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Hancock Elementary to employ literacy program

October 07, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Hancock Elementary School received a $149,935 state grant for a literacy program beginning this school year.

Achievement First, a Maryland Department of Education standardized reading and writing program, aims to bring students' test scores up to grade performance levels within a three-year period.

Test scores improved last year, but Hancock Principal Donna Newcomer-Coble said she thinks with the new program they will get even better.

Hancock and Fountaindale elementary schools, both Title I schools which get more state and federal funding due to poverty levels based on free and reduced meals, are working under the same type of state grant, said JoEtta Palcovitz-Brown, schools executive director of elementary education.

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"These are kids that are not getting the same (learning) opportunities at home as they do in other areas," Newcomer-Coble said.

Achievement First affords Hancock special training in reading and writing, not only in teaching it to students but in teaching it to parents and presenting it better to children.

Newcomer-Coble said teachers learned how to reorganize their classrooms to suit a better learning environment and parents learned better ways to read to their children.

"You may make things look pretty (in the classroom) but if it's not something kids are using, then what's the point?" she said.

Newcomer-Coble said the staff seems to be adjusting to and embracing the new program.

She said teachers are working with children to show them what good readers/writers look like and to help them model themselves after those examples.

A prime target for these teaching methods is parents.

A part of the program, Project Story Boost, gets parents to take a closer look at how they are reading to their children, Newcomer-Coble said.

Newcomer-Coble said she and staff worked on writing the grant last year and it was approved in June.

Teachers Sandra Jackson, Paige Strawderman, Beth Brennan and Erin Vogtman were key in researching the program and bringing it to Newcomer-Coble for consideration.

Teachers will be coached throughout the year on these projects, which is where most of the money from the grant will go toward, she said during a board work session Tuesday.

Coaching is planned to include two days a week from an educational consultant, formerly of the state Department of Education.

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