USD 383: Board approves $150,000 elementary reading grant

By Dylan Lysen
(See original post by The Mercury here)

Three more Manhattan-Ogden elementary schools will receive funding for a state reading initiative starting this spring.

The school board unanimously approved accepting a $150,000 Kansas Reading Roadmap grant during its meeting Wednesday.

Kansas Reading Roadmap is a state initiative that aims to align classroom and after-school literacy programs for struggling readers to increase the percentage of students meeting goals at the end of third grade, said Lucas Shivers, USD 383 director of elementary schools.

Along with classroom learning, the initiative provides after-school and summer programs and family engagement programs.

In 2014, the Boys and Girls Club of Manhattan began offering the program at Bluemont, Lee and Theodore Roosevelt elementary schools. Marlatt Elementary joined the program in 2015. “These sites have successfully completed the components with robust student growth,” Shivers said.

Leah Fliter, board member, said the funds are actually federal money the state has the authority to grant.

“This is an example of when you target additional money to things, you get results,” she said. Eric Reid, assistant superintendent, said the school district’s results so far in the four schools have been “phenomenal.”

Marcia Rozell, board president, said she liked the program because it starts at the kindergarten level.

Superintendent Marvin Wade said the program focuses on being a preventative measure.

“They believe that people who learn how to read don’t get incarcerated, they have less issues of substance abuse,” he said. “It’s a preventative investment.”

The school district plans to replicate the program for the three new school sites. Shivers said the sites would be through the school, rather than through the Boys and Girls Club.

“Boys and Girls Club does a great job at those sites, they just don’t have the capacity to move to these other buildings,” he said. “That’s why we’re working directly with Kansas Reading Roadmap rather than working through a partner.”

The school district will receive almost $150,000 from the Kansas Department of Children and Families, with the opportunity for annual renewal, to focus on academic interventions for about 30 students at each building.

Shivers said the grant will last the school district until July and then it will renew the annual grant.

“It’s kind of a random time to start in the spring, but we’re really excited to get something to boost our scores for the final push toward our end of year benchmark assessments as well as a summer program,” he said. In other business, the board approved purchasing projectors for Northview Elementary’s fifth- and sixth grade classrooms.

The projectors at Northview were expected to last five to seven years but have not been replaced in 11 years and are “failing at a high rate,” said Mike Ribble, director of technology. The purchase of new projectors at Northview would begin a multiyear process of updating projectors throughout the school district.

The purchase of the equipment would be from Cytek Media Systems of Topeka, which provided the currently used projectors 11 years ago. The district would pay $12,650 from its technology equipment fund for the projectors.

Rural schools leading way in teaching Kansas kids to read

By Andrew Hysell, Kansas Reading Roadmap Executive Director
(See original post by The Wichita Eagle here)

Chase Combs, an enthusiastic third grader, is from the rural town of Langdon. He loves going to his school, Fairfield Elementary, and seeing his friends and teachers.

Chase Combs meets Senator Jerry Moran at a 2016 KRR conference in Wichita, Ks







But every day Chase faces the same challenge – reading. He needs help recognizing letters and sounds and making sense in how they all fit together.

Chase is not alone in facing reading challenges. Sixty-two percent of kids in Kansas – and 78 percent of the state’s low-income students – are not reading at proficient levels by fourth grade, putting them at risk of dropping out of school and facing an uncertain future.

Why do so many readers struggle early on?

One reason is that students learn differently and can face barriers to success, such as poverty.

Research shows that it takes some children longer to learn the underlying sounds and symbols necessary to become fluent readers. The good news is there is a reading program called the Kansas Reading Roadmap that is already helping more than 11,000 students in 50 schools in Kansas learn to read by providing extra support. Most importantly, this support is aligned with school day instruction and data.

Here is how the Kansas Reading Roadmap works. It teams up with schools committed to providing high-quality teaching through the Kansas Multi-Tiered System of Supports. Using Kansas MTSS, schools identify the unique needs of every student, and the Kansas Reading Roadmap then offers those children afterschool, family engagement and summer programs.

