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.

The Hill Center and Mooresville Graded School District: A Winning Partnership

by Jeanna White

In a continuing effort to ensure that ALL school children are given the opportunity to read and succeed, the Mebane Foundation has invested $1.9 million into its most exciting partnership to date; a collaboration between The Hill Center and the Mooresville Graded School District, which  is recognized both nationally and internationally for its 1-to-1 student technology initiative.

Launched in 2015, this three-year, $8.4 million literacy project unites these two high performing education organizations in a district-wide effort aimed at improving the reading achievement of struggling readers within MGSD elementary and intermediate schools. This partnership demonstrates how districts can leverage high quality professional development and technology to support individualized learning and improve overall reading results, especially for those students who are most difficult to reach – including those with learning differences, ADHD, or English Language Learners.

These two dynamic organizations are now combining 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 iPads rather than the traditional paper-based intervention, allowing teachers more flexibility in interacting with students in the 4-to-1 setting. The HLS iPad app includes teacher training and support, assessment, implementation, data collection, and the student learning experience. Through the HLS, data on all elements of HillRAP will be captured, analyzed, and delivered in ways that are meaningful to students, teachers, and to The Hill Center as it continues to refine and improve its programs and scalability.  

In 2007, MGSD began a transformation known in Mooresville as Digital Conversion, a process designed to leverage access to technology and digital resources to significantly enhance the level of student interest, motivation, and engagement in learning. This digital transformation was completed in 2015 with the purchase of 1,000 iPads for K-2students. Students in grades 3-12 had received laptops. As part of this transformation, MGSD also invested heavily in infrastructure to ensure high connectivity in and around all MGSD facilities.

The goals of this unique and innovative partnership are:

  1. Significantly increase MGSD reading student achievement in grades K-6 by 2018. This will be achieved through student access to devices and digital resources for personalized literacy learning, expanded HillRAP implementation, Hill professional development for MGSD teachers, and a high quality summer literacy program.
  2. Develop, test and refine the Hill Learning System iPad app and associated resources and supports. MGSD students and teachers will beta-test the HLS app, providing needed feedback for software development. Hill will continue refining the HLS software while also creating a new vocabulary and comprehension curriculum and developing a HLS teacher training and support model.
  3. Establish the MGSD-Hill Literacy Partnership as a model demonstration site for districts and schools. This partnership, and the Hill methodology and HLS app, have been highlighted to hundreds of district leaders from around the world via live radio broadcast and targeted sessions at the MGSD Summer Connection. The Summer Connection is an ongoing, world-renowned conference attended by an average of 350 educators per year. MGSD will host prospective HillRAP districts for site visits, Hill and MGSD will co-present and co-publish their findings at state and national conferences and in co-authored reports.

Results from the first year have been encouraging. Of the 91 MGSD students receiving HillRAP assistance in 2014-2015, 97% improved in overall text reading levels, with 6% improving more than 7 book levels, 44% improving 4-6 book levels, and 47% improving 1-3 book levels. Text reading comprehension results have also been positive with a middle of the year overall improvement of 84% for students in grades K-3 receiving HillRAP.

Feedback on the HLS app from both students and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive with 100% agreeing that it is easy to use and 100% of teachers indicating that it saved them time and helped them to implement RAP more efficiently.

Together, The Hill Center and the Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) have made meaningful progress towards improving the reading achievement of struggling readers within MGSD elementary schools, further developing the Hill Learning System (HLS), and establishing a model partnership and demonstration site for HillRAP and HLS implementation.

For additional details on this exciting partnership, please download the original Hill Center and Mooresville Graded School District proposal and or the report of the first-year results

Read to Achieve Summer Camps Producing Extraordinary Results

Read to Achieve Camp 1

by Jeanna White

As a result of last summer’s phenomenal results, the Mebane Charitable Foundation has approved a grant of $90,000 to support Davie County’s 2016 Read to Achieve summer camp for third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade.

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, while other campers received extra assistance during the school year with another 15% of those students passing the Read to Achieve test in the months following camp.

read-to-achieve-2“While a 30% 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. “After seeing firsthand the quality of delivery and instruction at the Read to Achieve summer camp held in Davie County Schools in 2015, partnering with DCS again in 2016 was an easy decision for my board.”

Since 2014, the Foundation has invested more than $225,000 in partnering with Davie County Schools to fund the intensive four-week camp, which this year will also include struggling first and second graders as mandated by the North Carolina Department of Instruction. Based on the state’s funding allotment, Davie County Schools anticipates serving 80 third graders along with 60-70 first and second graders.  

Noel Grady-Smith, Executive Director of Curriculum and Leadership Development for Davie County Schools, 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 created 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.

“With funding provided by the Mebane Foundation combined with state funds, students attending the 2016 Read to Achieve Camp will actively learn through the arts, receive tailored instruction in Hill Center Reading sessions, and work in small groups with literacy coaches during the challenging four weekprogram,” Grady-Smith said.

“Thanks to the continued investment of the Mebane Foundation, this summer our DCS Read to Achieve Camp will build upon the strength of our specialized curriculum taught by highly accomplished teachers to boost reading and achievement levels in third graders as well as selected first and second graders,” she added.

For more information about this highly successful program, please download the original Davie County Schools Read to Achieve Camp grant proposal which also includes results from the 2015 summer camp.

