Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear traveled to Fort Campbell Monday as part of the state’s fourth annual Literacy Celebration Week.
Co-founded by Beshear and the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development, the week highlights literacy, celebrates accomplishments and focuses on challenges the state faces.
While on post, Beshear participated in two key activities to commemorate the statewide celebration to improve literacy levels for all Kentuckians.
The first stop during her mid-morning visit was a School Board Roundtable discussion with about 35 board members, educators and dignitaries at the post’s central office.
“If these children don’t get a good start, then their chance of success is diminished … ,” Beshear told the group. “This [tour] has been a great way to gear everybody up about literacy and the importance … I see great hope for the future for our children all over the state.”
Beshear emphasized the importance of both military posts, Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, to education in Kentucky and the need to promote literacy in all schools.
An $800,000 Department of Defense Educational Activity Military-Connected Academic and Support Programs grant will help in these efforts. DoDEA Educational Partnership awarded this grant in August to the Christian County Public Schools through the 2013 Fiscal Year Grant Program.
To be eligible for participation in the grant, the district must have an active military-connected student population of 5 percent or more, with a population of 15 percent or more military-connected students at the school level.
“That’s one of the things we’re using to build a partnership between our military Families, Fort Campbell and our public schools … ,” said Susie Hartline, director of Strategic Planning, Federal Programs and Grant Development for Christian County Public Schools. “We’ve had a long relationship with Fort Campbell, but we’re strengthening that partnership through the work that we are doing with the grant.”
Part of the grant, Hartline said, is being used to expand the Students 2 Students Program, now active at Fort Campbell High School. Founded by the Military Child Education Coalition, S2S is a student-led program that provides new students with the support needed for a successful transition.
For S2S student president Anil Cole-John, the program helped him to adjust after he had previously attended three other high schools before becoming a Falcon.
“I’ve never encountered a program like this,” the FCHS senior told the panel. “I came in and I got my schedule. They take you around in a tour. If you’re an athlete, they introduce you to a coach. They even give you a place to sit during lunchtime. I never got that in other schools.”
Beshear, a former educator, praised the progress made to strengthen the partnership between Christian County Public Schools and Fort Campbell.
“The way to success for any venture is partnerships,” Beshear said. “All of your collaborative efforts is making a difference for these young people … We are all better served when we work together to make sure that our children have the very best experience they can in education and literacy. Literacy is the foundation of education. Education is the foundation of the wellbeing of our state. I thank you all for what you do.”
Following the roundtable discussion, the first lady and the group rode in a motor pool across post to Lincoln Elementary School to observe literacy programs at work.
Beshear observed the Read 180 program in Tina Daigle’s classroom. Read 180 is designed to help students who dislike or struggle with reading. The program includes 90-minutes of instructional time. Students start with 20 minutes of group instruction and then spend 20 minutes each in a small group, independent reading time and on computers. The class ends with a 10-minute wrap-up.
Fourth graders Alana Carter and Larry Young like different aspects of Read 180. Carter started below grade level in reading, but in the last six months has improved to read at her grade level.
“It’s a way to improve your reading skills,” Alana said of Read 180. “I like it when Ms. Daigle puts us in small groups.”
Larry has also made improvements in his reading since starting Read 180. The 10-year-old said he prefers working on the spelling zone computer program during his class time.
“It’s really, really interesting,” he said. “You do a lot of stuff in just one program.”
Daigle said the growth of her students’ reading abilities is “amazing.”
“Their attitude has changed toward reading. Their reading level has increased …,” she said. “Being in the program, they just love it. They don’t even realize they are learning.”
Dr. Renee Butler, Lincoln Elementary principal, said students have benefitted from Read 180.
“[This] has really increased student interest in reading alone and reading independently,” Butler said. “It’s been a real motivator for the kids.”
Dr. Frank Calvano, Kentucky district superintendent, participated in the tour and said that programs like Read 180 have helped to increase standardized test scores across the state.
“They say that if you can read, you can learn anything. So, literacy, obviously, is extremely important,” he said. “That’s one of our significant emphasis in our schools, both on post and off post.”
Beshear also learned about the school’s “Lind Lending Library.” The program, created by Lincoln teacher Susan Lind-Saylor, is designed to encourage pre-kindergarten students to read. Four-year-old students check out the books and then write and draw book reports with help from a parent or older sibling.
First and second graders who are unable to read and comprehend grade level material participate in the school’s Reading Assistance Program. RAP is an intensive, early intervention program for at-risk students.
Following the 20-minute tour, Beshear lauded Lincoln Elementary teachers, students and staff in their efforts to promote literacy.
“I’ve just seen book reports from preschoolers. These children are checking out books and writing book reports – 3, 4 and 5-year-olds. That’s pretty incredible,” she said. “[In the Read 180 class] … every single child was engaged. That’s what we like to see. That’s what education needs to be.”