It is the combination of schools and out-of-school programs working together that results in greater reading achievement. This improved system allows for a more individualized education experience for every student, no matter his or her skill level.

The Kansas Reading Roadmap is committed to ensuring that students in pre-kindergarten through third grade have the foundation and opportunity to gain proficiency in reading. Funding from the Kansas Department for Children and Families, with technical support by the Kansas State Department of Education, makes the Kansas Reading Roadmap possible.

We started in 2014 with rural elementary schools, where communities face issues of systemic poverty. But now, Kansas Reading Roadmap programs are also in Wichita and Kansas City, Kan.

So far, the results from this effort have been promising. Some schools have even shown progress in just one semester using the program, and students such as Chase are seeing significant improvements. Reading test scores are going up, and more than half of Kansas Reading Roadmap third graders are now performing at benchmark, compared with the state average of 35 percent.

All students deserve the opportunity for a quality education. Early reading proficiency is key to making this a reality. We hope the Kansas Reading Roadmap can be an example of Kansas innovation for schools across the nation.

To read more about the independent evaluation of the Kansas Reading Roadmap and the overall model, visit


Andrew Hysell is executive director of the Kansas Reading Roadmap.

2017 State of the State Highlights Kansas Reading Roadmap

The Kansas Reading Roadmap was applauded by Governor Sam Brownback in his 2017 State of the State address this Tuesday. He described the Reading Roadmap–which will be serving 60 schools this semester–as an effective, innovative early literacy model and recognized Reading Roadmap program participant Connor Lee for his personal success. You can view the clip below:


Connor, a first grader diagnosed with Downs Syndrome, has made significant improvement in letter recognition and sounds in just a single semester. To support his improvement, Connor received a combination of research-based in-school core instruction and tiered interventions coupled with targeted, aligned afterschool and family engagement programming. 
The Reading Roadmap’s in-school/afterschool aligned approach led to a 16% increase in grade-level reading and a reduction of 29% of children classified as “Tier 3” among participating schools statewide. To see our two year independent evaluation, click here.

Literacy Integrated Family Engagement (LIFE Program)

See the LIFE flyer here

Kansas Reading Roadmap’s Literacy Integrated Family Engagement program, or LIFE, is a key component of our overall strategy for improving early literacy for children grades PK–3. LIFE facilitates emotional and academic experiences aimed at deepening children’s relationships with their parents, increasing their reading skills, and supporting a culture of literacy at home.

Meeting one night a week for eight weeks, parents and children engage in activities that bring families closer together while connecting them to their school community.  LIFE includes a meal, parenting skills training, child-led playtime, parent lead read aloud, and a parent support group. The activities are consistent over the eight weeks in order to build comfort and familiarity throughout the program. In each session parents practice the skills they are learning with their children and receive coaching and feedback from the facilitators. LIFE models positive parenting behaviors and facilitates family interactions.

LIFE is in line with the Department of Education’s Partnership in Education report of dual capacity building framework for Family-School Partnerships. In order to be in line with the best practices, family engagement programs must be linked to learning and be relational, developmental, collaborative, and interactive. Using the kind of Two-Generation approach promoted by the Aspen Institute, LIFE draws on cutting-edge research for both literacy and social and emotional intelligence to create a robust learning experience for both children and families.

Components of LIFE

Family Greeting

Every session opens with a greeting. Each family, as well as facilitators, checks in and talks about their week. This is an opportunity to share successes, to get to know each other, and to offer support. The greeting becomes an anchor of the program, setting the tone for the evening’s activities. It also begins the process of building an authentic, supportive social network that’s owned by the families themselves. 

Family Meals

LIFE provides meals for all the families who attend. Establishing a habit of eating together is an important building block of a constructive family environment. For generations, family meals have been a time for parents and children to bond and connect. This practice is supported by research that demonstrates eating meals together actually lowers risk factors for children. LIFE models and normalizes group mealtime with the goal of encouraging parents to begin establishing their own family mealtimes at home.


