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.”

Drama at Reader’s Theater Builds Literacy Skills at Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Drama 450

by Jeanna White

“Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand”

This old Native American proverb expresses the impact that active play can have on a child’s ability to learn and exemplifies why Davie County’s arts-based Read to Achieve Camp has been so successful.

Enhancing reading skill and creating confidence are important goals of the intensive four-week camp. Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

“Dramatic activity is a natural part of most children’s lives before they start school in the form of make-believe play, enabling them to explore meaningful fictional situations that have parallels to the real world,” said Brenda Mosko, who taught drama during Davie’s Read to Achieve Camp. “This can be integrated into school through the use of structured play and drama which encourages children to learn actively and interactively throughout their education and across the curriculum.”

“Children like to move and to interact with others,” she said. “In drama we ask them to do exactly this. Rather than sitting still and listening they are encouraged to move, speak and respond to one another. Students who are challenged by reading and writing (including those with English as a second language) often respond more positively to the imaginative and multisensory learning offered by drama. This in turn helps them develop such skills as creativity, inquiry, communication, empathy, self-confidence, cooperation, leadership and negotiation. Most importantly, drama activities are fun – making learning both enjoyable and memorable.”

“Drama is ideal for cross-curricular learning and is a valuable tool for use in many subject areas. In particular, drama develops literacy skills – supporting speaking and listening, extending vocabulary and encouraging students to understand and express different points of view. Dramatic activity also motivates children to write for a range of purposes.”

“Drama encourages children to think and act creatively, thus developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can be applied in all areas of learning. Through drama, children are encouraged to take responsible roles and make choices – to participate in and guide their own learning,” Mosko said.

Using a “Reader’s Theatre” format, Mosko combined students’ desire to perform with their need for oral reading practice.

“In Reader’s Theater, students “perform” by reading scripts created from grade-level books or stories. The objective is to enhance reading skill and confidence through practice with a purpose,” she added.

During one session, students enacted a “live” weather report, complete with TV anchors wearing red blazers and weather reporters clad in raincoats. All class members played a role and wore a costume. All seemed eager for their turn to read.

“Reader’s Theatre not only offers an entertaining and engaging means for improving fluency and enhancing comprehension; but also helps readers learn to read aloud with expression as well as build reading confidence,” she said.

“Reader’s Theater motivates reluctant readers and provides fluent readers with the opportunity to explore genre and characterization. In Reader’s Theater, there is no risk, because there’s no memorization required. There’s enough opportunity for practice, so struggling readers are not put on the spot,” Mosko said.

“Although costumes are not a requirement for Reader’s Theatre, students tend to get more into character and enhance their role playing through the use of simple costumes.  Reader’s Theatre helps a child use their imagination to create a character. By nurturing a child’s imagination, we are also enhancing their creativity, a skill that will help them throughout life.”

For complete details on the Davie County Read to Achieve Summer Camp, please visit http://www.mebanefoundation.com/news/read-to-achieve-camp-it-truly-is-amazing/

Using Creativity and Movement to Build Literacy Skills at Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Movemnet 450

by Jeanna White

Ribbons streaming, the first-graders glide across the stage. Although moving in unison, students perform their own dance.

Each student created their dance based on things they like to do, such as swinging a bat or swimming, and then taught it to a partner who acted as a shadow.

This exercise teaches tracking, concept identification, visualization, and sequencing. According to Noel Grady-Smith, movement instructor for Davie County Schools Read to Achieve Camp, these are important skills that influence reading.

Improved literacy skills are the ultimate goal of the intensive four-week camp.  Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

“Our premise is that students need to learn about themselves and their strengths,” she said.

Strengths come in many different forms. Developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, who created Multiple Intelligence Theory, said that every individual possesses several different and independent capacities for solving problems and creating products. He described these intelligences as verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist.

Movement is a powerful learning tool, particularly for students who are bodily-kinesthetically inclined.  

“We get to focus on the things that really drive teachers crazy, the motor skills, because this is the age group where children want to move all of the time,” Grady-Smith said with a smile. “We give them a lot of permission to move, but with a tremendous amount of structure built in.”

