session

What Does a Day at DCS Read to Achieve Camp Look Like?
The structure of the camp creates a lot of excitement. Students aren’t used to singing, dancing, and rapping during a regular school day.

The camp day begins at 8:00 a.m. with a short combined session focused on goal setting for the day. Students are divided into small groups with an average ratio of fourteen students per teacher except when students are in Hill RAP sessions at the four to one ratio. The student’s day is divided between Hill Rap sessions, writing to learn sessions, art and reading sessions, testing stamina sessions, music/theatre, and verbal expression sessions, and diagnostic reading clinic sessions. Each session lasts approximately forty-five minutes. Each day ends at 2:45 p.m

Each grade level’s lessons have a theme, and those themes are carried over to all aspects of camp. The first graders are learning about families while the second graders are studying communities. The third graders are racing across North Carolina with units about the mountains, piedmont, and coast which will give them advanced preparation for studying these topics in fourth-grade science and social studies.

Voluntary “informances” (impromptu performances that require no rehearsals) at the end of each day allow students to further build confidence as they show their best work and share with each other what they’ve learned.

At the end of the fourth week, third-grade students will be allowed to retake the RTA Reading test, which is a form of the EOG.

Julie Marklin works with students during an art session at 2019 Read to Achieve Camp

Julie Marklin works with students during an art session

Innovative, Highly Effective Teachers the Key to Success
Developing highly effective students requires innovative, highly effective teachers. Jeremy Brooks says the heart of Davie’s RTA camp is its staff of passionate, dedicated educators. Each has been trained in the A+ Schools Arts Integrated Instruction program and has personally completed each and every assignment the students complete. In addition, those conducting Hill RAP sessions have previous experience teaching Hill reading methodologies. Most are RTA camp veterans who return each year because they are excited about the growth and success these students are experiencing, often for the first time.

“One of the reasons teachers like working here is because we don’t box them in. We go ahead and let them try new things, as long as they match the philosophy of the camp, which is a real selling point for teachers. Sometimes they don’t get to do that during the school year because it is so rigid with what must be taught by a given point.”

Kim Brooks, who teaches first grade at Cornatzer, feels honored to have been a part of the Read to Achieve camp since the beginning. “There are several reasons I keep coming back each summer, but the #1 reason is these kids! It is truly amazing to watch the transformation that takes place within each student in just 16 days. It’s about more than just passing a test. Our Read to Achieve camp (family)  is about raising students’ self-esteem to give them the confidence they need to succeed. We are very fortunate to have the leeway to teach students by integrating the Arts into our daily instruction. This helps them to see the different ways in which they learn. Watching their energy levels change within the classroom to become active learners and leaders is a sight to behold! As an educator, it is what you wish for every student that ever enters a school building!”

Tami Daniel works with students during an art session

Jeremy Brooks is also excited to have six new teachers as part of this year’s staff. “We have great teachers, but it’s always nice to bring in new ideas because we never want the camp to get stagnant. Although we know that we are doing good things we are always looking for ways to do things even better.”

Megan Cooper, who teaches 3rd grade at Shady Grove Elementary, chose to participate in RTA camp for the first because of her love for helping children and the desire to continue to learn and grow as an educator. “I heard such amazing reviews from teachers, parents, and students about camp. I also wanted to participate to learn from amazing veteran teachers across the county and from the A+ fellows that came in to train us. I was told it is an amazing experience and they were right! The staff here is like a family, so welcoming and fun to work with. I have learned so much from the teachers, the students, and the training we received. The camp is not like a job, it is time to help our students and have fun while doing it. I am excited to take what I have learned and implement it into my everyday classroom culture throughout the school year. Camp has been such a refreshing reminder of why I became a teacher. My biggest take away from camp is that it is important to make learning fun while helping my students.”

The Davie County educators who are teaching at this year’s Read to Achieve camp include:

  • Jeremy Brooks – Camp Director (North Davie)
  • Christy Cornatzer – Curriculum Coordinator (Cornatzer)
  • Suzie Alonso – Hill Center (Cornatzer)
  • Kerry Blackwelder – Hill Center (Cooleemee)
  • Kim Brooks – Reading Coach (Cornatzer)
  • Debbie Brown – 1st/2nd Teacher Assistant (Mocksville)
  • Mary Lynn Bullins – Reading Coach (Cornatzer)
  • Teresa Carter – Hill Center (Cooleemee)
  • Amy Chappell – 3rd Grade Art (Mocksville/Cornatzer)
  • Molly Connell – 2nd Grade (William R. Davie)
  • Megan Cooper – Reading Coach (Shady Grove)
  • Lori Culler – Reading Coach (South Davie)
  • Leigh Anne Davis – Reading Coach (Pinebrook)
  • Shannon Eggleston – 1st Grade (William R. Davie)
  • Michael Errickson – 3rd Grade Music (Cornatzer)
  • Angelina Etter – 1st Grade Hill Center (Mocksville)
  • Suzie Hecht – 2nd Grade (Mocksville)
  • Karen Henson – Hill Center (Mocksville)
  • Jennie Kimel – 1st Grade (William R. Davie)
  • Julie Marklin – 3rd Grade Art (Mocksville)
  • Rachel Morse – Teacher Assistant (Cornatzer)
  • Brenda Mosko – Music (South Davie/William Ellis)
  • Anissa Nixon – Teacher Assistant (Mocksville)
  • Erin Penley – 1st and 2nd Grade Music (Pinebrook)
  • Alma Rosas – Hill Center (William R. Davie)
  • Kaitlin Sizemore –Teacher Assistant (Davie High)
  • Amy Spade – 2nd Grade (County)
  • Susan Spear – 3rd Grade Art (Cornatzer)
  • Lori Wyrick – Receptionist (Cornatzer)

Yadkin County Schools and Mebane Foundation Strengthen Partnership

Aline Reavis, (center) Yadkin County Schools Teacher works on HillRAP with students (left to right), Aixa Cristobel, Talin Shumate and Chris White

Aline Reavis, (center) Yadkin County Schools Teacher works on HillRAP with students (left to right), Aixa Cristobel, Talin Shumate and Chris White

By Jeanna Baxter White

Based on the early success of a two-year $100,000 partnership between Yadkin County Schools, the Mebane Foundation, and Unifi, the Foundation’s board solidified its intentions to invest heavily in Yadkin County Schools by voting unanimously at its most-recent semi-annual meeting to award an additional $57,000 to the school system for the coming year.

“Continuing our partnership with Yadkin County Schools on a larger scale is a very attractive opportunity for the Mebane Foundation,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Foundation. “Mr. Mebane founded Unifi nearly fifty years ago with Yadkin County as the epicenter of its global operations. He cared deeply for Unifi and the community as a whole, so I think it makes total sense for the Foundation and Yadkin County Schools to further strengthen our partnership for the future.”

Students Chris White (left) and Talin Shumate (right) work with HillRAP independently

Students Chris White (left) and Talin Shumate (right) work with HillRAP independently

“The Foundation’s ability to be a catalyst for innovation and excellence in education would not be possible without the opportunities that Yadkin County created for Unifi to be a successful company,” said William Mebane, Foundation board member and Unifi employee. “It only makes sense to take what Larry and the Foundation have learned over the years and invest it back into the community that created those opportunities in the first place.”

During the initial two-year partnership, which began during the 2017-2018 school year, The Hill Center from Durham provided comprehensive training to all 18 of the county’s K-6 Exceptional Children’s teachers in delivering the Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP) reading intervention curriculum with the technology-enabled Hill Learning System (HLS).

Teacher Aline Reavis works on HillRAP with student Chris White

Teacher Aline Reavis works on HillRAP with student Chris White

Through HillRAP, a specially-trained teacher guides groups of up to four students through exercises in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each student has an individualized curriculum to provide instruction where it is needed most. Small units of information are presented sequentially and practiced daily until a set criterion is met for three to five consecutive days and overlearning is achieved. Mastered skills are reviewed weekly to ensure retention. Classes are designed to maximize opportunities for oral and written student responses. The program allows, and encourages, students and teachers, to set goals, track daily progress, and celebrate successes.

During 2019-2020, $50,000 will be used to train 10 reading interventionists in HillRAP and to purchase 60 iPads. The other $7,000 will purchase Letterland, a phonics-based approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling to students in Pre-K to 2nd grade, for the 12 Pre-K classrooms.

“Yadkin County Schools is looking forward to expanding our partnership with the Mebane Foundation during the 2019-2020 school year,” said Kristi Gaddis, executive director for student services for Yadkin County Schools.

“We plan to spread the utilization of the researched-based HillRAP reading program by training more teachers to enable us to reach a larger number of struggling readers. We have seen a tremendous amount of reading growth from the 247 students currently receiving HillRAP instruction throughout the county.  Mebane is also supporting our vision to shore up our core early literacy instruction within the Pre-K program through the use of the Letterland curriculum.”

Teacher Aline Reavis works on HillRAP with student Aixa Cristobel

Teacher Aline Reavis works on HillRAP with student Aixa Cristobel

The impact HillRAP has had on reading scores is phenomenal.

“At mid-year, students are expected to meet 50% of their annual typical growth, but on average, our students that are currently receiving HillRAP instruction are growing two times more than the average student in Reading,”  explained  Gaddis, with enthusiasm.

The teachers who were trained in the methodology are thrilled with its ease of use as well as their students’ results. “The HillRAP training has given me the opportunity to teach a research-based program to students where the HillRAP program places each student on their instructional level,” said Aline Reavis, who teaches 6-7 HillRAP groups at Yadkin Elementary each day. “Embedded in this program I can print individual parent reports and look at individual students growth which can eliminate hours of handwritten data”

“My students are eager to work on the i-Pads in the HillRAP program which has made a positive influence on their learning in a fun but educational way.”

The truth of that statement was evident during a recent HillRAP session at Yadkin Elementary School.

“Kite, striped, spite,” Aixa Cristobel read quickly, but carefully, gaining momentum. “Quite, does,”  she continued to read, challenging herself to complete as many words as possible before her teacher called time. A jubilant smile lit her face when Reavis announced that she had exceeded her score without missing a single word. With a shy smile, the 5th grader explained that the fluency component is her favorite part of HillRAP.

“HillRAP helps me read better, it’s cool,” said classmate, Talin Shumate, also a 5th-grader.  Chris White, a 6th grader, agreed, adding that his favorite part is the vocabulary component.

These students are three of the many reasons Gaddis is thankful for the Mebane Foundation.  “Yadkin County Schools truly appreciates the support of the foundation in such a fiscally stressful time in education,” said Gaddis. “They are truly making an impact on the lives of Yadkin County children.”

Make and Take – DavieLEADS Supporting Early Literacy Teachers in Davie County Schools

Katherine Johnson and Pam Cope make sight word games

By Jeanna Baxter White
For two hours on a Monday afternoon, the Central Davie gym resembled a workshop. Seated at long tables, teachers were talking and laughing while cutting word strips, sorting and bagging colored squares, and taping the edges of shower board to create small whiteboards.