Attuned Listening

Attuned Listening is designed to help parents attune to their child on a deeper level and for both parents and children to improve their listening skills. There are three levels of Attuned Listening, each one taking parents and children into a deeper relationship with each other and their emotions. These practices form the basis of many of the other skills that are critical to LIFE such as developing literacy skills, child-directed play, and the parenting group.




Doorways to Literacy

A portion of each session is devoted to family-based literacy activities that will help parents support the development of reading at home. The main focus of the Doorways to Literacy is cultivating read aloud at home, introducing families to a wide variety of books, and learn about how the strategies used by their child’s school to teach early literacy. This is an opportunity for families to connect to their schools and local libraries.


Child-Led Play

Child-led play is a powerful experience in which the child gets to have their parents undivided attention for a period of time.  Allowing a child to assert themselves constructively through play meets his or her need for attention and affirmation and strengthens the relationship between parent and child. Child-led play is another opportunity for parents to practice the Attuned Listening skills they are learning and it makes the evening far more rewarding for the children who attend.




Parent Group

In every session, we have a group meeting where parents get direct support from one another. One of the biggest barriers to sustaining improvements for families is a lack of ongoing support. Supportive adult relationships are important for developing resilience and reducing the negative effects of stress. A group of peers simply listening and offering encouragement helps reinforce people’s commitment to continue down a positive path. The parent groups create a community of sustainability and ongoing support.




Recreation Time

While parents are having Parent Group time, designated LIFE team members will lead Recreation Time with the children. This is a time for outdoor activities, playtime in a gym, art, or whatever activities are appropriate for the age of children and the possibilities afforded by the environment.




Family Gift and Gratitude

Each week there are gifts given to each family in appreciation for their attendance and participation. Some of the gifts will be books and other materials to directly support the creation of a culture of literacy at home and to help develop family cohesion. The gifts increase the likelihood that parents will attend all of the sessions. As the children come to get their gift, they or one of their parents say one thing they learned that they want to take into the week, along with something they are grateful for.

Fall in Reverse: Moving from Red to Green

By Judy Wright, Mueller Elementary School Principal, Wichita, Kan.


img_6255The beginning of a new school year starts out hot, with summer continuing to hold its grip as students and staff members embrace a new year. But within a few weeks, the temperature begins to drop and fall eventually arrives. The changing colors of leaves from vibrant greens to fall yellows and reds remind us that the cold of winter is on its way.


But this year’s fall is different at Mueller Elementary here in Wichita, Kansas. We are experiencing changing colors, but in an entirely different direction. At Mueller, our students are changing from red to green. Through the Kansas Reading Roadmap (KRR), children are moving from the “red” category of needing extra help to being “green” proficient readers.


Our Commitment to Help Every Child
This year, our school was awarded a grant from the Kansas Reading Roadmap (KRR), an early literacy initiative that partners with public schools to improve student achievement. An important piece of the model is a commitment to the Kansas Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS). Through MTSS, Mueller provides individualized, data-driven instruction for all of our children. The KRR funds afterschool, summer and family engagement programs that align with our MTSS system.


Mueller Has Hit the Ground Running and It Shows
Setting up brand new afterschool and family engagement programs is a lot of work, and we accomplished that along with our regular school duties. The secret to our success was a schoolwide commitment to the project and strong interest and buy-in from parents. As school principal, I have supported the roll out of the KRR and made it a priority for all staff. Many teachers work in the afterschool program as tutors, and I personally visit with the children and parents that attend our Literacy Integrated Family Engagement (LIFE) program.


Another key to our success was finding a passionate and competent person to fill our school’s KRR program coordinator position. Patricia Houston has been a real asset in setting up the afterschool program, recruiting families into LIFE, and making sure both programs run effectively. The support provided by Patricia as a full-time program coordinator has been key.


Finally, our students and their parents truly love the program. In fact, we had over 30 family members attend our first LIFE night alone! Because of strong buy-in, we have already seen exciting progress with student achievement.


Mueller is Succeeding
The KRR afterschool program targets our most struggling readers. We did our first reading assessments on September 12th of this year. Out of the 54 students in our KRR Afterschool Program, 25 were in the red quadrant (needing substantial reading help and at-risk for special education), 16 were in the yellow, 13 were in light green, and no students were at benchmark.


