Davie County’s Cooleemee Elementary had an enrollment of 520 students in kindergarten through the fifth grades in February 2009, and 72-73 percent of them were considered “Economically Disadvantaged” (receiving free and reduced-price lunches) by the State of North Carolina. Statistically, students who fall into that category are more likely to be academically at risk. Report card grades and standardized tests confirm that risk. The previous year, Cooleemee Elementary did not make Acceptable Yearly Progress (AYP) in math under the No Child Left Behind federal legislation, and the students struggled to meet local standards as well.
From 2009-2011, the Mebane Foundation partnered with Cooleemee Elementary and Davie County Schools to help fund a systematic intervention program featuring diagnostic and prescriptive research-based programs delivered by computer – Waterford software for kindergarten students and Successmaker for the older children. In addition, teachers also employed comprehensive reading intervention strategies using The Hill Center RAP model. Student’s On-Going Achievement in Reading (SOAR) was added during the summer reading program.
In each lab, the program coordinator provided continuity, monitored students and provided technical support as needed. She was also responsible for generating and reviewing reports with teachers after every five lessons. The reports, which provided information about individual students and the entire class, were used to direct the complete intervention strategy, including instructional planning. Successmaker and Waterford reports, including grade-level equivalency, were also sent to parents with quarterly report cards and with progress reports mid-quarter. The frequent assessments provided a variety of helpful data about student progress. The assessments were also prescriptive, offering clear direction about areas needing improvement before end-of-year standardized tests.
The summer reading program ran for three weeks and provided three hours of small-group or individual reading instruction each day along with free breakfasts and lunches through Child Nutrition. During the summer, when many students regress in their academic skills, Cooleemee students demonstrated growth that continued into the school year.
Each of these programs and interventions provided another layer of support for the students, and each layer offered an opportunity to bring students closer to increased academic achievement and a more promising future.
The Summer Reading Program at Cooleemee was a tremendous success! We achieved the initial goals 1) to increase student achievement in this academically-challenged school; and 2) to provide a successful working model that could be implemented throughout the other Davie County elementary schools.
But challenges remained, exacerbated by the continued economic downturn of the area. They are reflected in the increasing populations of Cooleemee at-risk students:
- Of the 452 students enrolled during 2010-2011, 83% (382 students) were Economically Disadvantaged;
- An average of 185 students received Book Bags for Hope weekly;
- Of the 22.8% Hispanic population (105 students) in the school, 13.2% (61 students) were served in the English Language Learners’ program because of a language barrier to their learning.
- A comparable number, 13.4% (62 students) were served in the Exceptional Children’s program because of learning difficulties.
Summer Reading Program
- Successmaker, Waterford and other researched based intervention such as Hill RAP or Hill Strategies have been used.
- Bus transportation for students enabled them to access the Child Nutrition Program of free breakfast and lunch before and after reading instruction.
- Data generated through assessments given throughout the year has been maintained to track progress. The focus of instruction continues to be for students at-risk in reading, primarily to help them improve comprehension skills. Students’ gains carry over into the regular year from the summer program.
- We have documented a number of success stories of students connecting in the small groups to produce a more positive, productive attitude carrying over throughout the year. We have also tracked steady gains with many students who have continued to attend the summer camps.
- For the first two summers, a pre-kindergarten camp has been included during the last 8-9 days of SOAR. This has proven to be very beneficial in preparing those identified as most at-risk to transition more successfully academically and socially into kindergarten, narrowing the gap with those who are more prepared.
Successmaker Computerized Program and Lab
- The Successmaker lab has had a tremendous impact on student learning in the school over the first two years. Benchmarks were raised during the second year, and minimum proficiency level to advance increased from 65% to 80%. The grade-level proficiency benchmark was raised to the next grade level instead of the average required to score proficient on the End-of-Grade tests.
- Teachers have become more attentive to data generated by Successmaker reports and how it can improve classroom instruction through literacy centers and individualized instruction.
- The program’s evolving effectiveness and efficiency has captured the interest of others. The school was asked to conduct a workshop for the other five elementary schools in the county focusing on the use of reports available, the additional options that had been developed, and classroom applications. Cooleemee Elementary was also asked to present its system at the North Carolina Title I Conference during the second year.
- Data provided by the Cumulative Gains Reports continues to indicate students are making progress at and above expected rates.
Waterford Computerized Program and Lab
- Scheduling for kindergarten and first grade improved in the first year, providing small-group instruction in the classrooms and researched-based instruction in the lab.
- Teachers wanted access to the media center stations for additional sessions to support students outside the scheduled groups who were significantly below grade level.
- Reports from Waterford matched indicators from the classroom and provided information that supported classroom instruction as well as parents’ awareness of their children’s progress.