In addition to free movement, students manipulate props such as hoops, ribbons, and bean bags to help help them understand the impact of their movement as well as to create a connectivity to the space around them.

“As we are moving we are naming the words that describe our movements, which gives them terms they are beginning to understand. These become vocabulary words they will never forget. We are also connecting it with the literature they are seeing in their classroom,” she added. “Today we began the Corn Dance which is also being taught in music and mirrored in the first- grade curriculum and will be part of the camp’s celebratory Pow Wow.”

Third graders participate in morning stretch, a program designed to develop intense focus and collaborative skills.

“Teachers want to go into the classroom and find students who already have some of those skills. If I can build them here, it is a lot better.”

For an introductory overview of Read to Achieve Summer Camp 2017, please visit http://www.mebanefoundation.com/news/read-to-achieve-camp-it-truly-is-amazing/

Music Helps Build Literary Skills during Davie County Schools Read to Achieve Camp

RTA Music Internal

by Jeanna White

Using wooden blocks, metal triangles, and drums, Erin Penley’s students tap out the words of the poem printed on the smartboard.

“There is a large body of research that shows a direct correlation between building oral fluency and performing rhythm exercises through musical performance,” said Penley, who is teaching music during Davie County Schools’ Read to Achieve Camp. “This research asserts that through building oral fluency, students are developing their literacy skills.”

Improved literacy skills are the ultimate goal of the intensive four-week camp.  Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

“The arts-based approach in camp is child-centered; this approach allows children to learn through the arts, including visual art, movement, drama, and music,” Penley explained. “Further, these artistic modes of learning are natural ways that children play, learn, and grow. Through this child-centered approach, many students in camp experience success, some for the first time, and feel excited about their learning.”

For an introductory overview of Read to Achieve Summer Camp 2017, please visit http://www.mebanefoundation.com/news/read-to-achieve-camp-it-truly-is-amazing/

Building Literary Skills through the Visual Arts at Davie County Schools Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Art Internal

by Jeanna White

Armed with paint brushes, some students add personal touches to pictures that will be joined together to create a totem pole for the end-of-camp celebration. Others are applying the final layer of glaze to ceramic tiles bearing their personal symbols. Containers of hand-made clay beads and medallions cover the tables and floor.

What may appear like chaos is actually learning in its highest form.

“In the arts, we start with creativity, which is at the top of the intelligence scale,” said visual arts teacher, Lauren Rieth, referencing Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, which promotes higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating concepts, processes, procedures, and principles, rather than just remembering facts.

“The ability to see in many different ways and to solve problems are important 21st-century skills,” she added

Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

This summer, all camp activities are centered around the reading of The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin. In the story, a Native American girl is looked down upon because of her looks, but in the end, she is recognized and admired for her inner beauty.

“Read to Achieve Camp is full of boys and girls who sometimes don’t feel respected because they have different strengths and different ways of learning,” Rieth said.

“In this class, we use the creation of personal symbols and power necklaces and medallions to help them find the inner fierceness and strength needed to become the leaders they were meant to be.”

For an introductory overview of Read to Achieve Summer Camp 2017, please visit http://www.mebanefoundation.com/news/read-to-achieve-camp-it-truly-is-amazing/

Read to Achieve Camp – It Truly is Amazing!

read to achieve start int1

by Jeanna White

They started arriving at 7:45 am. Some were eager, some nervous, a few a bit teary, but all were ready for fun and success during Davie County’s Read to Achieve Camp.

“Mrs. Eggleston (3rd grade teacher at William R. Davie) told me the camp is awesome! I can’t wait!” said a third grade girl. Clutching shoeboxes for an upcoming camp project, she and another third-grade girl shared their enthusiasm about the first day. Both proudly showed the star stickers that identified which school bus they would ride home; one was excited because it would be her first time, likely only one of a number of exciting firsts during the camp.

Read to Achieve Camp is designed to help third graders who have not met 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, as mandated by the North Carolina Department of Instruction. This year’s camp will serve 80 third graders, 30 second graders, and 30 first graders.

read to achieve start int2With $90,000 provided by the Mebane Foundation combined with state funds, students attending the 2017 Read to Achieve Camp will 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. This is the fourth year Davie’s highly successful RtA will use this holistic approach to reading.