On October 20th, our students took their second assessment and we were thrilled with the results! In only five weeks of implementing the KRR model, over half of the students in the red quadrant moved up. Thirteen students now test in the dark green (at benchmark) where there had been none before.


Through partnership with the Kansas Reading Roadmap and our use of Kansas MTSS, Mueller Elementary’s fall colors are truly changing! Our staff members and parents are working together to address the specific needs of all of our children. The love for these students and the desire to help them succeed has always been there. With the extra tools and resources we’ve acquired through the KRR, we are making even more progress than before.

A tree falls in Kansas – Does anybody hear it?

By Andrew Hysell, Kansas Reading Roadmap Executive Director
(See original post by The Huffington Post here)

A Kansas public schools model holds great promise.The perpetual questions are, how do we improve our public schools? How can schools better teach our children?

The answer of the day includes starting education early through universal Pre-Kindergarten. The solution yesterday was standardized testing and embracing a common set of educational standards. And throughout, educational innovators have unveiled new programs, apps, and curriculum, each promising better outcomes.

But rather than adding more things, years, and programs to education, states ought to first consider how efficient their existing school system is, and whether it’s current operational structure can be improved.

Kansas MTSS empowers teachers and schools to increase the number of children succeeding academically and behaviorally, all within the parameters of existing resources and budget.

Many schools today are highly fragmented in how they operate. Fragmentation reduces efficiency and creates quality control issues. Usually administrators focus on the business of running the school while teachers deal with instruction. Instruction can vary widely between classrooms, there is no clear framework for how teachers use data, and special education is treated as a separate activity. The impact of these efforts on overall student outcomes can be limited without an organized, systematic approach.

The Kansas Department of Education has worked quietly, but steadily, for over a decade to create a model that remedies this lack of organization.  The Department has developed an approach that can help any public school—using its existing resources—create improved outcomes for all children.  This systems-change model is called the Kansas Multi-Tiered System of Supports, or Kansas MTSS.

Kansas MTSS organizes a school’s resources more efficiently to help meet every child’s needs. Instead of teachers working separately in individual classrooms recreating the wheel and making instructional best guesses, the school is taught how to create standardized, data-informed protocols for curriculum and interventions.  This results in consistent, effective instruction and intervention for every child monitored for progress on a biweekly basis. Kansas MTSS empowers teachers and schools to increase the number of children succeeding academically and behaviorally, all within the parameters of existing resources and budget.

Through Kansas MTSS, schools learn to use everything they already have, but to use it better. That includes Pre-K programs, existing curriculum and teachers, classroom time, and even those fancy I-Pads. Because ultimately, all that great stuff built on top of a disorganized, splintered organization is not going to be effective.

How do I know Kansas MTSS works? An initiative I developed called the Kansas Reading Roadmap uses it.  The KRR, with funds and support from the Kansas Department for Children and Families, works statewide in fifty high-poverty schools to promote school-wide early literacy proficiency. Our partner schools use Kansas MTSS and then scaffold afterschool, summer and family engagement programs onto it.

Adding aligned supplemental programs to Kansas MTSS is like adding extra horsepower to an already fast car. In twenty-two of our model programs last year we saw reductions among children at-risk for special education of almost 40%. And the number of children reading at benchmark increased by 11 points.

Sometimes it’s the least sexy things that can make the biggest improvement. Yet, because of their practical, incremental nature, they do not get a lot of attention.

While Kansas MTSS may not be as flashy as a new computer program or as simple a soundbite as universal Pre-K, it holds incredible promise for helping answer the age-old question. “How can schools better teach our children?”

Chetopa KRR highlighted in District Administration Magazine

By Alison DeNisco, District Administration, July 2016

(See original post by District Administration Magazine here)

Literacy changes taking hold in schools recognize the subject’s expansion from traditional textbooks to online readings, images and audio.

New learning standards ask students to read more closely and write more analytically, meaning teachers must adapt curriculum to get students reading earlier, says Jennifer Serravallo, International Literacy Association speaker and author of The Reading Strategies Book.

