Yadkin County Schools and Mebane Foundation Strengthen Partnership

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

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

By Jeanna Baxter White

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teacher Aline Reavis works on HillRAP with student Chris White

Teacher Aline Reavis works on HillRAP with student Chris White

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

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

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

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

Teacher Aline Reavis works on HillRAP with student Aixa Cristobel

Teacher Aline Reavis works on HillRAP with student Aixa Cristobel

The impact HillRAP has had on reading scores is phenomenal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jeanna B. White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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