EDMORE — It’s been almost a full school year since Montabella Elementary School introduced the Journey Reading Series, and it has been well-received overall.
The new curriculum was adopted with hopes of improving literacy in the elementary school and thus increasing test scores.
Another component of trying to help students increase reading skills in Montabella’s partnership with Reading Now Network.
“All this work stemmed from schools that were beating the odds,” Superintendent Shelly Millis told the school board during Monday’s regular meeting. “They’re trying to apply these themes to other schools.”
Michelle Goodwin, associate superintendent for instruction with the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD), worked with a group of superintendents to look into the common themes in elementary schools when it came to reading. Out of that research came the Reading Now Network, which seeks to improve literacy in all grade levels.
Goodwin, along with colleagues from Reading Now Network, recently walked through Montabella Elementary School and observed what the school was doing for students and literacy.
“We were met with friendly staff, friendly students, strong classroom management and we were extremely impressed with the PTO (parent-teacher organization) involvement,” Goodwin told the school board. “Everybody had a great deal of passion, and everybody was very honest.”
Goodwin noted the staff expressed gratitude for the new Journey Reading Series but they also wanted some professional development to help them get through the bumps in the curriculum, which according to Goodwin are normal because of the intricacy of the program. She suggested the school board was to collaborate with St. Louis schools, who have been using the Journey Reading Series.
“We did a conference with St. Louis schools’ teachers and principals, and they are more than willing to share what they’ve done,” added Elementary School Principal Mike Moore.
Reading Now Network officials noted from their visit the need for intervention to prevent students who don’t meet the third-grade reading level threshold from being held back. Goodwin suggested Moore look into Title I intervention services, which could help at-risk students be more likely to succeed.
Goodwin also commented on the building’s culture and how there seems to be a disconnect between the front hallway with the younger students and the back hallway with the older ones.
“Your staff expressed the desire to work together,” Goodwin said. “Not just first grade working with second grade, but maybe second grade and fifth grade working together.”
Goodwin, on behalf of the Reading Now Network, pledged to work with Moore and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who publishes Journey Reading Series, to bring professional development to the schools. She also volunteered her own time to help Montabella Elementary School.
Montabella and the Reading Now Network will spend two years tackling the reading curriculum, intervention and culture, and the ISD has pledged to put some funding toward the changes, including improving the culture.
“I think we’re just excited to get started,” Moore said. “We want better test scores, and we want kids to be able to read.”