Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership: Equipping Teachers to be Literacy Leaders

By Jeanna Baxter White

Lindsay Harper teaches kindergarten at Courtney Elementary School

During the day, Lindsay Harper teaches kindergarten at Courtney Elementary School in Yadkinville, NC. But one evening a week, she becomes the student as part of the Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership (YWLP) between the NC State College of Education and Yadkin County Schools (YCS) designed to improve reading proficiency in the district by helping teachers become literacy leaders.

Funded by a two-year $575,000 grant from the Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville, the Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership (YWLP) is using a cohort-based Master of Education program to enable 20 teachers with YCS to gain the expertise needed to effectively implement evidence-based literacy instruction, assessment, and intervention in the elementary grades —  all expenses paid. The teachers who complete the program will receive a Master of Education and gain the knowledge needed to pursue advanced licensure in North Carolina as reading specialists. The partnership will also serve as a pilot test of a literacy leadership development model that can be replicated by other districts in North Carolina looking to cultivate transformative expertise in their schools.

“We want to see this partnership have a long-term impact in Yadkin County Schools,” said Dr. Dennis Davis, associate professor of literacy education at the NC State College of Education and the director of the program. “Imagine if ten years from now the YWLP teachers are still collaborating as a network of experts to model effective practices for their colleagues and inform district-level decisions related to early literacy learning. That is what we hope to see in the future – not just a group of teachers getting better at their craft, but also sticking together around the important cause of ensuring success for every child in the district.” 

Larry Colbourne, president of the Foundation, can’t think of a better, more appropriate location for such an investment.

“The Mebane Foundation had been exploring opportunities for a partnership with NC State’s College of Education for more than a year,” said Colbourne. “When Dr. Davis approached me with this unique partnership opportunity, I immediately thought of Yadkin County Schools. The county is the epicenter for Unifi’s global operations, and much of the corpus of this foundation can be traced back to the wealth Mr. Mebane accumulated as a founder of Unifi. I can’t think of a better way to give back to Yadkin County.”

Fifteen members of the cohort are working in elementary schools, four in middle school, and one in high school. Although the project focuses on early literacy, the participation of middle school teachers and a high school teacher allows for literacy specialists to be available to help students outside of an elementary school setting, which has been historically uncommon, according to Davis.

The program officially launched on August 4th with an online orientation, hosted on Zoom, attended by all 20 members of the YWLP, the NC State team, and the instructors who are leading the fall courses. 

“This is not the launch meeting we expected to have when we first envisioned the project prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it allowed us to share program goals, get everyone organized for their courses, and establish momentum for the year,” said Davis. “Fortunately, many of the project activities were designed to be implemented from a distance.”

“The pandemic has definitely created challenges for everyone, especially teachers, but the members of the YWLP have proven to be tough and dedicated and continue to complete assignments and participate in their coursework.” 

Teachers are taking two courses during the fall semester: Reading in the Elementary School and New Literacies and Media. The team meets together weekly in an online class and teachers complete additional learning activities independently. 

“The students in the YWLP spent this semester understanding evidence-based literacy practices, research findings related to these practices, and how to incorporate these instructional practices into their own classrooms. Throughout the semester, the students learned, discussed, and reflected on their own practices related to overarching literacy concepts,” explained Dr. Jill Jones, YWLP instructor and teaching assistant professor at NC State.  

Hannah Cox teaches kindergarten at Courtney Elementary School

“It has been exciting to hear the specific learnings that resonated with the teachers and how they are implementing these ideas in their classrooms. For example, after learning about vocabulary, the teachers began more intentional vocabulary instruction, selecting impactful words based on their learnings of this process, and developing students’ word awareness. As a culmination of the course and to promote the application of their learning, each teacher wrote a paper explaining their main learnings about literacy instruction, describing why these concepts are important, and how they will implement this knowledge in their future teaching,” Jones said.  

“The new knowledge gained by these teachers in the YWLP cohort allows them to reflect on their own instructional practices and implement effective instruction to further develop their reading practices. We are building the teachers’ own knowledge of literacy with the goal of creating literacy leaders who intend to share this knowledge with colleagues in their schools and in the district. I have enjoyed hearing how these teachers are already sharing their new knowledge in discussions with colleagues, planning sessions, and more formal collaborations such as PLCs.”

Participating teachers are enthusiastic about what they have learned so far and how it is already benefiting them in their classroom.  

“I am absolutely loving this program!” exclaimed Harper. “So far, the classes have gone well! Of course, I now drink multiple cups of coffee a day, but it is well worth it. The professors have been amazing. They have been supportive throughout the entire semester, and they have been patient with us as we are navigating teaching during a pandemic. I have learned so many new things already, and it is just the beginning! I look forward to continuing this program to benefit the students and Yadkin County Schools!” 