The teachers were attending one of three “make and take” sessions organized by Davie County Schools to support its elementary school teachers and to provide them with valuable tools to assist with this year’s DavieLEADS focus on guided reading.

DavieLEADS (Literacy Empowers All in Davie to Succeed) was created in 2017 through a $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation to support a five-year early literacy initiative aimed at improving kindergarten readiness and increasing the percentage of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

Isabelle Clark, Sierra Tardell, Landon Murphy, Nathalie Hernadez, Kierra Craig Students in Mrs. Brooks’ 1st grade writing stories using sticker stories

Through the Mebane initiative, teachers in Davie County are being trained in a researched-based, guided reading framework that focuses on intentional and intensive small-group reading instruction.

During guided reading, the teacher works with a small group of students who demonstrate similar reading behaviors and can read similar levels of texts. The other students in the class work on literacy activities independently or in pairs while they wait for their turn to work with their teacher. High quality, hands-on activities fuel literacy development while keeping students engaged so that teachers can focus uninterrupted on reading with their small groups.

Susan Shepherd and DavieLEADS consultant Barbie Brown, working on a compound word activity

Grant funds were used to cover the cost of the supplies, and DavieLEADS Consultants Barbie Brown and Nancy Scoggin and Literacy Coaches Renee Hennings-Gonzalez and Amy Spade created and assembled six to eight activities specifically for each grade level. There were separate sessions for kindergarten and first grade, and second and third grades were combined.

Jinda Haynes, assistant superintendent for Davie County Schools, said the idea to host the make and take sessions came from discussions she and Jennifer Lynde, director of curriculum and instruction, had with teachers about the challenges they were experiencing with guided reading and the resources they needed.

“We wanted teachers to know that they had been heard, and it was important for us to find ways to help meet their needs as we moved forward,” said Haynes. “Make and take sessions are not something districts can normally provide; however, we knew that they would be a practical but POWERFUL way to support and encourage teachers.”

make and take use

“Our consultants and literacy coaches invested a lot of time and effort into putting each of the activities together,” said Lynde. “Teachers didn’t just come and learn something that they had to go back and find the time and supplies to create themselves. They were able to take what they learned and apply it immediately, which has been very beneficial. Another benefit was the opportunity to talk and share ideas while being together during these sessions.”

At each station, teachers were able to make something to use at their guided reading table or something their students could use at their literacy stations.

“For every station we’ve assembled, we’ve tried to find things that would be appropriate for maintaining a level of independence for the kids so that the teacher can focus on what she is doing,”  said Hennings-Gonzalez.

One station had word sheets and cookie sheets that students could use with magnetic letters to practice making words, digraphs, and blends, while others offered phonics activities and games to practice sight words.

Teachers prepped “sticker stories” and “squiggle stories” where students write about the character on the sticker using vocabulary words printed on the card or turn a squiggle into an illustration and write about it.

Christy Cornatzer, instructional coach, with retell hand

A favorite station was the “retell hand” station. Teachers began by stuffing a garden glove and attaching a paint stick to it. Then they hot-glued storytelling clues to each of the fingers — characters, setting, beginning, middle, end, and the heart of the story in the palm. Students can use the hand to help them retell stories.

To maximize the budget as well as the value of the make and take tools, each activity was designed to be used in multiple ways over an extended period of time. The activities are also being uploaded to a website so that teachers can share other ideas they come up with for using the materials.

Sixty-three teachers attended a make and take session and they were glad they did.

“This make and take is really important because it is hard to find hands-on tools and to have the money to go purchase them,” said Sherry Wooten, a 1st-grade teacher at Cornatzer Elementary. “Having something that is already put together and ready for me to use in my classroom the next day means a lot to me.”

Nikki Whiteheart, a 1st-grade teacher at Cooleemee Elementary, said, “This session has been great because it’s provided us so many new ideas we might not have come up with on our own. I can’t wait to watch my kids use these hands-on activities and really engage with learning to read.”

Ismael Barrera, LaFaith Hall, students in Mrs. Boger’s class working on sight words

“I love having resources!” said Cindy Boger, a 1st-grade teacher at Cornatzer. “These tools will be valuable for my different literacy stations because they can be used multiple ways and are differentiated according to skill levels.”

“The 2nd and 3rd-grade session had to be postponed because of weather,” said Lynde  “We actually had additional teachers call or email to sign-up because they saw the tools their kindergarten and 1st-grade colleagues made, and they decided they wanted to attend, as well.”

“Gathering all of the supplies and finding the time to create materials can be so frustrating,” said Christy Cornatzer, instructional coach at Cornatzer Elementary. “Seeing teachers so excited about their new materials and listening to them brainstorm how they are going to use them has been so rewarding. This is such a timesaver for our teachers and I’m glad to see so many of them capitalizing on the opportunity.”

“It’s been a lot of work, a lot of research and a lot of time,” added Hennings-Gonzalez, “so it’s nice to see teachers walking away smiling and feeling supported.”

Pam Cope, a kindergarten teacher at Pinebrook Elementary, summed it up well in a post-event thank you note, “You guys really organized a wonderful make and take. I felt like it was still Christmas. That was one of the most helpful things you could have done for us. I got home feeling VERY supported and encouraged. Thank you for all the work that went into making today’s session great. I was tired when I got home, but it was a GOOD tired.”

Giving the Gift of Reading through HillRAP

Moving counter-clockwise: Luwonna Oakes, Davie HillRAP teacher; Honor Draughn, a third-grade student at Mocksville Elementary School; Petra Murphy, a third-grade student at Mocksville Elementary School; Amelia Battle, a third-grade student at Mocksville Elementary School; Brynlee Logan, a third-grade student at Pinebrook Elementary School

By Jeanna Baxter White
It’s 3:15 in the afternoon. While most of their friends are finished with school for the day, four third-grade girls are bursting through the door of the Mebane Foundation office in downtown Mocksville to take advantage of an amazing opportunity to boost their literacy skills.

The Mebane Foundation is piloting a unique program that utilizes a retired teacher to provide the Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP) to students who don’t receive the powerful literacy intervention during the school day.

HillRAP is a research-based multisensory structured language approach to teaching reading developed by the Hill Center of Durham. During HillRAP, a specially-trained teacher guides groups of four students through exercises in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each student has a specialized curriculum to provide individualized instruction where it is needed most.

Because HillRAP is so individualized and requires direct instruction, the program cannot be used for a whole group. Teachers and schools must intentionally schedule the time to implement the program, limiting the number of students able to participate.

Amelia Battle, Mocksville Elementary School student practices reading fluency using HillRAP software on an iPad

“Our number one goal is to help children succeed in reading,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “Secondly, we are trying to assist the Hill Center by testing a tutoring model that makes the Hill methodology accessible to a lot more families and students. The normal cost is $50 per hour per student which isn’t attainable for many of the families who need the program. By using a retired teacher who is at the top of her game when it comes to Hill, we are piloting and subsidizing a program that provides this valuable methodology for only $25 a week per student for three hours of tutoring. It’s been rewarding that we had available space in our office since early literacy is our mission. This program is a win for the child and a win for the retired teacher who is able to increase their income in retirement. We’d love to replicate the program with more retired teachers trained in HillRAP and help more students.”

“Although we are starting small because we don’t know where this will lead, my hope is that the program becomes so attractive to families and teachers that we have difficulty handling the volume,” he said, adding that he hopes to expand the program this summer to help prevent summer reading loss.

HillRAP small group tutoring sessions allow individualized training as students practice skills that are assigned based on each student’s needs

Colbourne selected Luwonna Oakes to serve as the first tutor. She retired from Davie County schools last spring after 21 years as William R. Davie Elementary School’s reading specialist. Coincidentally, she has been involved with the Mebane Foundation’s work since 2002 when she was selected for a committee to explore K-3 best practices in Davie County Schools. She was among the first to receive Hill Center level one certification and level two mentor training through funding from the Foundation and participated in the pilot program to evaluate the digital version of the HillRAP methodology which was released in 2016.

“I’m thankful that Larry reached out to me because I knew I would need to work part-time when I retired and this is the perfect opportunity,” Oakes said. “I’m also grateful to have been involved with the Mebane Foundation since 2002 when Mr. Mebane was still alive and beginning his involvement in Davie County.” She still proudly displays the plaque she received for being one of those early Mebane Scholars. “The funding he has provided to Davie County schools not only allowed me to have HillRAP training but to go back to the Hill Center for continued professional development.”

Whisper phones allow students to quietly read or practice words so that they can hear themselves but others are not disturbed. Reading out loud helps them to correct their own errors as they hear what they are saying

Oakes was tasked with selecting the first group of four as quickly as possible. She found the first, Brynlee Logan from Pinebrook Elementary, after a chance discussion with her mother at a social gathering. She then turned to Suzie Hecht, reading teacher at Mocksville Elementary, the closest school to the Mebane Foundation office, for help identifying three additional students to finish out the group.

“We started with third-graders because of the pressure on them to meet the North Carolina standards and to pass their first EOGs. It puts a lot of stress on the students and their parents,” Oakes said.”We hope to expand the program to include first and second graders this summer.”

“We wanted to find children who needed additional support in literacy and who would benefit from this specific methodology but weren’t already receiving it at school. Using data from school assessments, the reading teachers identified students who needed a little extra help developing reading fluency (reading rate and expression) and accuracy.”

Hecht sent out 10 letters and the first to respond, Amelia Battle, Honor Draughn, and Petra Murphy were selected to participate.  “Our invited students were very close to meeting goals in various reading assessments, indicating they might show proficiency in third grade by the end of the year. However, they were not there yet,” said Hecht. “These students needed an extra intervention to specifically target their needs. Hill RAP was a great fit – I knew they would be in very capable hands with Luwonna. We were so excited to be on the ground floor of this new initiative. We are very appreciative of all the Mebane Foundation has done to impact literacy in Davie County.”

Family members are thrilled with the generous opportunity the girls are receiving.

“There are students who are doing well but could be doing so much better if they had just a little bit more help,” said Lana Weaver, Amelia’s grandmother, who as a teacher for 42 years quickly recognized the value of this program. “Amelia loves to read and is excited about coming.”

Barbara Everhart, Brynlee’s grandmother, and a former teacher said she was “overjoyed because this is something that will make her feel better about her reading ability.”

“I’m excited about this opportunity,” said Aubrey Draughn, Honor’s mother. “I hope it will give her more confidence in her reading, writing, comprehension, and fluency, and she is excited about it.”

Oakes knows well the value HillRAP can bring to a child’s life. Her first HillRAP students are now seniors in high school and doing well.

“I want all children to have a joy for reading and a love for learning,” she said. “I want to support them crossing the bridge to reading efficiency and experience the fun of reading, where they can visualize, enjoy, and escape through a book. They may never personally visit Africa or the Outback of Australia, but they can go there in a book. It’s the next best thing to being there.”