“The classic definition of literacy is ‘the ability to read and write,’” Serravallo says. “What educators have been puzzling over is what it means to read and write today.”

This spring, a middle school class in Colorado’s St. Vrain Valley School District read Passenger on the Pearl, a true story of a woman’s escape from slavery. Students created digital timelines, built fake Facebook pages for the characters and produced videos using iMovie to demonstrate learning and to further their own software skills. Students also Skyped with the book’s author.

“It increases student engagement immediately, and supports them with 21st century skills as they are responding in authentic, real-world ways,” says Kerin McClure, instructional coordinator of language arts at St. Vrain Valley.

The Common Core and other standards require districts to rework curriculum and expand literacy skills across all subjects. This includes emphasizing literacy in math, science and all other subjects.

At the International Literacy Association’s annual conference this month, experts and educators will offer guidance in developing rigorous literacy instruction. Some districts have already launched innovative programs that leverage digital platforms, reading specialists, professional development and parent engagement to build literacy curricula that get results.

“Just because this generation is connected doesn’t mean they have the skills, strategies and dispositions to use digital tools in a way that enhances literacy or learning,” says Bernadette Dwyer, a literacy association board member and expert on digital literacy tools.

Embracing the digital shift

St. Vrain Valley Schools, a district of some 32,000 students, redesigned its curriculum to fit Colorado Academic Standards, emphasizing digital books and media.

St. Vrain’s middle and high school students access the all-digital curriculum with 1-to-1 devices. Each year is broken into four modules for each grade level, with three different full-length book choices within each. At the elementary and secondary level, all students focus on an “anchor” text, and teachers can also chose to break students into smaller groups to read different books.

Some K3 English language learners are placed in biliteracy classrooms, which use the same text as English-only classes, but follow unit plans with built-in Spanish support. They also use small, leveled readers on the same topics—but in Spanish. ELL students and struggling readers in English-only classrooms are provided with scaffolded support and receive additional assistance in small groups.

“We’re trying to foster both student engagement and a deep passion about what they are reading, while making sure all students have access to the same high-quality instruction and texts,” McClure says.

Personalized learning

Digital literacy tools also have the ability to better personalize lessons for each student, with the goal of increasing achievement for struggling learners.

“We often develop curriculum for this mythical ‘average child,’ and then fix it for our other readers,” Dwyer says. “Digital tools allow us to anticipate the needs of these learners from the outset, support them through customization of the learning, and build in supports like text-to-speech and dictionary supports.”

Following the Common Core in Wisconsin means teachers at the urban West Allis-West Milwaukee School District introduce a curriculum that emphasizes data and leverages digital tools to differentiate learning. Teachers in the district use the Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) test to determine reading ability. Then, they confer with each student to identify needs and interests, and to set goals.

The approach has resulted in widespread improvement in reading scores, says Jill Ries, curriculum coordinator at West Allis-West Milwaukee schools.

Personalization has to be built into teaching on a daily basis to see results, Reis says. She recommends grouping students based on ability to better assess their needs in small groups. Doing so makes it easier to set personalized goals for each student.

Reading specialists

Districts also find success when reading specialists break out of their traditional roles of working with small groups or one-on-one with struggling students. More recently, the educators provide instructional coaching and develop and analyze assessments, says ILA Associate Executive Director Stephen Sye.

Reading specialists also help design literacy curricula and work with teachers in classrooms, for both coaching and co-teaching, he adds.

About three years ago, West Allis-West Milwaukee’s reading department implemented a collaborative approach: Reading specialists co-teach reading classes with teachers and lead professional development exercises. They don’t just work with struggling students.

“Those teachers are a bevy of knowledge—if they are holed up in a classroom with a small group of kids, we’re not giving them an opportunity to share their knowledge and be literacy leaders in their building,” Ries says.

Professional development needs

Creating a more rigorous literacy curriculum that produces results requires teacher training, Serravallo says.

“We’re seeing a trend toward over-assessment and under-teaching,” Serravallo says. “We need to help teachers develop a deep knowledge of learning strategies and reading development, so when teaching they can assess on the run in a more informal, formative way.”

