RSS summer program open to lower grades

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

CHINA GROVE — Rowan-Salisbury Schools this year expanded its “Read to Achieve” summer program, opening the four-week camp to first- and second-graders for the first time, in addition to third grade.

Read to Achieve is a state-mandated opt-in program traditionally offered to third graders who score a one or a two on the state’s end-of-grade reading exam. This summer, first- and second-graders who scored low on end-of-year assessments were also invited to participate in the remediation camp.

“It’s up to the district how it occurs and when it occurs, but the state says it has to occur,” Erik Stubblefield, Read to Achieve site administrator for China Grove Elementary said.

Stubblefield said that students who choose to participate in the Read to Achieve program are often the “kids who can’t or the kids who won’t.” They’re children who have struggled in a traditional classroom setting because of short attention spans or other issues, or who have had bad run-ins with reading.

Which is where Read to Achieve comes in. Even though the program has a “tight turn around” for students, Stubblefield said Rowan-Salisbury’s program tries to avoid being “drill and kill” and focuses on building a fun, safe environment for students. Lessons are hands-on and often non-traditional.

“You can’t go through the front door,” Stubblefield said, “You’ve kind of got to go to the side door or the back door.”

Students may participate in guided reading, rhyming raps or use paper to construct a 3D model of a well-supported main idea. Transportation and free breakfast and lunch are provided.

Adding two extra grades means the program has expanded from five sites to seven, scattered around the county, which serve 500 students. The site at China Grove Elementary is one of the largest, with more than 100 students participating. Other sites include Cleveland, Hanford Dole, Koontz, Millbridge, Overton and Rockwell elementaries.

Students are grouped into classes of 10, and Stubblefield said the China Grove site had about 14 staff members, including three teacher’s assistants and a reading design coach. The small class size gives students attention that they may not receive in a larger class during the school year.

“We want them to do it in a different way than they did during the school year,” he said.

And any improvement is celebrated.

“The students, they know when they’re getting better . . . they can feel it, and they like it,” Stubblefield said.

Program participants take an assessment test the last day of class, or build a portfolio that qualifies them for a test exemption. Often, the program isn’t enough to get students over the “passing” hurdle – to make the jump from a one to a three. But Stubblefield said he’s seen a lot of students move from a one to a two.

“Whether it’s a little or a lot, we want to see them improve,” he said.

And even if students don’t quite pass muster, the remediation program helps halt summer learning loss and can help level the playing field for the next school year.

“We want them to have a positive experience with reading,” Stubblefield said.

The program is state-funded, but school system Public Information Officer Rita Foil said the system did not have a cost number to release at this time.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.