For a more detailed story on the HillRAP program, please visit HillRAP: Direct, individualized literacy instruction to help struggling students succeed.

DavieLEADS – Building Momentum on Encouraging First Year Results

By Jeanna Baxter White
Davie County Schools is on a roll–an honor roll. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has released its statewide End-of-Grade (EOG) test data for 2017-18, and Davie County has moved from 45th to 17th out of 115 districts in 3rd-grade reading proficiency.  Based on last year’s test results, Cooleemee Elementary is now in the top 4 percent of North Carolina elementary schools for academic growth, with a ranking of 47th out of 1,218 schools statewide. In addition, kindergarten readiness in Davie County has improved from 71 percent to 80 percent based on the Dial-4 screening assessment.

Front row left to right: Representative Julia Howard, Joyah Abrams, Amy Zamora, Alex Rueda-Romero, Mary Jordan, Sam Sellers, Dayvee Smith. Back row left to right: Principal Cindy Stone, Superintendent Darrin Hartness, Lt.Governor Dan Forest, Xavier Parker, Town Clerk John Chandler, AJ Imes. Exuberant smiles standing under Top 4% Growth Banner

These are just three of the successes Davie County Schools officials shared while summarizing the first year of DavieLEADS (Literacy Empowers All in Davie to Succeed), a five-year early literacy initiative launched in April 2017 to improve kindergarten readiness and to increase the percentage of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

Supported by a $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation, the specific goals of the initiative are to improve kindergarten readiness from 70 percent to 90 percent and to increase reading proficiency in third grade from 60 percent to 80 percent by 2022. This project will impact approximately 2,300 elementary students each year over the 5-year implementation period.

DavieLEADS Teacher Training

Hard Work of Dedicated Educators Leading to Outstanding Results
“Dr. Hartness [superintendent, Davie County Schools]  and Larry Colbourne [president, Mebane Foundation] challenged us to ‘move the needle’,” said Jennifer Lynde, director of curriculum and instruction for Davie County Schools. “In just one year, students and staff have made real progress.  For example, moving from 60 to 64 percent proficient in 3rd-grade reading may not sound like a huge difference, but the rise from 45th to 17th in the state shows just how significant the gains are. Sustaining this level of growth for the next four years of this initiative would make Davie #1 in the state.”

Letterland Training through DavieLEADS

“These results are attributed to the hard work and dedication of our teachers,” Lynde added. “They have been diligent in the use of a balanced literacy approach, as well as in strengthening their grade level professional learning communities (PLCs.)  We are also seeing the benefits of incorporating research-based programs that build foundational literacy skills, such as Letterland and HillRAP in all of our elementary schools.”

Cooleemee Elementary Attracting Attention of State Leaders
“Cooleemee attributes our growth to meeting every child, every day on their level,” said Cindy Stone, principal of Cooleemee Elementary School. “DavieLEADS has strengthened our balance between meeting a student’s specific need and holding to the rigor of North Carolina standards which led to a snowball effect of student growth.“

DavieLEADS Impacting Private Daycare Learners

Recognizing this tremendous growth, state officials Lt. Governor Dan Forest, Senator Dan Barrett, and Representative Julia Howard toured Cooleemee Elementary last week to see the process for themselves.

“It was empowering for my staff to have state officials tour our school because they wanted to understand exactly what we are doing to achieve such substantial growth, and it was priceless watching the students share about their learning.”

Through DavieLEADS, Peggy Nuckolls, director of preschools, appreciates the opportunity to work with other childcare providers across the district to ensure children are prepared for kindergarten. “DavieLEADS has enabled all NC Pre-Kindergarten sites to use the same curriculum and assessments.  Coupled with supportive professional development, this has brought a new alignment between public and private preschool classes. To better understand what ‘kindergarten ready’ means, preschool teachers are visiting kindergarten teachers and experiencing expectations in their classrooms. All of these efforts are building capacity and consistency in expectations and teaching practices in preschool programs across the county.”

Professional Learning Community

Early Results Confirm “None Better than Right Here in Davie County”
“To be honest, my board and I weren’t expecting these types of gains in the first year of implementation, so when Dr. Hartness and his staff presented the first year results to us in September, we couldn’t have been happier,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “We recognize the hard work, time, and effort that our educators have put into the additional training and professional development in Year 1, and they are to be commended and thanked, not only by the Mebane Foundation but by families who benefit directly from that extra work.  So, I personally want to say ‘thank you’ to all of them!”

Officials are pleased with these early results and optimistic about continued growth, as teachers receive ongoing professional development on Guided Reading, Letterland, HillRAP, and Reading Research to Classroom Practice (RRtCP) through DavieLEADS.

DavieLEADS is an investment in Davie County Schools. “We are so grateful for the partnership with the Mebane Foundation,” said Jinda Haynes, assistant superintendent. “This laser-focused literacy initiative is building teacher capacity and providing resources we wouldn’t otherwise have to support teaching and learning. The work isn’t easy; ask any teacher. However, we want the best for students and the community we serve, and the results are already reflecting teachers’ efforts. We hope seeing the results from the first year will be encouraging and help us build momentum.”

“We realize that this is a 5-year journey in our partnership with DCS and its teachers,” said Colbourne. “That being said, I know that right now our teachers are being asked to do much more than ever before, not only with our reading initiative in DavieLEADS but with new math standards introduced by the state this fall. However, I believe that even in light of these new standards and instructional changes, we can maintain our momentum. This community should be proud of the results that our teachers produced in Year 1 and should continue to support their continued efforts.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, over the last 10 years I’ve been in dozens of school systems and in hundreds of schools across this state, and none is better than what we have here in Davie County!”

HillRAP: Direct, individualized literacy instruction to help struggling students succeed

Note: This article, by Molly Osbourne, was originally published 08/24/2018 on Education NC (EdNC – HillRAP: Direct, individualized literacy instruction to help struggling students succeed) and is republished below with permission.

Watsie and Will perform a fluency test as part of the HillRAP program at the Hill Center. Molly Osborne/EducationNC

“On your mark, get set, go!”

Will, an eager, confident second-grader, reads the words in front of him as fast as he can.

“Oh man, not quite,” his teacher, Anita Shore, tells him. “Tomorrow, okay?” she asks. “That word is brick. Are you good to do it again tomorrow, Will?”

Disappointed, he hangs his head.

“Want to try one more time?” Shore asks.

Will nods eagerly and gets ready to read his word list again. On his second try, he reads them faster and with more confidence, reaching his goal.

“Oh yeah, that’s how you do it!” Shore says. “Good job!”

Will is a student at the Hill Center, an educational nonprofit in Durham serving K-12 students who struggle academically. The Hill Center was founded in 1977 by George Watts Hill. Originally part of Durham Academy, the Hill Center became its own nonprofit in 1998. Today, the Hill Center runs its own school and summer camp, provides teacher training and tutoring, and works with North Carolina school districts.

The Hill Center specializes in teaching students with learning differences, but their programs are used to provide remediation and differentiated support for students across the state. They recently received funding through the state’s Read to Achieve program and the Mebane Foundation to train 400 educators in their reading program, the Hill Reading Achievement Program or HillRAP. In June, I had the chance to visit the Hill Center and learn more about HillRAP.

 

Anita Shore assessing her students’ fluency at the Hill Center. Molly Osborne/EducationNC

 

As Will moves to his reading comprehension work, Shore turns to the student next to Will.

“Alright, Martha, you ready?” Shore asks.

Martha reads through her list of words as fast as she can, only stumbling on a few of them.

“Very good!” Shore exclaims. “You reached your goal. You jumped from 64 to 72. That’s awesome on a review day!”

Shore is assessing the students on fluency with an activity they call “word attack.” Each student has a list of words that follow a certain rule. The students review the words with Shore and practice reading them until they can read the words fast enough and with enough accuracy to reach their goal. Depending on the students’ reading level, the lists start with identifying letters and sounds and progress up to multisyllable words.

After the students review their words, Shore gives them a test to see how many they can read accurately in a certain amount of time. If they reach their goal, they get to color in the number of words they read on a graph on their iPad, a way to visually track their progress.

Will colors in a graph representing the number of words he read accurately. Molly Osborne/EducationNC

HillRAP doesn’t just focus on fluency. Students also practice phonics and phonological awareness, vocabulary, spelling, and reading comprehension skills. These areas are integrated, so students see the same words during word attack as they do during spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension.

HillRAP is also highly individualized. Each student is on a different level, and working in a small group allows the teacher the ability to differentiate instruction. It is mastery-based, so students do not move on until they have achieved mastery.

“You saw the level of explicit direct instruction,” Beth Anderson, Executive Director of the Hill Center, pointed out, “and that is what the students really need and that is what doesn’t happen too often in general classrooms.”

Because HillRAP is so individualized and requires direct instruction, the program cannot be used for a whole group. Teachers must work with students one-on-one or in a small group, which means teachers and schools must intentionally schedule time to implement the program.

Krista Jones, a former Orange County special education teacher and current HillRAP trainer, used the program during an intervention block at her school. At some schools, literacy interventionists or reading teachers will pull groups to do HillRAP, while at others, classroom teachers will administer HillRAP during stations. Often, however, those teachers have a teacher’s aide or assistant who can help, Jones said.

Martha and Will attend the Hill Center half the day and then return to their normal elementary schools. However, the majority of students receiving instruction in HillRAP are in North Carolina public schools.

The map below details the districts across the state that are using HillRAP as of June 2018. The colors represent whether the districts have access to the iPad version (green) or are using the paper version (blue). The orange represents districts that have a mix of technology and paper versions.

A map of districts implementing HillRAP, color-coded according to technology. Molly Osborne/EducationNC

Anderson is excited about the move from paper to iPads, although some veteran teachers were highly skeptical at first, she said.

“There are two things that really help the teachers. One is it cuts down significantly on the prep time for them and on the time managing the program in the class so they can really focus on instruction and get through more content,” Anderson said.

“The other thing that it does is it gives all of the data right there at their finger tips … You can log into a portal online that has reports and all kinds of things. In the public schools, we hear they are using these reports for IEP meetings, for setting and tracking goals, and for showing progress to parents and other teachers.”

The move online has also helped the Hill Center track where and when their program is being used. They can tell how long teachers and students are using the program, which allows them to better understand the data and provide coaching.

Additionally, the online version allows for the alignment between the different sections — fluency, vocabulary, spelling, and comprehension. With the paper and pencil version, teachers do not have access to texts that are aligned with the fluency, vocabulary, and spelling sections.

Will works on the comprehension component. Molly Osborne/EducationNC

An example of the vocabulary component. Molly Osborne/EducationNC

Students can draw on the iPad to group words or letters. Molly Osborne/EducationNC

Currently, the Hill Center is training about 1,000 teachers a year. Not all of those are trained in HillRAP — they also train teachers in their programs HillMath and HillWrite. With the new funding, they will train approximately 400 literacy trainers from every district as well as roughly 23 charter schools.

