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Elementary schools in county to implement reading program

August 08, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Starting a systemwide elementary school reading program that will level the learning field for Washington County Public Schools students will top school officials' list of projects for the upcoming school year.

The Washington County Board of Education in June purchased a $1.2 million reading program through publishing company Houghton Mifflin, the books to which will be distributed to all students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth beginning this fall, said Patricia Abernethy, the school system's deputy superintendent of instruction.

Abernethy said the goal of the series is to ensure that students who move from school to school will benefit scholastically from finding the same reading curriculum at any county elementary school.

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Over the summer, county teachers will train so they can teach the book series to students consistently across the school system, she said.

Abernethy said the school system also will focus on ensuring that all students receive programs and instruction that will challenge them in accordance with the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The federal act is designed to close the achievement gap between schools and to make sure that all students, including disadvantaged groups, are academically proficient.

Abernethy said the talented and gifted programs in elementary schools are being enhanced through the system's second magnet school, Emma K. Doub School for Integrated Arts and Technology, which will start this school year. She also pointed to a Spanish language signature program that will start this school year at Greenbrier Elementary School.

Middle school students will be offered more honors programs, such as a pilot honors physics class in an eighth-grade classroom and a pilot algebra class in a seventh-grade classroom, both of which will be taught on a high school level, she said.

High school students will be offered honors courses such as jazz band, dance, government and environmental science.

Abernethy said that in order to develop and implement these programs effectively, teachers will have to undergo intensive staff development, a task that will be performed by the school system's newly appointed student achievement specialists. The specialists not only will mentor teachers, but will track and tutor students.

Abernethy said the goal is to continuously raise the bar and challenge students because, she said, "We have students in this school system that are so talented."

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