Literacy PD is often not costly: Teachers can form professional learning communities within their district to share instructional methods and to review student work. Plenty of PD opportunities exist on social media, especially Twitter, Serravallo says. Leading educators post videos of themselves teaching and link to books they’ve written.

“It can be very low-cost—it just requires creativity and flexibility in terms of scheduling,” Serravallo adds.

One school she worked with gave teachers an extra 10 minutes per day for lunch four days of the week, so they could spend one full lunch period per week in PD.

Delaware’s Colonial School District reconfigured its elementary school language arts curriculum when the state adopted Common Core. The district was scheduled to adopt a new ELA textbook, but found that most publishers’ anthologies were still heavily focused on literature and were not yet aligned to the new standards.

Administrators turned to open educational resources for the informational texts required by the new standards, says Katie Gutowski, a language arts instructional coach at Colonial schools.

With the shift, administrators created one PD day per month. ELA teachers learn skills such as leading small-group instruction, scoring writing with a rubric, connecting Smarter Balanced assessments to instruction, and integrating Common Core state standards.

Beginning in 2016-17, the district will provide more extensive literacy PD at the elementary level, as it transitions from a traditional report card to a standards-based one that focuses on mastery of standards. The PD will provide deeper understanding of the standards in reading, writing, speaking and listening, says Franklin Read, director of curriculum and instruction at Colonial schools.

Parent engagement

Some literacy approaches are statewide: In 2014-15, 30 rural Kansas districts with low reading proficiency rates joined the Kansas Reading Roadmap initiative. The program is designed to improve third-grade reading proficiency.

Key to the program is encouraging parents to attend weekly sessions where they learn about their child’s reading progress. Parents also learn and take home activities they can perform with their children to help improve reading.

“It gives them opportunities to get more acquainted with the staff and the school,” says Cynda Jarrett, the coordinator of the multi-tiered system of supports program at Chetopa-St. Paul USD, a rural Kansas district that joined the initiative in 2014. “As parents become more knowledgeable and confident, they are more willing to embrace their role as promoters of reading.”

The University of Kansas evaluated the roadmap program for the 2014-15 school year. Data found that K3 students reading at benchmark improved 19 percent. And 37 percent fewer students were considered at risk of needing special education.

Researchers also found parents in the roadmap program were more involved and better understood how to help their children develop literacy skills.


Lexia Reading Core5


Platform provides systematic personalized learning in six areas of reading instruction, and delivers performance data and assessment without interrupting the flow of learning. Designed to meet Common Core and other state standards.



An interactive, multidimensional solution for pre-K through 12 educators to improve engagement, comprehension, vocabulary and literacy. Textbooks, e-books and other resources are supplemented with core content from video providers, Google Maps, library collections and

OverDrive e-books


A digital distributor of e-books with more than 2 million titles from 5,000 publishers to support curriculum and instruction goals. The OverDrive team works with districts to tailor digital content to priorities and resources.


Achieve 3000

Software offers online differentiated instruction that includes lessons at 12 levels of English and seven levels of Spanish. Designed to engage learners at their individual reading level, accelerate reading gains, boost mastery of state standards and improve performance on high-stakes tests.

Reading Horizons Discovery

Reading Horizons

Provides teacher training and scripted instructional materials. Interactive software adjusts to the needs and skill level of each student. Students can work at their own pace and learn skills to decrease errors in reading, spelling and pronunciation.

Wonders Balanced Literacy

McGraw Hill Education

A digital program for K5 educators offering the ability to create unique instructional paths and to customize program recommendations. Includes complex, authentic texts and a focus on close reading and text evidence to provide rigorous instruction.

Alison DeNisco is news editor.

Garden City and Hugoton tap into Reading Roadmap

By Megan Jones (See original post by Garden City Telegram here)
Photo credits: Brad Nading/Garden City Telegram

Children plunged their hands into shaving cream and spread it around on cookie sheets so they could write vocabulary words with their fingers Thursday at Gertrude Walker Elementary School.