Anderson stated, “[The literacy trainers] have been designated by DPI and by their districts as their literacy expert, so we are training them in HillRAP so that they understand what a high quality individualized Tier 3 intervention looks like.”

The funding does not mean that those trainers will go back and implement HillRAP in every school. As Anderson described, “They hopefully can learn those strategies and use those strategies as they are coaching and teaching and leading and developing their own district’s approach to support for struggling readers and literacy instruction.”

According to Anderson, the cost for the full certification, which includes training and observations, is around $3,000 per teacher. While the cost can be a barrier to participation for some districts, Anderson believes their program is competitively priced. Teachers come out of the training with a certification through the Hill Center and the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council.

As they roll out the online version, they will also charge a $250 licensing fee per teacher for the first time. “This has been all funded through philanthropy for the most part,” Anderson said. “We really need to find a way to get some earned revenue…[The fee] includes the app. It includes all of the comprehension texts, vocabulary, all of the data and reporting, access to the online portal that has online courses, resources, and a video observation tool. It’s the complete package.”

Anderson is optimistic that the demand will remain even after instituting a licensing fee because teachers and districts see the value in the program.

“The teachers love the program,” she said. “The teachers also love the mentorship and professional development.”

Note:  This story was written by Molly Osborne for EdNC and has been republished here with permission. 

 

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Read to Achiever

By Jeanna Baxter White
“Some kids are art smart, or music smart, or book smart, and we don’t get to explore enough of that during a traditional school day,” says Kerry Blackwelder, a veteran Read to Achieve third-grade HillRAP instructor. “I get excited for the kids who are coming to camp because this environment helps build their confidence so much and they blossom! They discover how smart they are and what they can accomplish.”

Read to Achieve Camp is designed to help third-graders meet state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade. The intensive four-week camp also includes first and second- graders who demonstrated the potential for reaching grade-level proficiency in reading with extra help in the summer.

Davie County’s camp is based on the A+Schools of North Carolina Program which combines interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction to offer children opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning and showing what they know.  

This is the fifth year the camp, partially funded by the Mebane Foundation, has employed this holistic approach to reading. The camp’s attendees actively learn through visual arts, drama, music, and creative writing, in addition to tailored instruction through Hill Center reading sessions and small group literacy circles. Each week has a different theme with most activities revolving around that topic reinforcing student understanding.

Eager to personally observe the transformation that I have been hearing and writing about for the past three years, as well as curious about the use of the arts to enhance literacy, I spent a day shadowing students from Lori Culler’s third-grade class and participating in their activities.

What a difference eleven days made! Students who were nervous and reluctant to be there when I spoke to them on the first day of camp were now fully engaged and begged to stay a little longer before going home! After enjoying a day of camp, I understood why.

8 a.m.- 8:20 a.m.– Gym
Third-graders begin in the gym with 20 minutes of stretching and exercise which gets the blood moving and the creative juices flowing, according to Camp Director, Jeremy Brooks. “This morning tradition also helps to create a sense of community as we actually become a little family for the summer.”

After completing several child-oriented exercise and music videos that were enough to get the heart pumping and the stomach growling, students went to the cafeteria to pick up breakfast to carry back to homeroom.

8:25 a.m.- 8:50 a.m. — Homeroom
While students ate, Culler read Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,(link youtube read aloud https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl_-0nlfNHA) a fun fantasy about the town of Chewandswallow where food falls from the sky three times a day; for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The story tied into the week’s theme of weather as did yesterday’s story, Thunder Cake,(https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=thunder+cake+read+aloud) in which a grandmother helps her granddaughter get over her fear of thunder by making a cake together. Students excitedly informed me that they would be making thunder cake the following day. (Yes, I was invited, and yes, it was delicious. Thanks, Mrs. Culler, Mrs. Alonso, and students!)

The story was followed by the morning meeting in which students greeted each other through a series of rotations that included a “good morning,” along with a handshake, curtsy or bow, high five, or fist bump.

“We have students from all of the elementary schools in our group of 15,” said Culler. “We wanted to build a feeling of community and belonging.  Students who came in on the first day of camp not knowing anyone suddenly have 14 new friends.”

Homeroom ended with videos about hurricanes and a discussion about tropical storm Chris which had just been upgraded to a hurricane.

8:55 a.m. – 9:40 a.m. — Hill
Arnulfo, Joshua, Sophia and I headed to a Hill Center reading session with Suzie Alonso who has been teaching HillRAP in the classroom for three years and at RtA Camp for the past three summers.

Through HillRAP, specially trained teachers guide groups of up to four students through exercises in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each student has an individualized curriculum to provide instruction where it is needed most. Using an iPad, students complete a series of literacy-focused activities. Alonso’s iPad links to each student’s iPad so that she can check their answers as well as go around the table and work with students individually.

“The program helps students understand and practice phonics through learning the syllable types, decoding words, and practicing reading fluency,” Alonso said. “The students then use the words that they have decoded in context by reading passages and answering questions. HillRap is a valuable program in that it meets each child at their level of reading. The program also has the students work towards a goal and work against themselves.”

9:45 a.m – 10:30 a.m. — Art
We headed to Art for more weather-related activities with Amanda Juhasz, Esther LaRoque, and Mindy Ledbetter. Yesterday students drew a picture of a person standing under an umbrella. Today students went outside to splatter paint rain onto their pictures. For the second activity, Juhasz read a weather-related poem entitled Today We Had Some Weather. Students created three-column booklets in which they illustrated three idioms from the poem, “It was raining cats and dogs” was a group favorite.

When viewing artwork, students must learn to look closely in order to comprehend different aspects of the work,” said Juhasz. “In learning to look closely (visual literacy), they also learn how important it is to “look” more closely when reading text. Skills learned when viewing artwork help students with comprehension and support ELA standards.”

“The theme for third grade this particular week was the weather. Students drew rainy-day portraits of people holding umbrellas. Earlier in the week, they watched a video about Jackson Pollock and his interesting splatter painting technique. Students looked closely at some of Pollock’s artwork and then used his technique to splatter paint rain in their pictures.”

“In the art room, the weather poem that was introduced in their homeroom was used to point out idioms,” she added. “Idioms are difficult for some students to understand, but when we illustrate them, the literal meaning becomes clear, and students were encouraged to share with each other the literal meaning in order to decipher the figurative meaning of each.”

When given time to discuss either works of art or their idioms, teachers used guiding questions that led to a deeper understanding of ELA and Art concepts.

10:35 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. — Reading
Culler reviewed the elements of poetry that she had already introduced including rhythm, repetition, alliteration, rhyme, and onomatopoeia. Today she added personification and reinforced the definition of idioms, everyday phrases that don’t make sense, but we know what they mean. Students practiced reading the weather poem from art class using little shakers to help maintain the proper rhythm.

“Reciting poetry with a musical instrument helps to build a reader’s fluency,” said Culler. “Fluent readers are able to focus on the meaning of the text because they are not having to spend time decoding words.”

Students then glued the stanzas of the poem onto the pages of a popsicle book (a small paper booklet with a large popsicle stick as the spine) and illustrated them. According to Culler, this offered students who are art smart a chance to show their understanding of the poem as well as gave students something to take home to show to parents and siblings.

11:25 a.m. – 11:35 — Homeroom
Students are getting tired by this time, so Culler uses short, fun but educational activities to keep them moving. We sang My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean and stood or sat whenever we heard the “b” sound.  We also answered the question, “If you could make one rule that the world has to follow, what would be your rule?”  Then it was time for a bathroom break before recess.

11:35 a.m. – 12:05 — Recess
YMCA counselors Olivia Bowman and Jay Davis took the students to the Rich Park playground to work off some of their abundant energy.

“Our partnership with the YMCA allows teachers to have a planning time each day,” said Brooks. “Our entire third-grade team eats lunch together. This working lunch has sparked many great ideas and has been the origin of many of our camp’s traditions.”

12:10 p.m. – 12:35 p.m — Lunch
After working up a thirst and an appetite, students visited together while eating lunch also supervised by Bowman and Davis.

12:35 p.m. – 1:05 p.m. – Computer Lab
Under the supervision of Rachel Morse, students used i-Ready software to practice for next week’s end-of-camp assessment. Students completed exercises that helped them read to understand, read to analyze, and read to write. The i-Ready software package delivers student instruction, performance diagnostics and progress reports based on K-12 Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Mathematics and Reading. Students took the i-Ready Diagnostic Test and receive differentiated online instruction according to their ability, while camp instructors receive customized reports on student performance and progress throughout camp. The state accepts the i-Ready Assessment as an alternative to the standard end of grade (EOG) test.

“The i-Ready program helps students by giving them a fun way to learn reading skills,” said Morse. “It’s engaging and provides rewards for their hard work. I love that they can have fun and learn at the same time.”

1:10 p.m. – 1:55 p.m. – Music
Rhythm ruled the day in music class. After a discussion of fiction vs. non-fiction, Michael Errickson guided students through reading the words of a song using the proper rhythmic phrasing. Students clapped their hands, tapped their legs, and used musical instruments to reinforce the rhythm. He then divided them into groups with different parts. The lesson culminated with each group doing their part simultaneously.

“The science behind multiple intelligences and their use as teaching tools has grown in acceptance and practice in the classrooms across the globe,” said Errickson. “Music has shown great potential to aid students in the acquisition of skills and concepts in a ‘whole brain’ learning style and has facilitated the expansion of knowledge not only of music’s own content but also that of other academic areas.”

“In this lesson, rhythm was used to reinforce the elements of fiction/non-fiction stories in a fun and engaging way,” he added. “Developing rhythmic accuracy increases the likelihood of success with phonemic awareness and potentially with accuracy and fluency. It also affords students with an opportunity to express themselves and demonstrate their understanding of concepts with or without using language itself.”

2:00 p.m. – 2:40 p.m. – Homeroom
Part of homeroom involved the completion and a review of the day’s events. Culler reviewed the weather poem, and students recited it with shakers again as a whole class.

Students finished the illustrations in their popsicle books while Culler read a Patricia Polacco book entitled Something About Hensley’s.

“I put a lot of focus on Polacco’s books during this week because she was a struggling reader in grade school and had to work hard to overcome that obstacle and now she is a children’s writer!” said Culler. “I want my students to see that being a struggling reader does not prevent you from being successful in life.”

Some students chose to share their drawings with their classmates during the daily “informance,” (impromptu performances that require no rehearsals). At 2:35 it was time to line up to go.

At the end of the day, it was easy to see why the camp is such a success.  Passionate, dedicated teachers + a dynamic multi-faceted curriculum = thriving, confident students ready to take on the challenges that a new school year will bring.

Davie County Schools Read to Achieve Camp – Literacy Training that is Changing Lives

By Jeanna B White
How much can 16 days change a child’s life? One hundred twenty-one Davie County students are finding out as they attend this summer’s Read to Achieve Camp at Mocksville Elementary School.

