By Diana Bowley, Of the NEWS Staff - DEXTER - Like other schools across the state, the walls of the kindergarten through grade two classrooms at the Garland and Dexter elementary schools are covered with bright posters detailing classroom rules, phonics and numbers.But unlike others, the bright posters are not the work of teachers or commercial businesses. They are the handiwork of the pupils.
It is all part of an effort under way in SAD 46 to improve literacy through the Reading Recovery program and its companion, Literacy Collaborative.
The goal of the latter program is to allow for abundant opportunities for reading and writing to occur in authentic contexts in the classroom, such as the wall displays.
"Our scores just took jumps," Anne Jordan, principal of the Dexter Primary and Garland Elementary schools, said recently.
A safety net of sorts, Reading Recovery is a national literacy intervention program geared to first-grade pupils at risk of failing to learn to read.
At-risk children work with the Reading Recovery teacher in intensive one-on-one sessions for 30 minutes daily until they are reading at the appropriate level. Federal funds help support the program.
Literacy Collaborative augments this effort by working to increase the literacy achievement for all pupils in kindergarten through grade two, according to Jordan and Marcia Boody, central Maine's trainer for the Reading Recovery program.
SAD 46 is one of 16 school systems in the state that has embraced the companion program to Reading Recovery.
In Literacy Collaborative schools, staff have made a long-term commitment to work toward a common goal of improved literacy learning, according to Jordan.
Staff development and in-class coaching is offered by LeAnn Withee, literacy coordinator, to teachers in kindergarten through grade two.
It is hoped the program can be expanded to more grades in the future, Jordan said. "It's built a community between the teachers and opened up communication," Jordan said.
Because of Maine Assessment Test scores that were lower than the state average in some subjects, the two elementary schools previously were placed on a "needs improvement" level.
"We needed to do something and this was the most logical piece to implement," Jordan said.
She said she knew of no other program as cost-effective and with such a success rate as these companion programs.
Today the schools no longer carry the "needs improvement" label because of the significant improvement in test scores.
Ellen Almquist, the University of Maine trainer for Literacy Collaborative, said recently that the program has become popular because of its success. "Word is getting out there about the successes Literacy Collaborative is having," she said.
Almquist said the fact that it also is a good model for professional development is driving school officials to request the program. She said she recently received telephone calls from six interested school superintendents.
Boody also can vouch for the program. "This entire school system is humming with professional development," she said.
Literacy Collaborative has allowed everyone to be part of the Literacy Club.
"I'm seeing giant leaps in classroom instruction, which then transfers to children's learning," Boody said.
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