“I am very excited about all the things I have learned so far from the Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership,” shared Hannah Cox, who teaches at Courtney Elementary School. “I am enjoying digging deeper into what vocabulary instruction should look like with my kindergarten students! I have also enjoyed using Twitter chats to have discussions with my peers and professor! It is a great way for us to collaborate!”

Jon Holleman teaches 6th-grade language arts at Starmount Middle School

The training has been equally beneficial to the middle school teachers in the program. 

Jon Holleman, who teaches 6th-grade language arts at Starmount Middle School, said, “As a middle grades teacher, I did not receive many lessons on how to teach students to read. I knew comprehension strategies, but not the mechanics and science of reading. I chose to participate in the Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership to broaden my knowledge base and to help my struggling sixth-grade readers. This semester has been challenging, but that’s due to the unprecedented challenge (at least in our lifetimes) of teaching during a pandemic.  However, our NC State professors have been quick to show us grace in working with us. They understand that these are challenging times for teaching, and have been wonderful in helping us to achieve a balance between work, school, and for many of us, parenting.” 

“I have used several of the ideas from the course so far in my teaching, with plans to do more,” he added.   “Just this week we did an assignment on giving feedback, where we thought back to a time when we received negative feedback and how that affected us. From that, we created a list of feedback rules that will help us stay positive while helping the students grow. This was powerful, and the assignment reminded us to be thoughtful in the words we choose.  Also, the class has reinforced for me the importance of building the students’ vocabularies.  The more vocabulary students know, the more they will be able to comprehend what they read.”  

Dusti Gardner, who teaches at Forbush Middle School, agreed with Holleman, saying, “The YWLP has been such a wonderful program to be a part of so far. As a middle school teacher, I have already learned so many methods for helping my elementary-level students, as well as different literacy strategies to apply in my classroom to engage and support adolescent readers. My ultimate goal by being a member of this program is to build my knowledge in order to help my students grow into more confident and proficient readers.”

The teachers aren’t the only ones to receive training. School administrators will also play a role in the project through workshops that will help them better understand some of the terminology and principles of effective literacy instruction. These workshops have been delayed due to COVID, so the team is considering the possibility of beginning these through online modules/meetings. 

Dusti Gardner teaches 8th-grade language arts at Forbush Middle School

Davis and his team, which includes Dr. Jackie Relyea and doctoral students Sarah Dempsey Dawson and Courtney Samuelson, developed a detailed plan for evaluating the impact of the university-district partnership on student and teacher outcomes. This, too, has had to be modified because of the pandemic. 

“We have already conducted one round of interviews with a subset of the YWLP teachers,” said Davis. “The interviews are helping us identify areas of the experience that need extra care or revision. We will continue using interviews for this purpose over the next year of the program. When it becomes appropriate, we will also visit classrooms and observe teachers in action to learn more about how they are applying their learning in their teaching.” 

Despite the pandemic-related setbacks, Davis is busily preparing for spring, including coordinating with Jessica Stump, YCS director of elementary curriculum & instruction, to organize the inaugural Wolfpack Readers session in Yadkin County, to begin in late January. These sessions will allow the YWLP teachers to further practice their skills working after school with children who need supplemental instruction in reading.

“I have spoken with several teachers participating in the Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership,” said Stump. “They are rockstars: juggling teaching as we could have never imagined, new technology, difficult schedules, AND grad school!  Each of them has shared, however, that they are learning so much about the reading process and are energized by these new understandings. I have been excited to hear that the resources we are using across the district fit into the work of this program. We are on our way to equipping teachers with a robust knowledge of ‘why’ and ‘how’ to grow our readers, even in the midst of these tangled times.”   

The YCS teachers who are members of the Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership are:

  • Peyton Allen – instructional coach, Courtney Elementary School
  • Hannah Cox – kindergarten, Courtney Elementary School
  • Rebecca Bollinger – 7th-grade EC, Forbush Middle School 
  • Rebecca Dorman – English, Forbush High School 
  • Melissa East – 3rd grade, Fall Creek Elementary School 
  • Jennifer Foster – 4th grade, East Bend Elementary School 
  • Dusti Gardner – 8th-grade language arts, Forbush Middle School 
  • Brittany Groce – 8th-grade math, Forbush Middle School 
  • Lindsay Harper – kindergarten, Courtney Elementary School
  • Kattie Harris – 2nd grade, Boonville Elementary School 
  • Summer Hauser Clark – 4th/5th grade Forbush Elementary School 
  • Hannah Haynes – 2nd grade, Boonville Elementary School 
  • Jon Holleman – 6th-grade language arts, Starmount Middle School 
  • Clarissa Howard – physical education, Jonesville Elementary School 
  • Ashley Johnson – 2nd grade, Yadkinville Elementary School 
  • Rosanna Laws – 4th grade, Boonville Elementary School 
  • Lori Laws – 1st grade, Jonesville Elementary School 
  • Karie Matthews – 1st grade, Yadkinville Elementary School 
  • Hannah Neal – 3rd grade, Boonville Elementary School 
  • Kennedy Neiderer – 2nd/3rd grade, Forbush Elementary School