Read to Achieve Camp is designed to help third-graders meet state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade. The intensive four-week camp also includes first and second graders who demonstrated the potential of reaching grade-level proficiency in reading with extra help in the summer. This year’s camp will serve 76 third-graders, 25 second graders, and 20 first graders.

With $99,000 provided by the Mebane Foundation combined with state funds, students attending the 2018 Read to Achieve Camp will actively learn through visual arts, drama, music, and creative writing, in addition to tailored instruction through Hill Center Reading sessions and small group literacy circles. Campers develop self-confidence and learn techniques to reduce test anxiety. This is the fifth year Davie’s highly successful RtA will use this holistic approach to reading.

Christy Cornatzer, the camp’s curriculum coordinator, loves the camp’s multi-faceted approach. “Students who have had difficulty learning through traditional methods, will be given opportunities to learn in nontraditional ways. We address all of the different intelligences through time outside, time moving their bodies, and time working with visual arts. Whatever their dominant learning style, we will touch on it during some part of the day.”

“We hope to build confidence in the students who are here, and we hope that they will return to their schools as stronger readers that can excel and have a successful year.”

Past results have been inspiring. During last summer’s camp, 24% of the county’s non-proficient third- graders reached the required reading achievement score to move on to fourth grade, and an additional 11% of those students passed the Read to Achieve test in the months following the camp. A remarkable 81% showed positive growth on one or more reading assessments. Furthermore, 74% of the younger campers demonstrated significant growth over their initial scores on formative evaluations. All of the students achieved a substantial increase in confidence, engagement, and stamina in approaching new learning experiences.

Parents are excited about the positive impact the camp can have on their child’s learning and future academic success.

“My daughter has been looking forward to the camp, and I think it will be a good opportunity for her,” said the mother of a second-grader.

One father said his son was nervous because he didn’t know anyone, but added,”This is going to be good for him. I think he will learn a lot and have a great time.”

“Word is starting to spread through the community about what we do,” said Jeremy Brooks, camp director. “We have parents who ask if their child can come back to camp for another summer even though they came the year before. We continue to add the finest teachers in Davie County, and our staff gets better and better each and every year. This is a “who’s who” of Davie County educators.”

121 Davie County Students “Read to Achieve”
“Many of these students have a low perception of themselves as learners, so we take them through a variety of reading activities in a fun environment,” said Brooks. “We want them to have a good experience and to feel better about themselves as learners and to have a positive experience with reading so that they no longer see it as negative or a disappointment.”

The structure of the camp creates a lot of excitement. Students aren’t used to singing, dancing, and rapping during a regular school day.

The camp day begins at 8:00 a.m. with a short combined session focused on goal setting for the day. Students are divided into small groups with an average ratio of fourteen students per teacher except when students are in Hill RAP sessions at the four to one ratio. The student’s day is divided between Hill Rap sessions, writing to learn sessions, art and reading sessions, testing stamina sessions, music/theatre, and verbal expression sessions, and diagnostic reading clinic sessions. Each session lasts approximately forty-five minutes. Each day ends at 2:45 p.m

Each grade level’s lessons have a theme, and those themes are carried over to all aspects of camp. The first graders are learning about families while the second graders are studying communities. The third graders are racing across North Carolina with units about the mountains, piedmont, and coast which will give them advanced preparation for studying these topics in fourth-grade science and social studies.

This year, ‘informances” (impromptu performances that require no rehearsals) will allow students to further build confidence as they show their best work and share with each other what they’ve learned.

“Informances will be held a the end of each day to give students the opportunity to showcase something they are proud of,” said Cornatzer. “Although students aren’t required to participate, we will be encouraging everyone to do so. We hope it will help them build pride and confidence in what they are doing while also helping them connect literature and art.”

At the end of the fourth week, third-grade students will be allowed to retake the RtA Reading test, which is a form of the EOG.

Hill RAP Plus A+ Schools Plus Passionate Teachers = 16 Days of Success!
Jennifer Lynde, director of curriculum & instruction for Davie County Schools, attributes the continuing success of Davie County’s Read to Achieve summer camp to quality instruction by highly accomplished teachers, small student-teacher ratios, and the integration of the arts with literacy instruction to provide engaging, hands-on lessons.  “Implementation of both the Hill Center Reading Achievement Program (Hill RAP) and A+ Schools during camp are extremely beneficial in enhancing reading skills and building confidence in emerging readers.“

Through Hill RAP, eight specially trained teachers guide groups of four students through exercises in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each student has an individualized curriculum to provide instruction where it is needed most.

A+ Schools combine interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction, offering children opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning and showing what they know. In A+ Schools, teaching the state’s mandated curriculum involves a collaborative, many-disciplined approach, with the arts continuously woven into every aspect of a child’s learning.

Developing highly effective students requires innovative, highly effective teachers. The heart of Davie’s RtA camp is its staff of passionate, dedicated educators. Each has been trained in the A+ Schools Arts Integrated Instruction program and has personally completed each and every assignment the students complete. In addition, those conducting Hill RAP sessions have previous  experience teaching Hill reading methodologies.Most are RtA camp veterans who return each year because they are excited about the growth and success these students are experiencing, often for the first time.

“Read to Achieve Camp renews my love for teaching,” said Kerry Blackwelder, a reading specialist at Cooleemee Elementary who is teaching Hill Center groups for the fifth year. “We can look at each student, see how they learn and teach them in a style that best meets their needs.”

“The students usually start out shy. They know the answers, but they are afraid to speak up,” Blackwelder said. “By the end of camp, they have gained confidence and become risk takers. When they come together here, they are one big melting pot. They discover that other students share their struggles, and they learn to love themselves for who they are. A lot of them cry on the last day.”

Many of the methods used in the Read to Achieve Camp are designed to be shared throughout the school system by these trained teachers. Schools and students county-wide benefit because these teachers can take the new training they receive each summer and their collective ideas and experiences back to their classrooms to share with their students and colleagues.

The camp builds so much more than academic success. After 16 days, students leave camp believing in themselves and their abilities.

“We provide 16 days of success so that the test is no longer such a big deal and the students have the resilience and confidence to make it through, said Brooks.”

 

Mebane Foundation, Unifi and Hill Center Team Up to Change Lives in Yadkin County!

By Jeanna B. White

Thanks to a unique partnership between the Mebane Charitable Foundation, Unifi, and the Hill Center, students in Yadkin County Schools’ Exceptional Children’s program, are getting the extra reading help they need.

The Mebane Charitable Foundation has approved a $70,000 grant and Unifi is contributing an additional $30,000 to Yadkin County Schools to provide the Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP), a research-based multisensory structured language approach to teaching reading developed by the Hill Center of Durham.

Through this two-year partnership, Hill will provide comprehensive training to all 18 of the county’s K-6 EC teachers in delivering HillRAP with the technology-enabled Hill Learning System (HLS). This new format uses handheld devices rather than the traditional paper-based intervention, allowing teachers more flexibility in interacting with students in the 4-to-1 setting. The grants also cover the cost of 90 iPads and additional training to certify two HillRAP mentors in the second year to build sustainability within the district. The first nine teachers completed training in September 2017 and the others will complete their training during the 2018-2019 school year.

“A partnership with Yadkin County Schools and Unifi was seen as a very attractive opportunity to the Mebane Foundation,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “One of our goals coming out of our board retreat just over a year ago was to engage with new school systems and additional funding partners. With these two we’ve hit a home run; Unifi is basically Mr. Mebane’s brainchild from the early 70’s and much of the personal wealth he created during his lifetime spawned from there and then eventually passed into the Foundation.”

“It’s probably safe to say that children of Unifi employees will benefit directly from this partnership,” he added. “This was truly a win-win, and I have the utmost confidence that the Yadkin School leadership team and their teachers will ensure students will be offered every opportunity to succeed.”

Through HillRAP, a specially-trained teacher guides groups of up to four students through exercises in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each student has an individualized curriculum to provide instruction where it is needed most. Small units of information are presented sequentially and practiced daily until a set criterion is met for three to five consecutive days and overlearning is achieved. Mastered skills are reviewed weekly to ensure retention. Classes are designed to maximize opportunities for oral and written student responses. The program allows, and encourages, students and teachers, to set goals, track daily progress, and celebrate successes.

“Our schedule in the elementary school revolves around grade level pull-out times,” said Debby Gunnell, an EC (exceptional children) teacher at Yadkinville Elementary and the first to be trained. She participated in training in June 2017 to support HillRAP implementation in the summer Read to Achieve camp. “Since I typically have students reading on various grade levels during one pull-out time, reading instruction in the past frequently involved rotating reading groups within a class period. With HillRAP, I am able to teach up to four students on four different reading levels at one time!”

“This program is fast-paced, highly engaging, and provides a high degree of time-on-task. Each student is able to practice reading skills the entire time on his/her own instructional reading level,” she added.

“My students enjoy learning to read on the iPads and often display disappointment when they realize our time together has expired. I am excited about HillRAP and the impact the program will have on reading skills as shown on assessments given throughout the year.”

Kristi Gaddis, Director of Student Services, Yadkin County Schools, is equally excited. “We are elated to have this research-based instruction made available to our students. What makes this stand out from all the other instructional techniques is the seamless merging of research-based reading and technology. Our teachers are able to instruct students on their individual levels all at the same time through the use of the app. The exceptional students of Yadkin County Schools are receiving the best reading instruction available!”

Developed by Hill over the past two years, HLS includes enhanced data collection, analysis, and reporting tools which helps educators and districts make informed instructional decisions. Beta-tested by 60 teachers at Hill and select public schools in 2015-16, HLS is yielding promising results for student growth including:

  • 1.5 years’ average growth on NC EOGs for Carteret County students receiving HillRAP via HLS
  • Success integrating HillRAP into kindergarten classroom literacy time to serve more students and close foundational gaps
  • More engaged, confident, and invested teachers and students

Gaddis is eager to see Yadkin County experience similar results. “Yadkin County Schools is looking forward to analyzing the growth rate of our students that engaged in the Hill RAP reading intervention program this school year. We have trained the teachers, conducted coaching visits to provide support, and eliminated barriers to implementation. Our next step in the roll-out of this initiative is to analyze the data for student growth rates through the comparison of MClass improvements and CORE reading assessment improvements from 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.”

“Yadkin County Schools is so grateful that the Mebane Foundation has agreed to invest in our students. The foundation is providing the means for us to build capacity, inspect what we expect, and sustain what we start. Through our partnership we will improve the lives of Yadkin County citizens by ensuring they are prepared for the transition from school to life,” Gaddis said.

Davie County Read to Achieve Summer Camp – 16 Days of Success!

by Jeanna B. White

Sixteen days can change a life and a future.

Ask the 120 students who attended Davie County’s summer 2017 Read to Achieve Camp.

