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Grant Boosts Radford University’s Literacy Efforts In Roanoke Schools

RADFORD -- In recognition of its ongoing efforts to increase student achievement in Roanoke’s public schools, Radford University recently received $180,645 in grant funding for its project “Teach for Achievement: Data Driven Instruction for Grades 3-5.”

Funded through the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the project, now in its second year, builds upon efforts to increase teachers’ knowledge in reading instruction in a way that impacts student achievement in reading, science, social studies and math. In addition, the project seeks to build up the capacity of leadership teams in high-needs schools to improve literacy support and instruction for older struggling readers. Focus will be placed on more than 60 teachers in Roanoke City Public Schools who attend a summer learning institute and receive professional development throughout the school year.

“We know the value of reading, and the many opportunities successful readers have in our information-rich world,” said project co-director Jennifer Jones, who coordinated the grant efforts with fellow RU associate professor Eric Mesmer. “I was so excited to have the opportunity to continue our work with Roanoke City Public Schools. It has been such a pleasure to work with the leadership there, as well as the teachers and students.”

Assessment and support systems are readily available for struggling readers in the primary grades, according to Jones, however when students enter grades three-to-five, literacy screenings are not readily used and support systems are often lacking.

“This makes it easy for kids to ‘slip through the cracks,’ and causes even greater struggles and potential issues in the middle school grades,” she said. “In grades three-to-five, students are expected to read, to read more, and to read informational texts.”

The project helps teachers use data to form their instruction at the classroom level, as well as small group instruction aimed at specific reading needs, Jones explained.

“Teachers will use data to tailor instruction, and select appropriate texts for students,” she said. “We will also work to develop school leadership and professional development teams that will help move the work forward once the grant funding is no longer available in a year.”

This year’s grant money will allow the project to deliver ongoing, consistent professional development by offering training to teachers. This will be followed with modeling successful comprehension strategies, allowing teachers to use an assessment system to further help them monitor students’ progress and adjust instruction accordingly.

“We will highlight success stories from our grant, as well as from the research and work of others,” said Jones. “It will serve as a learning forum and network for systems across the state.”

September 9, 2010
Keith Hagarty; 540-831-7749

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