Additional Resources

Mebane Foundation Grant Supports Wolfpack Literacy Partnership and Yadkin County Schools

By Jeanna Baxter White and Janine Bowen

What would it take to get every single student in Yadkin County Schools reading on or above grade level? And does a question like that excite you?” Dr. Dennis Davis, Ph.D. asked a room full of Yadkin County elementary and middle school teachers.

Davis, associate professor of literacy education at the NC State College of Education, is recruiting teachers for a new partnership between the college and Yadkin County Schools (YCS) called the Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership which will work to improve reading proficiency in the district by helping teachers become literacy leaders.

Lindsay Harper, kindergarten teacher at Courtney Elementary getting kindergarten student Georgia Reece excited to read.

Funded by a two-year grant from the Mebane Charitable Foundation totaling $575,183, the Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership will use a cohort-based Master of Education program to enable 20 teachers with Yadkin County Schools to gain the expertise necessary to effectively implement evidence-based literacy instruction, assessment, and intervention in the elementary grades —  all expenses paid. Classes will begin in the fall of 2020.

However, this partnership is much more than just a pathway to a master’s degree. The partnership will foster teachers’ knowledge and skills to form a network of teacher-leaders who will collaborate during and after the program to help district leaders identify solutions to the barriers that affect student literacy learning in the county.

“Our ultimate goal isn’t just to help these 20 individual teachers get better at teaching in their classrooms,” Davis said. “It’s to create a community of teachers who are really savvy and skilled in using their expertise collectively, so the whole district benefits.”

This new partnership is one that Yadkin County Schools Superintendent Todd Martin believes will have a lasting impact in the area.

Clarissa Howard, third grade teacher at Jonesville Elementary, teaches literacy.

“We are extremely excited about the partnership between the NC State College of Education, the Mebane Foundation and Yadkin County Schools,” Martin said. “We believe this partnership — which will result in 20 of our teachers receiving master’s degrees — will have a lasting impact on students in the county.  Our teachers will be better prepared to implement literacy instruction, assessment, and intervention. This can only benefit our students, especially those who are in the early stages of learning how to read.”

Larry Colbourne, president of the Foundation, can’t think of a better, more appropriate location for such an investment.

“The Mebane Foundation had been exploring opportunities for a partnership with NC State’s College of Education for more than a year,” said Colbourne. “When Dr. Davis approached me with this unique partnership opportunity, I immediately thought of Yadkin County Schools. The county is the epicenter for Unifi’s global operations, and much of the corpus of this foundation can be traced back to the wealth Mr. Mebane accumulated as a founder of Unifi. I can’t think of a better way to give back to Yadkin County.”

The Yadkin Wolfpack Literacy Partnership deepens the Foundation’s commitment to Yadkin County and YCS. In 2017, the Mebane Charitable Foundation provided a $70,000 grant and Unifi contributed an additional $30,000 to YCS to provide comprehensive training to all 18 of the county’s K-6 Exceptional Children’s teachers in delivering the Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP), a research-based multisensory structured language approach to teaching reading developed by the Hill Center of Durham. An additional $57,000 was granted this school year to train 10 reading interventionists in HillRAP and to purchase 60 iPads as well as to purchase Letterland, a phonics-based approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling, for the County’s 12 Pre-K classrooms.

Hannah Cox, a seventh-year teacher who teaches a K-1 combination class at Courtney Elementary School works with student Joselin De La Sancha.

Teachers will participate in online classes and face-to-face seminars, as well as gain supervised intervention experiences through the Wolfpack Readers afterschool program. Davis said that providing time for teachers to interact with students through the Wolfpack Readers program will give them an opportunity to immediately practice the skills they are learning through their coursework, which is not always possible in their classroom settings.

“We’ve been really intentional about making sure there’s always a place where teachers can be a little more experimental so that they can immediately try out these ideas with real students and think about how to hone their expertise,” he said. “Then, when they do have the opportunity to build it into their classrooms, they’re doing it with more forethought and experience.”

