June 18, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU-Westside Partnership Once Again Helps Students Achieve Reading Success

VALDOSTA — Every third grader at Westside Elementary School receiving reading assistance from future educators at Valdosta State University met or exceeded state standards on Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) in the area of reading — a requirement for promotion to the fourth grade.

Even though these boys and girls struggled at the beginning of the school year, they proved, in the end, that they had acquired the knowledge and skills outlined in the state-adopted curriculum. By the last day of the 2012-2013 academic year, the third graders could understand words and phrases, their relationships, and their nuances; exhibit sensitivity to inconsistencies, ambiguities, and poor reasoning in texts; show a steadily growing ability to discern more from and make fuller use of text; consider a wider range of textual evidence; and more.

It was the partnership with VSU that helped the students achieve success.

Linda Taylor, the third grade teacher who coordinates the partnership at Westside Elementary School, shared in an email to VSU, “Everyone in third passed the reading portion of the CRCT. Many thanks to you and your students for playing a role in this accomplishment.”

During the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters, VSU students in Dr. Gina Doepker’s LITR 4120: Literacy Assessment and Applications course worked one-on-one with students in need of special reading instruction. It was an opportunity for the future educators to focus on a struggling reader’s particular skill set and vocabulary and to develop a unique plan to help him or her become a better reader. The VSU students used a balanced approach to reading instruction, focusing on vocabulary; fluency; writing, decoding, and comprehension strategies; and other skills.

“I am absolutely thrilled beyond words,” said Doepker, a professor in VSU’s Department of Early Childhood and Special Education and director of the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center. “It makes my heart sing to know that these particular children were successful on the reading portion of the CRCT, but more importantly, they have learned valuable reading and writing strategies that will help them for a lifetime.”

Doepker had 19 LITR 4120 students participate in the partnership during the fall semester and 14 LITR 4120 students participate during the spring. They worked with Westside Elementary third graders who had been identified as struggling readers in need of extra literacy support.

“We want to reinforce what the third grade teachers at Westside are teaching these children, as well as provide needed one-on-one literacy support,” said Doepker. “My LITR 4120 students assess the children’s reading and writing abilities, analyze their data, and determine the four most essential goals — two reading and two writing. They then plan and implement effective, research-based literacy strategy lessons that focus on these four goals. At the end of the semester, they post-test the children to see if there was any improvement in the four goals.”

Contact Dr. Gina Doepker at (229) 333-5625 or gmdoepker@valdosta.edu for more information.


About the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center

The Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center’s mission is to be an integrated system of care for the children and families of Valdosta and surrounding areas with a focus on building children’s literacy skills, motivation, and confidence. The center now serves children in kindergarten through fifth grade, but programs are being developed for prekindergarten, middle school, and high school students.

The Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center offers several programs designed to help children in the elementary grades build literacy skills, gain confidence, and be more motivated to want to read for both pleasure and study:

• Literacy Education Assessment Program (LEAP): This is a literacy tutoring program that involves VSU pre-service teachers assessing the community children’s current literacy skills, developing specific literacy goals, providing one-on-one research-based literacy instruction and intervention, and monitoring the children’s literacy development progress. Students in LITR 4120: Literacy Assessment and Applications work with the children, gaining experience in assessing and planning appropriate literacy remediation. 

• Blazing Through Books Program: This feeder program for LEAP pairs VSU athletes and students with community children in one-on-one and small group literacy skill-building activities, such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Pairs of students from LITR 3110: Emergent Literacy read a book to the children as a group and then lead them through a fun, but educational, lesson related to the story. The purpose of this program is to get the children excited about reading, work on basic literacy skills, and expose the children to different genres.  

• Multidisciplinary Child Advocacy Team (M-CAT): Through this program, any and all departments at VSU, as well as interested community organizations, provide identified services for the community children and families, such as comprehensive assessments, health screenings, family support and therapy, content area tutoring, shadowing opportunities, adult literacy, and much more.

• Dear Blazer Buddy: This is a pen pal program that pairs community children with VSU athletes and students. It is designed to get the children involved in a reading and writing activity that is fun and motivating.

• Blazer Books Television Series: This is a developing program that gives all VSU faculty, staff, and students, as well as area public schools, organizations, and others the opportunity to read and/or recommend their favorite childhood book on camera.

• Reading Enrichment Club (REC) Center: This group was formed for those children who exceed their grade-level reading proficiencies but still want to participate in the program. It focuses on helping them extend their literacy competencies by providing more challenging reading and writing experiences. Participants have worked their way through the Blazing Through Books Program and the Literacy Education Assessment Program (LEAP).

VSU has had some sort of literacy outreach initiative since 1989.

The Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center is located on the first floor of the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education. The fall program will begin Sept. 9 and end Nov. 13.  

According to the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, approximately 10 million children in the United States have difficulty reading. Of these children, 10 to 15 percent eventually drop out of high school and only two percent complete a four-year college degree.

Visit http://www.valdosta.edu/colleges/education/early-childhood-and-special-education/sullivan-literacy-center/ or call (229) 333-5645 to learn more.


About the CRCT

All students in grades first through eighth are required by Georgia law to take the CRCT in the content areas of reading, English/language arts, and math. Students in grades third through eighth are also tested in science and social studies. The tests, which are administered in late spring, are designed to measure student achievement of the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards for reading, English/language arts, and math and Georgia Performance Standards for science and social studies. These tests serve as a measure of the quality of education in the state. Also, Georgia law and the State Board of Education require third graders show proficiency on the CRCT in reading to be considered for promotion to the fourth grade. Fifth graders and eighth graders are required to show proficiency on the CRCT in both reading and math to be promoted. — Source: Georgia Department of Education.