Charleston County schools to ask for an extra $1.9 million in literacy funding in 2012-13
Two years ago, Charleston County school leaders committed to making literacy their No. 1 priority, and Superintendent Nancy McGinley wants to follow through on that pledge in 2012-13 with more money and expanded programs.
The district spent $7.2 million this year on its academies for struggling readers in the first, third and sixth grades, and McGinley said last week she plans to ask for $9.1 million next year to increase the number of students and grades served. That’s a $1.9 million increase, and it would be the second-largest increase in the general operating funds request, topped only by a boost in pay for teachers.
“We believe it is so essential to build the foundation in first, second and third grades if we’re going to get to 100 percent of our students reading on grade level,” she told the county school board. “This is the model. We believe we can do this with the budget we proposed.”
The First Grade Academies have been the most effective of the strategies used so far, and those have been the only programs to exist in every district school. About 750 students were placed in regular first-grade classes, and the academy pulled them out for varying amounts of time to work under the supervision of a master reading teacher.
McGinley said one year of support isn’t enough for some students, and that help needs to extend into second and third grades. Academy teachers tried to do that this year, but it stretched them too thin, McGinley said.
First Grade Academies would become Primary Literacy Acceleration Academies next year and serve about 2,500 first- through third-graders across the district. Third Grade Academies had been available only in 11 schools for about 250 students.
The major expense for the change would be hiring 72 associate teachers who are college graduates but aren’t necessarily certified to teach reading. They would be trained in literacy intervention and supervised by a master reading teacher.
“It’s less expensive (than hiring more master teachers), and hopefully, we’re building a pipeline for them to be certified,” McGinley said. “We certainly can have smaller student-teacher ratio, too.”
Sixth Grade Academies have existed only in eight sites serving 293 students, and that concept will be expanded to a Middle Schools Literacy Acceleration Academy to serve 658 students in sixth through eighth grades in each school that has those grades. The same model of intervention used in the primary grades — students are placed in regular classes and pulled out for extra help — would be applied to the middle grades.
“Just by the numbers served, we’ll have a much bigger impact,” McGinley said.
Other costs include training for teachers, and materials and testing for students. Regular classroom teachers also would receive training on how to improve their day-to-day reading lessons.
This was the county School Board’s first look at next year’s proposal, and it will have to decide whether to fund the request.
Board member Elizabeth Moffly asked why the district couldn’t use community-based volunteers, and McGinley responded by saying volunteers are good but not necessarily reliable or strategic.
“What we’re trying to build is a stable program,” she said.
Vice Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats wanted a more thorough breakdown of how the literacy funds would be spent.
“I do support this, but I want to know what I’m getting for the money,” she said.
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