This is the fourth post in a six-part series recognizing the winners of the Tennessee’s Best and Alabama’s Best Contests. Our previous post featured the following runners up: Lauderdale County (TN), Crestline Elementary (AL), and Maury County (TN)
How do you determine what someone values? One of the best ways is to look at how and where the person spends money. The same can be said of schools and school systems. Indian Valley Elementary School in Sylacauga, Alabama has a goal of making literacy a reality for all their students. School leadership has invested in best practices and resources for teachers, students, and the community to reach that goal. Indian Valley Elementary and their Early Literacy Groups (ELGs) were recognized by LEAN Frog and the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) as a Runner-up Winner in the 3rd Annual Alabama’s Best Contest. The ELGs and the resources they require demonstrate how Indian Valley values literacy.
How the Early Literacy Groups Work
Early Literacy Groups are a form of a collaboration that gives students engaging and intense small group literacy instruction on their level. ELGs are implemented using teams of paraprofessionals and certified teachers who have been trained to provide explicit small group reading instruction to students. These teams rotate through classrooms to deliver lessons centered on reading foundations: phonemic and phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehensions, writing, and vocabulary. While the classroom teacher works with a small group, other students are actively engaged in precise literacy lessons designed to meet their specific needs of acceleration. This practice ensures every student has access to a highly-trained literacy professional.
Impact of the Early Literacy Groups
Classroom teachers view the ELGs as a positive prevention tool. They collaborate with the ELGs team members to discuss groupings, lesson plans, skills and strategies. After only year of implementation, the ELGs have had a positive impact:
· 68% of students meet or exceed (based on end of year Fountas & Pinnell reading benchmark assessment data)
· 93% of all Kindergarten students are proficient in phonological awareness (based on the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS))
Why We Like this Entry
The Early Literacy Groups demonstrate the value Indian Valley places on literacy: literacy is important enough to commit extra instructional resources in the classroom. This best practice has many noteworthy qualities, but a few that really stand out to us include:
· The collaborative effort: The classroom teacher is not left alone to help every student become a successful reader. Principal Monte Abner attributes the impressive literacy assessment results in part to these collaborations. “This instructional teamwork effort has proven beneficial for the students and teachers as it impacts student achievement and shares responsibility with the classroom teachers,” he noted.
· The understanding of how value flows. A key lean six sigma principle is understanding how value is created and how it flows to the end user. In this case, the end user is the student. Indian Valley has developed a systematic, optimized practice for improved literacy instruction delivery.
· Alignment with their mission: Indian Valley’s goal is to make literacy a reality for all their students since They clearly understand the connection between literacy and student success and have developed an evidenced-based reading practice to achieve their goal. As Sylacauga City Schools superintendent Dr. Todd Freeman notes, “The ‘Early Literacy Group’ strategy is the foundation in our mission to have all our students prepared for college, career and community choices.”
Congratulations Indian Valley Elementary for your award-winning entry. We applaud the commitment your school has made to making literacy a reality for all your students.