Many who had been reluctant to attend were now sorry to see it end. Some, who had never experienced academic success, did so for the first time. All received a new level of confidence in their ability to succeed during the coming school year.The camp is designed to help third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade, as mandated by the North Carolina Department of Instruction. The camp also included first and second graders who demonstrated the potential of reaching grade-level proficiency in reading with extra help in the summer.

The camp is designed to help third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade, as mandated by the North Carolina Department of Instruction. The camp also included first and second graders who demonstrated the potential of reaching grade-level proficiency in reading with extra help in the summer.

As in the past three years, this year’s camp was a tremendous success. More than 24% of the county’s non-proficient third-graders reached the required reading achievement score to move on to fourth grade. Additional students are expected to pass the Read to Achieve test in the months following camp. A remarkable 81% showed positive growth on one or more reading assessments. All will continue on to fourth grade with more skills and as more confident readers.

The third graders were not the only campers to blossom. Preliminary DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) results indicate strong gains, with 74% of 1st and 2nd grade campers making growth in reading fluency.

“While a 24% success rate may not seem extraordinary to people not close to education, and more specifically the Read to Achieve program, that rate has historically been far better than those being reported by the majority of school systems in North Carolina,” said Larry Colbourne, President, Mebane Charitable Foundation, which provided a grant of over $99,000 to support the 2017 summer camp. Since 2014, the Foundation has invested more than $338,000 in partnering with Davie County Schools to fund the intensive four-week camp.

According to the camp’s director, Jeremy Brooks, the camp’s consistent level of success is beginning to cause educators across the state to take notice. Other school systems have begun to call him asking questions about the program and one school system sent representatives to observe.

Davie County’s innovative Read to Achieve Camp employs a holistic, arts-based approach to reading. Attendees actively learn through visual arts, dance, drama, music and creative writing, in addition to tailored instruction through Hill Center Reading Achievement Program sessions (Hill Rap) and small group literacy circles. Campers develop self-confidence and learn techniques to reduce test anxiety.

“I believe using the arts in our approach to the Read to Achieve Camp makes us quite unique,” said Brenda Mosko, who taught drama during the camp. “We have incorporated many of the techniques used in the A+ Schools model for education in our camp. This enriched atmosphere creates magic for our students. During the year, our children receive their arts classes only once a week, but at camp they are nurtured in the arts on a daily basis.”

“Our camp integrates art, music, drama and dance into our main theme each week as we race across North Carolina from the mountains in week one to the coast in week four. Our teachers find material that seamlessly weaves reading into each art form,” she said.

“Arts integration uses teaching practices that have been shown in brain-based research to improve comprehension and long-term retention. For example, when students create stories, pictures, or other nonverbal expressions of the content they are learning — a process researchers call elaboration — they are also helping to better embed the information.”

“From the first day of camp to the last, we work to not only build up our children’s reading confidence but also their self-esteem. We start with a daily warm up in the gym to get our mind and body prepared for a day filled with learning. Each child completes a child-friendly multiple intelligences inventory based on the work of Howard Gardner. Through this inventory, each child discovers which of the multiple intelligences are their strongest. They also find that they truly are smart. Once they realize this very important fact, their outlook on camp and the test changes dramatically.”

A Recipe for Success
The structure of the camp creates a lot of excitement. Students aren’t used to singing, dancing, and rapping during a regular school day.The camp day begins at 8:00 a.m. with a short combined session focused on goal setting for the day. Students are divided into small groups with an average ratio of fourteen students per teacher except when students are in Hill RAP sessions at the four to one ratio. The student’s day is divided between Hill Rap sessions, writing to learn sessions, art and reading sessions, testing stamina sessions,

The camp day begins at 8:00 a.m. with a short combined session focused on goal setting for the day. Students are divided into small groups with an average ratio of fourteen students per teacher except when students are in Hill RAP sessions at the four to one ratio. The student’s day is divided between Hill Rap sessions, writing to learn sessions, art and reading sessions, testing stamina sessions, music/theatre and verbal expression sessions, and diagnostic reading clinic sessions.Each session lasts approximately forty-five minutes. Each day ends at 2:45 p.m.

Each session lasts approximately forty-five minutes. Each day ends at 2:45 p.m.

Campers experienced 128 hours of instruction with over 28 hours spent in individualized learning sessions with three to four students in the group.Students also had computer lab time to work with a program called myON, which offers a

Students also had computer lab time to work with a program called myON, which offers a high-interest reading experience tailored to a student’s level and individual needs. The program allowed them to build vocabulary and score points for the number of books that they read at camp, on a digital device at home, or on a computer at the public library. Each grade level benefited from a partnership with the Davie County Public Library through which they enjoyed a weekly story time with Julie Whitaker from the library staff.

Each grade level benefited from a partnership with the Davie County Public Library through which they enjoyed a weekly story time with Julie Whitaker from the library staff.Students thrived on outdoor time during their activity/lunch time with their YMCA counselors, who serve as Davie County Schools teachers assistants during the school year.Informal performances and “sharings” were held routinely throughout the entire camp experience. Students often begged to be able to perform for their peers which

Students thrived on outdoor time during their activity/lunch time with their YMCA counselors, who serve as Davie County Schools teachers assistants during the school year.Informal performances and “sharings” were held routinely throughout the entire camp experience. Students often begged to be able to perform for their peers which

Informal performances and “sharings” were held routinely throughout the entire camp experience. Students often begged to be able to perform for their peers which was another indication of their growing self-confidence as these performances often involved memorizing lines, playing musical instruments, or presenting a dance that they had choreographed with a small group. These ranked among the highlights of the camp experience.

The camp closed with a large all-camp celebration of the themes of Native American culture which recognized each camper as a valued member of the tribe. Students sang, played musical instruments, performed traditional ceremonial dances, and shared their art exhibits. This was not a traditional performance, but what A+ Schools refers to as an “informance” that is held without the pressure of adults and families watching, but is solely for students to share their creations with each other.An A+ camp requires A+ teachers

An A+ camp requires A+ teachers
Developing highly effective students requires innovative, highly effective teachers. The heart of Davie’s RtA camp is its staff of passionate, dedicated educators. Each has been trained in the A+ Schools Arts Integrated Instruction program. In addition, those conducting Hill RAP sessions are experienced in teaching Hill reading methodologies. “We have awesome teachers in this program,” said Jeremy Brooks, camp director. “We have National Board certified teachers, Teachers of the Year, teachers with a lot of experience, and teachers who genuinely care about kids and know how to nurture them and work with them in the summertime when they aren’t exactly eager to be at school.”

“We have awesome teachers in this program,” said Jeremy Brooks, camp director. “We have National Board certified teachers, Teachers of the Year, teachers with a lot of experience, and teachers who genuinely care about kids and know how to nurture them and work with them in the summertime when they aren’t exactly eager to be at school.” Most are RtA camp veterans who return each year because they are excited about the growth and success these students are experiencing. Both Lauren Reith and Noel Grady-Smith scheduled their retirement dates around being able to teach at this summer’s camp.

Most are RtA camp veterans who return each year because they are excited about the growth and success these students are experiencing. Both Lauren Reith and Noel Grady-Smith scheduled their retirement dates around being able to teach at this summer’s camp. Grady-Smith and Reith are two of the camp’s twenty-seven amazing educators from across Davie County. Others include:

Grady-Smith and Reith are two of the camp’s twenty-seven amazing educators from across Davie County. Others include:
Suzie Alonzo – Hill Center (Cornatzer)
Shelly Bryans – Teacher Assistant
Kerry Blackwelder – Hill Center (Cooleemee)
Jeremy Brooks – RtA Director (North Davie)
Kim Brooks – Reading Coach (Cornatzer)
Mary Lynn Bullins – Reading Coach (Cornatzer)
Kilby Church – 1st Grade Reading Coach (Pinebrook)
Christy Cornatzer – Hill Center (Cornatzer)
Lori Culler – Reading Coach (Pinebrook)
Leigh Ann Davis – Reading Coach (Pinebrook)
Regina Dzybon – 2nd Grade Reading Coach (Shady Grove)
Shannon Eggleston – Reading Coach (William R. Davie)
Michael Errickson – 3rd Grade Art TA (Cornatzer)
Angelina Etter – 1st Grade Hill Center (Mocksville)
Suzie Hecht – 2nd Grade Hill Center (Mocksville)
Jenny Kimel – 1st Grade Reading Coach ( William R Davie)
Mindy Ledbetter- 1st and 2nd Grade Art (Davie High School)
Brenda Mosko- Music (William Ellis/South Davie)
Anna Newman – Music (North Davie)
Erin Penley – 1st and 2nd Grade Music (Pinebrook)
Dana Roberts – Art (South Davie)
Alma Rosas – Hill Center (William R. Davie)
Raymonda Shelton – Assistant RtA Director (William R Davie)
Kolleen Sullivan – Hill Center (Shady Grove)
Julie West – 2nd Grade Reading Coach (Shady Grove)”The Mebane Foundation has provided resources and staff support for our students in

“The Mebane Foundation has provided resources and staff support for our students in Read to Achieve Camp that would not be possible with the limited state funding provided for summer camps,” said Dr. Darrin Hartness, superintendent of Davie County Schools. “The students attending camp are receiving a personalized learning experience enhanced by the arts. Additional specialized teaching staff blend individualized reading instruction and the arts. This fun-filled experience leads to improved reading fluency and comprehension, which affects a student’s performance in all other subjects. The professional development and new skills our camp teachers incorporate into summer camp carry over into their schools across the district throughout the school year.”The camp builds so much more than academic success. Students leave camp believing in themselves and their abilities.

The camp builds so much more than academic success. Students leave camp believing in themselves and their abilities. “It’s more than reading lessons, it’s more than the arts, it’s teachers instilling confidence in kids and making them feel successful every day so that when they go take that test their confidence is through the roof,” Brooks said. “It’s growing a mindset in kids in four weeks that when you retake the reading test you will be fine, you CAN pass this, and you WILL pass this test.”

“It’s more than reading lessons, it’s more than the arts, it’s teachers instilling confidence in kids and making them feel successful every day so that when they go take that test their confidence is through the roof,” Brooks said. “It’s growing a mindset in kids in four weeks that when you retake the reading test you will be fine, you CAN pass this, and you WILL pass this test.” “We provide 16 days of success so that the test is no longer such a big deal and the students have the resilience and confidence to make it through.”

“We provide 16 days of success so that the test is no longer such a big deal and the students have the resilience and confidence to make it through.”

HillRap and A+ Training Strengthen Individualized Reading Instruction at Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Reading 450

by Jeanna B. White

During Davie County’s intensive four-week Read to Achieve summer camp, each camper experiences 128 hours of instruction with over 28 hours spent in individualized learning sessions with only three to four students in the group.

Tailored instruction through Hill Center HillRap reading sessions, as well as small group literacy circles and reading groups are essential aspects of the camp’s holistic approach to reading. Campers also actively learn through visual arts, dance, drama, music, and creative writing.