Reading Achievement Programs

HILLRAP I (2003-2007)

As part of our four-year, $750,000 funding agreement, The Hill Center was also charged with designing a continuation of the HELP project to address teacher training for grades K-3 with a similar methodology. The Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP) is an adapted version of the Hill Methodology that is more prescriptive, easier for teachers to implement, and more cost-effective to deliver than traditional Hill Methodology delivered at The Hill Center.

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Twenty-six elementary teachers from Davie County’s six elementary schools began HillRAP training in the summer of 2005, and started implementing the intensive reading intervention program when the school year began.

HillRAP includes the five essential components of a successful reading program as put forth in the National Reading Panel Report of 2000. Phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension are the core of the daily instructional program that is ideally implemented in 45- to 60- minute sessions five days a week. While students work in small groups of four, each student has an individualized curriculum to provide instruction in areas where there are demonstrated skill deficits in reading. 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 and success experiences. All student responses are graphed and charted daily by the teachers and students in order to document mastery before advancing to a higher level skill. Student-teacher interaction focuses on praise and positive reinforcement for correct answers or approximations of the correct response.

When RTI reported impressive results, the program was extended through 5th grade at all six schools. As a result of the intensive nature of the program, often involving a 4-to-1 student-teacher ratio based on the students’ reading levels, reading specialists in the program began forming what are now known as “RAP Clinics.” These interventions included classroom teachers and assistant teachers under strict supervision of highly trained RAP teachers, and provided group support to many more struggling readers in the early grades. Eventually, at least one elementary school used the same RAP Clinic model with community volunteers working under the guidance and supervision of a RAP-trained reading specialist. This approach enabled the schools to provide benefits from these proven reading interventions to many more children.

Davie County Schools found similar results to those experienced by Brunswick County Public Schools (report) and Carteret County Schools (report) in partnerships with The Hill Center between 2008-2012, as reported by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Watson School of Education. Link to the hill site

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HILLRAP II (2007-2010)

On the heels of successful HELP and HillRAP I partnerships with The Hill Center and Davie County Schools, the Mebane Foundation made an additional commitment in 2007 of nearly $1 million for the design and implementation of a reading comprehension program, HillRAP II, for 6th-8th graders. In keeping with its efforts to involve community commitment and participation that ensure long-term sustainability, the Foundation used its funding as a challenge to the Davie County Commissioners, who, in a unanimous vote, approved $1 million to fund the program along with 80 SMART Boards, six more audio-visual (distant learning) classrooms and the last of six pre-K technology-enhanced classrooms.

rap2

Twenty-one teachers from Davie County’s three middle schools participated in a 3-day training offered by Hill Center staff in August 2008. The training included a 1-day training in Phonics Breaking the Code, a 2-day HillRAP workshop, and two half-day follow-up workshops. In addition, training was offered on the Hill Center’s Reading Assessment instrument, which helps create a profile of strengths and difficulties and allows the teacher to start instruction at the most appropriate level for each student. The grant also involved training three Davie County teachers in both HillRAP I and HillRAP II methodologies, providing mentors in the school system to help maintain the project after Foundation funding and external Hill Center training were no longer available.

Implemented in the fall of 2008, HillRAP II focused on middle-school students with reading disabilities and featured an additional reading-comprehension component.

A Duke University study in June 2011 (hill center site) found that HillRAP II improved the reading proficiency of struggling readers and began to close the gap between these students and their peers on a state-mandated achievement test (i.e., EOG) and a nationally-normed achievement test (i.e., WJ-III).

Hill Early Literacy Program (HELP)

As a result of Allen Mebane’s vision to have all students in Davie County reading by age 8, the Mebane Foundation and The Hill Center began a four-year $750,000 partnership in 2003 to develop and implement a comprehensive early literacy and reading program for Davie County Schools, located in Mocksville North Carolina.

Research indicates that children must learn specific skills and abilities during critical developmental years, ages 3 to 5, to allow them to become successful future readers. More specifically, children must develop critical phonological awareness skills, awareness of letter/sound relationships, print awareness, and vocabulary skills.

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Committed to helping young children master these skills, the Mebane Foundation funded the Hill Center in Durham, NC, to develop a research-based, best-practices early-literacy program for childcare teachers serving 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in pre-school.

The Hill Center experts spent approximately 2 years developing the Hill Early Literacy Program (HELP). This comprehensive curriculum involves 36 weekly scripted lessons for 3-year-olds developed the first year and 36 weekly scripted lessons for 4-year-olds developed the second year. Each lesson includes the basic emergent literacy building blocks of oral language, phonological awareness, and alphabet principles.

The Hill Early Literacy Program (HELP) was launched in 2005. It provided 60 childcare teachers from 11 childcare centers in Davie County initial training in innovative methodologies that had already been tested and proven by Hill Center professionals. Hill Center master teachers then made regular follow-up visits to the Davie County childcare centers for additional training, guidance and support. We were all very pleased with early results, and our enthusiasm was underscored by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in 2007 (RTI Report) when the perceived effectiveness of the new methods was thoroughly documented.

Overall, the study found that:

  • Preschool teachers who participated in the HELP preschool teacher training significantly increased their knowledge of how to teach children early literacy skills.
  • Preschool students whose teachers participated in the HELP training “significantly increased their skills” in 1) phonological awareness, 2) print knowledge, 3) definitional vocabulary and 4) receptive vocabulary. Many of these preschool students “increased their skills in print knowledge faster than what was expected of average children their age.”