Although the project focuses on early literacy, Davis said that a few middle school teachers will likely be among the 20 invited to join the cohort.

Data shows that fewer than 60 percent of students in North Carolina are proficient in reading by the end of third grade. This means a large portion of students ultimately advance to middle schools without the necessary reading skills. Participation of middle school teachers could allow for literacy specialists to be available to help students outside of an elementary school setting, which has been historically uncommon, Davis said.

“It’s always been important to me that we think about older readers who are having difficulties because we can’t just let them continue to fall further behind,” he said.

Third grade students Kayden Cheek, Willow Schroeder, Lillian Wood, Jimena Rojas, Bailey Williams, Mirana Lankford engrossed in literacy lesson

Clarissa Howard, a 3rd-grade teacher at Jonesville Elementary who has five years of teaching experience, understands the needs firsthand.

“As a past struggling reader from Yadkin County, I understand the frustration that comes with not knowing words on a page. Had it not been for the educators in this district, I would have never been able to gain the skills and confidence I needed to pursue my passion. Ultimately, I want my students to look back and feel the same pride in their education.”

“I became an educator to make a difference in students’ lives,” Howard further explained. “I feel in order to continue to watch them flourish, I need to provide them with reading instruction that allows them to become confident in themselves. That confidence will lay the foundation in different aspects of their lives. For that reason, I feel compelled to further my education at NC State. Because let’s face it, as an educator, I will forever be a student.”

The teachers who attended the information session were excited about what the opportunity means for both themselves and their students.

Students Madison Avila, Maci Druaghn, Bowen Pettit, Peyton Sobol, Isaac Gonzalez, Jinnie Sue Torres, Yanilen Gutierrez and Logan Cisneros excited to participate in literacy activities

“This new partnership between the Mebane Foundation, Yadkin County Schools, and NC State College of Education is an amazing opportunity,” said Hannah Cox, a 7th-year teacher who teaches a K-1 combination class at Courtney Elementary School. “I have always been interested in pursuing my master’s degree, but financially it wasn’t a wise decision. As I began my career in education, I discovered that there are many things I wanted to learn more about concerning students’ reading & writing development. This degree in New Literacies & Global Learning from NC State would help me strengthen my knowledge of literacy development, which would, in turn, help me grow stronger readers & writers at a crucial age. Bringing this information back home to Yadkin County would benefit my personal classroom, as well as many others in our district. As a result, we hope to see more students proficient in reading. Thanks to the Mebane Foundation, this cohort of 20 educators will make quite an impact on the current & future students of Yadkin County Schools.”

Lindsay Harper, who teaches Kindergarten at Courtney and is also in her 7th year teaching, said, “ Having the opportunity to obtain my master’s degree, with the financial help from the Mebane Foundation, would be an honor. The thoughts of progressing to a master’s level was not financially viable for me. This opportunity will enhance my skills to improve early reading instruction and literacy development in my students, and the students in my county. I will gain further knowledge, to collaborate with teachers of the county, to give each student the resources they need to be successful. My commitment to the success of the children in Yadkin County is both professional and personal. My husband and I are invested in this county because our child, and future children, will be recipients of the success of this program.”

School administrators will play a role in the project through workshops that will help them better understand some of the terminology and principles of effective literacy instruction. It’s an idea Davis said he borrowed from Wolfpack WORKS, another NC State College of Education literacy initiative that kicked off its second year by conducting a series of workshops for school leaders.

Students Madison Avila, Maci Druaghn, Bowen Pettit, Peyton Sobol, Isaac Gonzalez, Jinnie Sue Torres, Yanilen Gutierrez and Logan Cisneros excited to participate in literacy activities

The partnership will also serve as a pilot test of a literacy leadership development model that can be replicated as other districts in NC are looking to cultivate transformative expertise in their schools.

“This will hopefully be the first of many district-related cohorts,” Davis said. “If we can work with districts and build up a concentrated amount of expertise in a group of teachers who are then empowered to help district leadership make decisions and inform the curricula, I think we could make some pretty good headway in improving early reading achievement.”

Jennifer Hemric, vice-chairman of the YCS Board of Education expressed her gratitude to the Foundation for supporting this opportunity. “This exclusive program for Yadkin County Schools is an amazing opportunity for our teachers to further their education.  These teachers will be literacy leaders in their schools. Through the advanced training of our teachers and the after-school tutoring component of the program, we will be able to help our students reach their fullest potential. This investment by the Mebane Charitable Foundation will pay dividends for many years to come in Yadkin County.”

Additional Resources

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

Yadkin County Schools and Mebane Foundation Strengthen Partnership

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.