Friday, November 21, 2014

Vian Elementary Gets $100,000 Literacy Grant

Vian Elementary Schools is one of 20 Oklahoma public schools to receive a $100,000 grant from the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) to spur innovation in reading and literacy at the elementary level.

"We are very excited," School Superintendent Victor Salcedo said Thursday, when the grant winners were announced. "We want to give credit where credit is due." Salcedo said Kathy Wingo, elementary principal, and Dawn Childress, elementary assistant principal, applied for the grant. "They did all the grunt work," he said.

The OSDE $100,000 grant will be used over this school year and the next year. Childress said Thursday that a budget meeting is planned for Dec. 8. That is when the school finds out when they get the funds, and how it is to be spent. The program is for children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. 

On Thursday the State Board of Education approved awarding of the Systems Changing Oklahoma Reading Expectations (SCORE) grants. The grants are designed to help schools improve literacy rates under the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), and fund comprehensive intervention reading programs in schools that have proven especially motivated toward addressing illiteracy.

Childress said Vian Elementary had already begun making improvement changes in reading and literacy. She said, "When we saw that grant application on the web site, we thought it would be perfect for us. So we applied. We were blessed to have received the grant."

According to the state board, each school that receives a grant will act as a model program over the next two years, sharing insights and techniques with all Oklahoma public schools.

Childress said Vian's reading and literacy program assesses students' reading levels through national assessments. Then teachers set aside 50-minute blocks every day to work with those not meeting the bench mark.

Childress said, "With school funding being cut back every year, that $100,000 means a lot to us. We want to be good stewards of that money."

Childress added that the school's teachers are essential to the program. "We are really proud of our teachers," she said. "They are willing to go in this new direction."

Dr. Lawrence Tihen, a literacy consultant to numerous states and the author of the Florida Reading Model, will be working with the grant awardees. He said people often mistakenly believe that if students are failing to read on grade level, then it must be the fault of the teacher, parent or leadership at the school. Instead, he contends, research and data shows that 95 percent of the time it is the fault of the system in place. Changing the system--along with related aligning of resources, teaching materials, professional development and funding--will result in many more students being able to read at grade level.

Michele Sprague, state elementary language arts director and grant coordinator, said the ultimate aim of the grants "is to provide support, guidance, professional development and funding so awardees will effectively change their systems into model schools for literacy." Under terms of the grant, the participating schools will submit progress reports, annual reports and a final report. The schools are expected to begin receiving the grant funds within the next few weeks. By Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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