By Jeanna Baxter White
Based on the early success of a two-year $100,000 partnership between Yadkin County Schools, the Mebane Foundation, and Unifi, the Foundation’s board solidified its intentions to invest heavily in Yadkin County Schools by voting unanimously at its most-recent semi-annual meeting to award an additional $57,000 to the school system for the coming year.
“Continuing our partnership with Yadkin County Schools on a larger scale is a very attractive opportunity for the Mebane Foundation,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Foundation. “Mr. Mebane founded Unifi nearly fifty years ago with Yadkin County as the epicenter of its global operations. He cared deeply for Unifi and the community as a whole, so I think it makes total sense for the Foundation and Yadkin County Schools to further strengthen our partnership for the future.”
“The Foundation’s ability to be a catalyst for innovation and excellence in education would not be possible without the opportunities that Yadkin County created for Unifi to be a successful company,” said William Mebane, Foundation board member and Unifi employee. “It only makes sense to take what Larry and the Foundation have learned over the years and invest it back into the community that created those opportunities in the first place.”
During the initial two-year partnership, which began during the 2017-2018 school year, The Hill Center from Durham provided comprehensive training to all 18 of the county’s K-6 Exceptional Children’s teachers in delivering the Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP) reading intervention curriculum with the technology-enabled Hill Learning System (HLS).
Through HillRAP, a specially-trained teacher guides groups of up to four students through exercises in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each student has an individualized curriculum to provide instruction where it is needed most. Small units of information are presented sequentially and practiced daily until a set criterion is met for three to five consecutive days and overlearning is achieved. Mastered skills are reviewed weekly to ensure retention. Classes are designed to maximize opportunities for oral and written student responses. The program allows, and encourages, students and teachers, to set goals, track daily progress, and celebrate successes.
During 2019-2020, $50,000 will be used to train 10 reading interventionists in HillRAP and to purchase 60 iPads. The other $7,000 will purchase Letterland, a phonics-based approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling to students in Pre-K to 2nd grade, for the 12 Pre-K classrooms.
“Yadkin County Schools is looking forward to expanding our partnership with the Mebane Foundation during the 2019-2020 school year,” said Kristi Gaddis, executive director for student services for Yadkin County Schools.
“We plan to spread the utilization of the researched-based HillRAP reading program by training more teachers to enable us to reach a larger number of struggling readers. We have seen a tremendous amount of reading growth from the 247 students currently receiving HillRAP instruction throughout the county. Mebane is also supporting our vision to shore up our core early literacy instruction within the Pre-K program through the use of the Letterland curriculum.”
The impact HillRAP has had on reading scores is phenomenal.
“At mid-year, students are expected to meet 50% of their annual typical growth, but on average, our students that are currently receiving HillRAP instruction are growing two times more than the average student in Reading,” explained Gaddis, with enthusiasm.
The teachers who were trained in the methodology are thrilled with its ease of use as well as their students’ results. “The HillRAP training has given me the opportunity to teach a research-based program to students where the HillRAP program places each student on their instructional level,” said Aline Reavis, who teaches 6-7 HillRAP groups at Yadkin Elementary each day. “Embedded in this program I can print individual parent reports and look at individual students growth which can eliminate hours of handwritten data”
“My students are eager to work on the i-Pads in the HillRAP program which has made a positive influence on their learning in a fun but educational way.”
The truth of that statement was evident during a recent HillRAP session at Yadkin Elementary School.
“Kite, striped, spite,” Aixa Cristobel read quickly, but carefully, gaining momentum. “Quite, does,” she continued to read, challenging herself to complete as many words as possible before her teacher called time. A jubilant smile lit her face when Reavis announced that she had exceeded her score without missing a single word. With a shy smile, the 5th grader explained that the fluency component is her favorite part of HillRAP.
“HillRAP helps me read better, it’s cool,” said classmate, Talin Shumate, also a 5th-grader. Chris White, a 6th grader, agreed, adding that his favorite part is the vocabulary component.
These students are three of the many reasons Gaddis is thankful for the Mebane Foundation. “Yadkin County Schools truly appreciates the support of the foundation in such a fiscally stressful time in education,” said Gaddis. “They are truly making an impact on the lives of Yadkin County children.”