“HillRAP is a research-based multisensory structured language approach to teaching reading and when you combine that with A+ Schools training, it provides the students with a well-rounded approach to literacy,” said Kerry Blackwelder, who has taught HillRap to third graders at the camp for the past four summers and has taught the Hill Methodology to students at Cooleemee Elementary for the past 13 years.

“Instruction is individualized to meet the needs of all of the students and this allows us to make the most of our sixteen days at camp. We are able to work with each student in the area of phonics they need. The exciting thing about HillRAP the past two summers is that we have been able to use the Hill Learning System and implement HillRAP on the iPad. This keeps the students engaged from the beginning of the 45 minute session until the end. They are excited about mastering their word lists, reaching their fluency goals, and answering comprehension questions on the iPad.”

“I have a passion for this program because I have seen students improve their literacy skills and become confident readers,” Blackwelder said.

Using this Hill Learning System (HLS), seven specially-trained teachers guide these small groups through exercises in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Progress is continually monitored as students work toward mastery of skills.

Students are also assigned to a reading group of 4-8 students led by a reading coach. These groups provide extra practice and expand upon the skills learned during HillRap sessions.

Each day focuses on a different genre of reading: fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. The main focus for each genre is understanding the text and being able to retell the story in the proper sequence.

“All of our reading activities incorporate A+ Schools strategies using dance, visual art, or music,” said Lori Culler, a third grade reading coach. “This promotes high engagement from the students. The Read to Achieve Camp provides opportunities for third grade students to shine and succeed in an area where they have often struggled.”

Mebane Foundation Sticks with Founder’s Goal

Larry Colbourne Mebane FoundationAllen Mebane IV saw the problem early on in his career.

At his first textile company in Alamance County, he had good people as employees. They were able and ready to work.

But there was one problem.

Many of them couldn’t read.

Mebane didn’t fire them. He started a program to teach them to read.

“He knew if you can’t read, your back is against the wall before you get started,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Charitable Foundation.

Mebane went on to make a fortune in the textile industry, building Unifi into  a worldwide textile powerhouse. But he never forgot about that first plant – and those first workers.

In 1997 he started the foundation with one primary goal – to have children reading at grade level by the third grade. Studies had shown that children behind grade level at that age had trouble catching up.

In 2001, Mebane injected $21 million into the foundation. At his death in 2008, another $20 million was added.

With a few sidesteps here and there, the foundation is still focused on improving the skills of the youngest readers. They do it in private and public schools, in charter schools, wherever the board of directors thinks the programs can do the most good.

They’ve been especially active in Davie County. Mebane lived near Mocksville and opened the foundation here on South Main Street. It’s the building downtown with the well kept landscaping. Mebane wanted it that way, Colbourne said.

And although Mebane has been gone for nearly nine years, Colbourne still feels his presence. And he remains dedicated to the same cause that Mebane championed.

“We know we’re doing good things,” Colbourne said. “We’ve seen growth in reading scores. Ultimately, the goal is to meet the literary needs in a school system or a school.”

The focus is changing somewhat. In the past, much of the foundation’s efforts have been to help struggling readers. The new focus, Colbourne said, is to help all young people as they start their reading journey.

The foundation has partnered with The Hill Center in Durham, which started innovative ways to teach reading. Davie County has been at the forefront of the efforts, training teachers in Hill Center methods.

The foundation has also helped fund new pre-schools in Davie elementary schools. It helped pay for technology upgrades. It helped pay for a place for student teachers to live while teaching here.

The list goes on, and according to Colbourne, it isn’t over. The Mebane Foundation has ideas to help Davie students even more.

“The Davie County School System does a great job, with a great return on money. I’ve been across the state, and Davie County is in a great place now. The only way to go is up. For a return on investments, Davie County is No. 1.”

Colbourne spends his time visiting schools, talking to teachers, administrators and experts, attending conferences and board meetings, always on the lookout for a suitable project for the foundation.

“I network and try to find good partners,” he said. “Once we get a partner … I’m constantly talking to potention grantees or to grantees.

The foundation has focused on programs in North Carolina, but has gone to other states, as well. Ideally, projects the foundation helps to start would become so important, the local schools would keep them going when the foundation goes to another site.

There are 150 kids in a Mebane sponsored preK program in Davie County. Some 90 percent are tested ready for kindergarten. That number drops to 40 percent average in private daycares. Part of the new focus will be ways to help those children.

Schools are important to Colbourne, who moved to Davie County in 1996. He and wife Beverly moved here because of the good reputation of the school system. They raised sons Craig and Darren here. Both are in college.

The road to the Mebane Foundation was a long one for Colbourne, who grew up in New Foundland, Canada. He had graduated high school and had no real plans. He did, like many of his fellow New Foundlanders, enjoy playing baseball. The season there is short, but just about everybody plays.

He was 21 when a friend called him and told him to move to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., because he could get him a job as a valet parking cars.

Colbourne made the move in 1986. He met the baseball coach at Broward Community College, who gave him a scholarship to pitch for the team. Wake Forest University spotted the pitcher from Canada, and offered him a scholarship to go there.

He realizes, and appreciates, how lucky he’s been since moving to Ft. Lauderdale.

He graduated from Wake Forest with a degree in speech communications, and got a job in the credit department at Wachovia Bank. When it was sold, he could either move to Charlotte for a different job with the new bank, or be unemployed.

Since a severence package was offered, he chose the latter. He also took the advice of a friend, who said to volunteer, do something he wanted to do.

He volunteered at the Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind. It wasn’t long before that group had him out raising money.

Colbourne came to Mocksville to ask Allen Mebane for a donation.

He didn’t get any money, the foundation’s priority was early reading. But a short time later, Mebane called him in and offered him a job at the foundation. The deal was sealed on the back of a piece of paper.

Eighteen months later, Mebane died.

“I worked with Allen Mebane one-on-one for a year and a half,” Colbourne said. “That was the best position. I was so fortunate. He seemed tough, but his heart was in the right place for the right reason. Everything he did, he did it for the right reason.”

The foundation’s office is filled with photos of children served in the programs. Colbourne can point to them, and say how they’ve done in life. One photo of a dozen or so young struggling readers stands out. All of them went on to some type of education beyond high school, he said.

“I love my job. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

(Original article by Mike Barnhardt, Davie County Enterprise – Reprinted with Permission)

Literacy Intervention: Past, Present and Future

by Jeanna White

It is estimated that more than $2 billion is spent each year on students who repeat a grade because they have reading problems*, and children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 – 4 times more likely to drop out in later years.**

Determined to change these, the Mebane Foundation has invested $5 million in literacy intervention partnerships during the past 12 years. These partnerships have produced exciting results that get to the core of our mission, to ensure that ALL school children are given the opportunity to read and succeed.

Along the way, our partners have included public school systems, traditional public schools, public-charter, and private schools. While some interventions have worked better than others, all have provided us with valuable data, metrics and research results.

One partner has been with us every step of the way; The Hill Center in Durham, North Carolina, a leading expert and resource in the field of learning differences. Over the years, we have worked together to stay true to The Hill Center’s instructional philosophy, based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, which focuses on teaching students the structure of language, while incorporating precision teaching techniques including charting and graphing student progress. Using Hill assessments, an individualized instructional plan is created for each student. Progress is continually monitored as students work toward mastery of skills.

We are committed to making this program, as well as Hill’s 4-1 student/teacher methodology, feasible and accessible to ALL students, no matter where they go to school.

This commitment has led us to invest millions of dollars into building a solid foundation for each new step in the partnership. This methodical, well-planned progression of programs has brought us to our most exciting partnership to date; a collaboration between The Hill Center and the Mooresville Graded School District, a school system recognized both nationally and internationally for its student 1-to-1 technology initiative.

These two dynamic organizations are now partnering on a 3-year project that combines their strengths to test and enhance the Hill Learning System ( HLS ), a digital version of the Hill Reading Achievement Program ( HillRap). This new format uses handheld devices rather than the traditional paper-based intervention, allowing teachers more flexibility in interacting with students in the 4-to-1 setting. Mooresville Graded School District tech savvy students and teachers are simultaneously critiquing and benefiting from the new technology, making it a win-win for both parties.

Most importantly, they are producing a product that could change the way we help struggling readers, no matter where they attend school.

Our collaborative efforts with The Hill Center and North Carolina school districts have been ongoing since 2003. The Foundation initially made a significant commitment of almost $750,000 to simultaneously launch two Hill programs in the Davie County school system and at 11 private preschools/daycares around the county. The preschools benefited from intensive Hill Early Literacy Project ( HELP ) professional development for their teachers of three and four year olds. The school system used Hill to train 26 elementary school teachers in the HillRAP I methodologies.

Over the next four years, all partners benefited through impressive gains in student reading ability and teacher professional development. The Foundation received valuable feedback that laid the groundwork for future intensive literacy projects.

In 2007, on the heels of a successful HELP/HillRAP I rollout in Davie County, the Foundation agreed to another four-year $1 million partnership with The Hill Center and Davie County Schools that would launch a HillRAP II partnership.

HillRAP II, designed for middle school teachers and students, combines the proven teaching methods of HillRAP I with a more intensive comprehension component. It was a successful partnership and the results of HillRAP II were very positive.

Since 2011 we have also been partnering on smaller projects in other school systems with the same positive results: struggling readers have made significant gains in reading and have experienced more success and a stronger sense of self-esteem in their classrooms.

The Mebane Foundation plans to stay the course until it gets the best product, with the best delivery method, at a known cost that is affordable to any child, school, or school system that needs it.

References
* US Department of Health and Human Services
** Literacy Statistics Reference Information

Read to Achieve Creates Engaged Students with Newfound Confidence

05by Jeanna White

Only their huge smiles betray their excitement as 120 students wearing matching red camp t-shirts and Indian headbands enter the gym in quiet, single-file lines. It’s time to celebrate all that they have accomplished during Davie County’s Read to Achieve 2016 summer camp.

The camp is designed to help third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade. This year’s camp also included first and second graders who demonstrated the potential of reaching grade-level proficiency in reading with extra help in the summer, as mandated by the North Carolina Department of Instruction.

As in the past two years, this year’s camp was a tremendous success. More than 27% of the county’s non-proficient third-graders reached the required reading achievement score to move on to fourth grade. Additional students are expected to pass the Read to Achieve test in the months following camp. A remarkable 76% showed positive growth on one or more reading assessments. All will continue on to fourth grade with more skills and as more confident readers.

The third graders were not the only campers to blossom. While assessments for first and second graders were limited to a social maturity inventory, a skill development checklist, and progress checks in HillRap sessions, over 65% of the youngest campers demonstrated strong growth over their initial scores on formative evaluations.

“While a 27% success rate may not seem extraordinary to people not close to education, and more specifically the Read to Achieve program, that rate is far better than those being reported by the majority of school systems in North Carolina,” said Larry Colbourne, President, Mebane Charitable Foundation, which provided a grant of $90,000 to support the 2016 summer camp. Since 2014, the Foundation has invested more than $235,000 in partnering with Davie County Schools to fund the intensive four-week camp.

