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.


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


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.


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).

Mebane Masters Program

Initiated through its $750,000 challenge grant and a vision for enhanced learning through far more effective use of technology, the Mebane Foundation collaborated with Davie County Schools and Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education to create a first-of-its-kind academic degree for 15 Davie County teachers and a profoundly innovative and extravagantly successful program of interactive technology they helped implement in 100 percent of the school system’s classrooms.

mebane-mastersThe program, Mebane Masters, has changed the face of education in Davie County, grades K-12, since it was launched in 2008. Providing a holistic method of teaching to technology savvy students, Mebane Masters has earned overwhelmingly positive responses from students, teachers, administrators and community.

The core of the program was a 30-month partnership between Davie County Schools and the ASU Reich College of Education. The 15 teachers in the program remained in their Davie County classrooms while pursuing their Master of Arts Degrees in Instructional Technology. They acted as the school’s primary resource for their peers when it came to questions about the best and most pragmatic ways to maximize technology’s benefit in the classroom. It was our first look at real-time, teacher-driven, in-house professional development.

mebane-masters2The student-teacher component became another crucial piece of the Mebane Masters Program. Over five semesters in 2½ years, 60 Appalachian student teachers were housed in Davie County, spending their 15-week semester paired with one of the 15 master teachers. The technology-rich environment laced with a palpable innovative spirit created an intensive learning environment for Davie students, student teachers and master teachers.

Most of these master teachers remain in Davie County and embrace their professional-development roles. Also, many of the student teachers who rotated through the program have decided to teach in the Davie County Schools.

In summary, the Mebane Masters Program…

  • Substantially improved education for students in every classroom at every grade level throughout Davie County Schools;
  • Created a powerful, new model for teacher education and professional development;
  • Made it much easier for Davie County Schools to recruit and retain the best teachers;
  • Laid the groundwork for STEM Infusion.

It is our hope that Mebane Masters Program has created a model for teaching, learning and professional development that can reshape the educational landscape and address many of the issues facing public education in our state and nation.

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.


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.”

Mebane Technology Challenge

Launched in 2004, the Mebane Technology Challenge was not only delivered cutting-edge technology to every classroom in Davie County Schools, but it also brought the community together to achieve a vitally important common goal – improving education for thousands of children throughout the county while at the same time ensuring the effort would be sustained through ongoing support.

tech-challengeIn 2004, the Mebane Foundation issued a challenge: If the county could raise $1.5 million from individuals, companies and civic groups, then the Foundation would contribute $750,000 over a three-year period to add the best educational technology to classrooms in every school across the county.

By the fall of 2007, without any government/taxpayer funding, the community had raised more than $1.5 million and Mebane Foundation had completed its match. Those funds provided teachers in all but 80 of the school system’s 500 classrooms had SMART Board technology, projectors and laptop computers… plus pre-K classrooms in five of the six elementary schools.

Seeing the excitement among students and teachers as well as the enhanced educational environments created by the technology, Davie County Commissioners voted unanimously to spend $1 million to pay for the remaining SMART Boards, six new audio-visual (distant learning) classrooms, a technology rich professional-development hub for training teachers and the last of the six pre-K, technology-enhanced classrooms.

tech-challenge2By then technology was transforming education for students in every classroom in every school. Perhaps the most significant result of the across-the-board SMART Board infusion was the well-documented interactive learning that had taken root across Davie County – and the elimination of virtually all disciplinary problems in classrooms. The children were visually stimulated and engaged in learning as never before.

Another positive result was that teachers, many who had resisted integrating computers into their lessons, were buying into the new pedagogy and becoming eager to learn more computer/SMART Board applications.

Finally, having technology – and enthusiasm for it – in all classrooms laid the foundation for the innovative professional-development models to come through Foundation initiatives: MEBANE MASTERS and STEM INFUSION.