Raymonda Shelton, an instructional coach at William R. Davie Elementary who also serves as the Read to Achieve Camp’s curriculum coordinator, loves the camp’s multi-faceted approach.  “Students who have had difficulty learning one way, are so good at learning other ways. They discover that they really can learn this information. It becomes magical.”

read to achieve start int3During last summer’s camp, more than 27% of the county’s non-proficient third-graders  reached the required reading achievement score to move on to fourth grade and a remarkable 76% showed positive growth on one or more reading assessments. In addition, over 65% of the youngest campers demonstrated strong growth over their initial scores on formative evaluations.

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

“I think this is a really great opportunity,” said the mother of a rising 2nd-grader. “I wish I had this camp when I went to school.”

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.”

Shelton said, “Read to Achieve Camp is truly a lot of fun. I think a lot of times families are apprehensive about their child having to go to summer school, but by the end of the first week we are receiving phone calls from parents asking how they can get their child into the camp. The word travels fast so we know it is a good experience.”

“We spend several weeks in advance defending the camp and trying to talk some of the parents into it and then five days after we get here we are having to turn people away,” she added.  

“This camp is really a good thing. Kids start feeling better about themselves and better about school. It truly is amazing.”

Davie Teachers Give Thumbs Up for A+ Schools Training!

Thimbs Up for A+ Teacher Training-int

by Jeanna White

For two days last week, the teachers became the students as 29 Davie County educators learned creative new ways to teach reading, a skill that is fundamental for success in school as well as in life.

This A+ Schools training was in preparation for Davie’s summer Read to Achieve Camp which is designed to help third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade. The camp also includes 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. This intensive four-week camp began on Monday, June 26th.

The A+Schools of North Carolina Program combines interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction, offering children opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning and showing what they know.

A+ Schools TrainingRead to Achieve Camp – an Awesome Experience!
This is the fourth year Davie County’s highly successful Read to Achieve Camp, partially funded by the Mebane Foundation, will employ this holistic approach to reading. The camp’s attendees will 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.

Children learn by example, so the camp’s teachers participated in seminars on storytelling, film reading, creative movement, and songwriting, all in preparation to use the arts to promote growth in the children’s reading mastery.

Raymonda Shelton, instructional coach at William R. Davie Elementary, who serves as the Read to Achieve Camp’s curriculum coordinator said, “The excitement at this training is palpable. Each year we come back almost thinking, ‘Ok, we’ve almost got this thing planned. We will do a lot of the same things we did last year,’ but never do we do everything the same.”

A+ Schools Training2“We always get something amazing from this training and go back and tweak things. We realize that we can make it better, we can do more, we can push harder. I think that is why our success has risen each year. We get more excited and understand the possibilities even more. It’s just an awesome experience,” Shelton said.

“I had students who attended the camp last year and loved it, so I wanted to be a part of it this summer,” said Jennie Kimel, while painting a Kamishibai box which is used in Japanese storytelling. Kimel, who just completed her second year as a 1st grade teacher at William R. Davie, is one of the five new teachers to the camp this year. “I also knew the camp followed the A+ model and I wanted to gain that training as well as be a part of such a positive program.”

While most of their colleagues are enjoying a well-deserved break, many of these devoted educators consider the camp to be the highlight of their year.

Professional Collaboration – an Additional Benefit
“I love, love, love the camp,” said third-year camp instructor, Erin Penley, who teaches music at Cooleemee and Pinebrook. “A lot of times these kids come to this program feeling defeated in their reading skills. We get to rejuvenate their love of reading by helping them to experience reading in a fun new way.”

“I also love the professional collaboration we get to experience that we don’t usually have time for during the regular school year,” she added.

Lauren Rieth, lead visual arts teacher for Davie County Schools and a fourth-year camp veteran is so passionate about the camp, she scheduled her retirement date for August so that she could participate at least one more year.

“I can’t think of a better way to end my teaching career than this vital program,” she added. “I will enter retirement with my heart singing!”

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.

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.