“Without the consistent support of the Mebane Charitable Foundation, the reality of the DCS Read to Achieve Camp, a “launch pad” for students with potential, would be only an idea and fall short of the impactful program that it has become,” said Noel Grady-Smith, Executive Director of Curriculum and Leadership Development for Davie County Schools. “State funding is not sufficient to produce the model program that we have developed or to support the highly-effective teachers that are employed in Davie County Schools RtA camp.”

She attributes the success of the program to the implementation of both Hill Center Reading Achievement Program (Hill RAP) sessions and A+ Schools Instruction during the summer program and subsequent school year which creates a consistent foundation for student achievement. A student teacher ratio of 8/1, working in small groups based on individual needs,  was also extremely beneficial to the struggling readers.

The ongoing goal is to bring these successful, research-based teaching strategies to all six elementary schools during the school year. The teachers who train and practice these approaches during the summer are spread out in schools across the county.

Davie County’s innovative Read to Achieve Camp employs a holistic approach to reading. Attendees actively learn through visual arts, dance, drama, music, and creative writing, in addition to tailored instruction through Hill Center Reading sessions and small group literacy circles. Campers develop self-confidence and learn techniques to reduce test anxiety.

“I didn’t use to like to read. I just pretended that I got the words. Now we make things.. Like stories, plays, songs, and drawings that help me understand. So I get it now … for real,” said Ethan, a third grade camper.

A Recipe for Success
Each camper experienced 128 hours of instruction with over 28 hours spent in individualized learning sessions with three to four students in the group.

Students also had computer lab time to work with a new program called myOn, which offers a high-interest reading experience tailored to a student’s level and individual needs. The program allowed them to build vocabulary and score points for the number of books that they read at camp, on a digital device at home, or on a computer at the public library.  Campers read a total of 1,451 books over the course of the camp and into the month of August at home.

Each grade level benefited from a new partnership with the Davie County Public Library through which they enjoyed a weekly story time with Julie Whitaker from the library staff.

Students thrived on outdoor time during their activity/lunch time with their YMCA counselors, who serve as Davie County Schools teachers assistants during the school year.

Informal performances and “sharings” were held routinely throughout the entire camp experience. Students often begged to be able to perform for their peers which was another indication of their growing self-confidence as these performances often involved memorizing lines, playing musical instruments, or presenting a dance that they had choreographed with a small group. These ranked among the highlights of the camp experience.

The camp closed with a large all-camp celebration of the themes of Native American culture which recognized each camper as a valued member of the tribe.  Students sang, played musical instruments, performed traditional ceremonial dances, and shared their art exhibits. This was not a traditional performance, but what A+ Schools refers to as an “informance” that is held without the pressure of adults and families watching, but is solely for students to share their creations with each other.

It was an opportunity to celebrate four weeks of successes. For many, it was their first time to shine in an educational setting.

The final result? 120 excited, engaged students with newfound confidence who are ready to tackle a new school year.

Davie County Read to Achieve Camp – Inspiring Success & Making Reading Fun!

by Jeanna B. White

They move in unison. Sixty little bodies stretch and bend with the music.

This “morning stretch” helps prepare the attendees of Davie County’s Read to Achieve camp for a day of learning, fun, and success.

Davie County’s Read to Achieve Camp employs a holistic approach to reading. Attendees actively learn through visual arts, dance, drama, music and creative writing, in addition to tailored instruction through Hill Center Reading sessions and small group literacy circles. Campers develop self-confidence and learn techniques to reduce test anxiety.

“Listening has a great deal to do with reading comprehension, and rhythm has a great deal to do with reading fluency,” said Noel Grady-Smith, Executive Director of Curriculum and Leadership Development for Davie County Schools. “We believe we need to challenge the students with a variety of modalities to enhance each child’s unique way of learning and provide a rich variety of opportunities for reaching mastery.”

The results have been inspiring. During the summer of 2015, more than 30% of the county’s non-proficient students reached the required reading achievement score to move on to fourth grade.  Other campers received extra assistance during the school year with an additional 15% of those students passing the Read to Achieve test in the months following camp. All of the students  achieved significant growth in confidence, engagement, and stamina in approaching new learning experiences.

“While a 45% success rate for the camp may not seem extraordinary to people not close to education, and more specifically the Read to Achieve program, that rate is far better than those being reported by the majority of school systems in North Carolina,” said Larry Colbourne, President, Mebane Charitable Foundation, which provided $90,000 to support the camp.

120 Davie County Students “Read to Achieve”
There are 120 students from across the county enrolled in this summer’s intensive four-week camp. Sixty-three are third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade. The rest are first and second graders, as mandated this year by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, who have not yet mastered the proficient level of reading. The first and second graders participating in the camp were identified as close to proficiency, but in need of summer support to prevent losing ground.

“Most of these students have a low perception of themselves as learners,” said Jeremy Brooks, camp director and a 6th grade teacher at North Davie Middle School. “Many of these kids have already taken and haven’t proven proficient on two EOG’s and the Read to Achieve test. We try to not even say the word test because it causes stress and and has negative connotations. We take them through a variety of reading activities in a fun environment.”

“The structure of the camp creates a lot of excitement. Students aren’t used to singing, dancing, and rapping during a regular school day.”

The camp day begins at 8:00 a.m. with a short combined session focused on goal setting for the day. Students are divided into small groups with an average ratio of fourteen students per teacher except when students are in Hill RAP sessions at the four to one ratio. The student’s day is divided between Hill Rap sessions, writing to learn sessions, art and reading sessions, testing stamina sessions, music/theatre and verbal expression sessions, and diagnostic reading clinic sessions. Each session lasts approximately forty-five minutes. Each day ends at 2:45 p.m.

At the end of the fourth week, students will be allowed to retake the RtA Reading test, which is a form of the EOG. A celebration of learning follows the third grade testing. This camp-wide traditional Native American Powwow is a final opportunity for campers to share their new confidence as readers and their understanding of social studies themes of culture, family, and self.

Campers are also benefiting from myOn, a computer-based learning system, which the state is offering free of charge this summer as part of a pilot program.

Raymonda Shelton, the camp’s curriculum coordinator and the Instructional Coach at William R. Davie Elementary School, has collaborated with the RtA teachers to use the collection of leveled readers to create units that go along with what is being studied in the classroom, allowing students to build background knowledge to take back their literacy circles.

Hill RAP Plus A+ Schools Plus Passionate Teachers = 16 Days of Success!
Grady-Smith further attributes the success of the program to the implementation of both Hill Center Reading Achievement Program (Hill RAP) sessions and A+ Schools Instruction during the summer program and subsequent school year which creates a consistent foundation for student achievement.

Through Hill RAP, eight specially trained teachers guide groups of four students through exercises in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each student has an individualized curriculum to provide instruction where it is needed most.

A+ Schools combine interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction, offering children opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning and showing what they know. In A+ Schools, teaching the state’s mandated curriculum involves a collaborative, many-disciplined approach, with the arts continuously woven into every aspect of a child’s learning.

Developing highly effective students requires innovative, highly effective teachers. The heart of Davie’s RtA camp is its staff of passionate, dedicated educators. Each has  been fully trained in the A+ Schools Arts Integrated Instruction program and has personally completed each and every assignment the students complete. In addition, those conducting Hill RAP sessions have at least three years of experience teaching Hill reading methodologies. The Hill RAP teachers completed additional training this year to use the digital learning system that allows students to manage their progress on iPads.

Most are RtA camp veterans who return each year because they are excited about the growth and success these students are experiencing, often for the first time.

“Read to Achieve Camp renews my love for teaching,” said Kerry Blackwelder, a reading specialist at Cooleemee Elementary who is teaching Hill Center groups for the third year. “We are able to look at each student, see how they learn, and teach them in a style that best meets their needs.”

“The students usually start out shy. They know the answers, but they are afraid to speak up,” Blackwelder said. “By the end of camp, they have gained confidence and become risk takers. When they come together here, they are one big melting pot. They discover that other students share their struggles, and they learn to love themselves for who they are. A lot of them cry on the last day.”   

“Read to Achieve Camp is magical,” she added.

Lauren Rieth, Lead Visual Arts Teacher for Davie County Schools and a third year camp veteran who is teaching art agrees. Although she is approaching retirement, she is determined to continue teaching at the camp.  

“When I walk into that classroom I see brilliance. Learning through play brings out their intelligence. Suddenly they are confident and free to be their natural selves. We don’t have any judgements about who they are. We love them for what they bring to the table.”

“So often I see myself in them,” Rieth added. “School never recognized my artistic intelligence or moving intelligence. When students take in information through art and movement it has staying power because they love what they are doing when they hear the information. Their brains turn on.”

“These kids can’t believe it. They are required to go to camp and then they can’t believe how amazing it is.”

Blackwelder and Rieth are two of the camp’s twenty-seven amazing educators from across Davie County that Brooks calls an “All-Star staff.” Others include:

Suzie Alonzo – Cornatzer Elementary School
Ashley Bailey – William R. Davie Elementary School
Jane Brooks – South Davie Middle School
Kim Brooks – Cornatzer Elementary School
Mary Lynn Bullins – Wm. R. Davie and Cornatzer Elementary Schools
Christy Cornatzer – Cornatzer Elementary School
Kilby Church – Pinebrook Elementary School
Kim Crotts – Pinebrook Elementary School
Lori Culler – South Davie Middle School
Leigh Ann Davis – Pinebrook Elementary School
Regina Dzybon – Shady Grove Elementary School
Shannon Eggleston – William R. Davie Elementary School
Suzie Hecht – Mocksville Elementary School
Angela Lankford – Cornatzer Elementary School
Mindy Ledbetter- Davie High School
Brenda Mosko- William Ellis and South Davie Middle Schools
Anna Newman – North Davie Middle School
Erin Penley – Cooleemee and Pinebrook Elementary Schools
Madison Pratapas- A + Student Apprentice – Graduate of Davie High School
Dana Roberts – South Davie Middle School
Alma Rosas – William R. Davie Elementary School
Susan Shepherd – Cornatzer Elementary School
Kolleen Sullivan – Shady Grove Elementary School

Many of the methods used in the Read to Achieve Camp are designed to be shared throughout the school system by these trained teachers. Schools and students county-wide benefit because these teachers are able to take the new training they receive each summer and their collective ideas and experiences back to their classrooms to share with their students and colleagues.

“After 26 years of teaching, I still learn new things and new methods of teaching,” Blackwelder said. “It gets me excited to start the school year. I wish this is how school could be all year long.”

The camp builds so much more than academic success. Students leave camp believing in themselves and their abilities.  

“We provide 16 days of success so that the test is no longer such a big deal and the students have the resilience and confidence to make it through,”  Brooks said.