In the hallway, students were standing on and jumping from pieces of paper marked with numbers to other pieces of paper, adding the numbers, counting or saying them.

While the action was in a school building, they weren’t your typical school activities. They were part of a new effort by Garden City educators to maintain kids’ reading levels through the summer break.

Kansas Reading Roadmap, a statewide initiative to help children become proficient readers that launched in 2014, created a program to combat summer learning loss that kicked off in Garden City on June 6 and continues until July 22. KRR programs have been adopted by several school districts across the state and target districts with a large percentage of low income students receiving free meals.

The program was spearheaded by Gov. Brownback in 2013. He reallocated $9 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to pay for KRR, now a project of the Kansas Department for Children and Families in partnership with the Kansas Department of Education. KRR is a model for schools to change their learning systems, restructure and reorganize for academic improvement.

According to its website, it consists of three components that schools can integrate into their existing systems: summer reading, after-school and family programs.

This fall, schools in Garden City will add after-school and family programs to enhance their existing academic framework.

The summer program is held at five locations: Gertrude Walker, Buffalo Jones, Florence Wilson, Abe Hubert and Victor Ornelas elementary schools.

Leigh Ann Roderick, USD 457 director of elementary education and Garden City’s KRR director, estimates each school in Garden City has about 50 to 60 children in the summer program. The student-teacher ratio is 8 to 1, which she said is rare for a summer program. The maximum capacity for each school is 75.

Roderick said the numbers are good for a new program that was started quickly. Paperwork was completed in late May.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to those coordinators who worked really hard and spent many, many hours getting things in place,” Roderick said.

Jamie Schweer, program coordinator for KRR at Gertrude Walker, said preparation for the program was rushed, with coordinators meeting in April and completing training in May. After training, coordinators had a week to identify students who would benefit most from the program and send information to parents.

“Things kind of happened really quick in a short amount of time,” Schweer said.

Some of the activities children have participated in have been community service, producing and performing a play, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities with Legos, building robots and simple machines and science experiments.

If they complete five hours of reading and math each week, students get to participate in Friday Fun Day. Those days typically involve a field trip. Children get to visit places and events like Lee Richardson Zoo, the library, Boot Hill in Dodge City, the Beef Empire Days story hour and Royal Farms Dairy.

Lindsey Shull, KRR coordinator at Abe Hubert, said she likes that the program is unlike a traditional classroom environment. Pencils and chairs are not used. Interactive reading activities are the basis of the program. She said that part of the fun is team-building activities in the afternoon.

“Our kids were like, ‘Oh, school again,’ when they heard about the program. But when they started (participating), the excitement appeared,” Shull said. “They really love it now.”

Maintaining reading levels

Student reading and math scores typically dip over the summer, something known as summer learning loss.

KRR’s six-week summer program was developed to keep low income elementary school students (K-3) with lower scores reading throughout the summer so they return in the fall at benchmark or higher levels in reading and math.

KRR also has an after-school program and a family involvement program, FAST (families and schools together), both of which will start in Garden City in the fall. That program only will focus on reading, while the summer program includes math.

Statewide participation

Fifty-six schools across the state are participating in KRR this summer. In addition to Garden City, Meade and Hugoton are the other two western Kansas districts participating.

Hugoton Elementary School started KRR in the summer of 2014 and implemented the after-school and FAST programs that fall.

Jacque Teeter, KRR program coordinator in Hugoton, said teachers have seen much improvement in children who participate.

FAST is a weekly, eight-week program that brings families together to play games, share a meal and do various other activities.

“It’s a continuum from the school day. It just seems to all flow together really well,” Teeter said.

The program incorporates reading into a fun learning environment.

“We don’t call it summer school. It’s been Camp Explorer. So we don’t really say we’re going to summer school, it’s more like going to a camp,” Teeter said.

Teeter said attendance is high each summer, and students tell her they cannot wait until summertime to participate in the Camp Explorer program.

Each day, a free breakfast is served before students begin at 8:30 a.m. and rotate through four to five learning stations. Each rotation lasts about 40 minutes, depending on the situation. Lunch is provided. and the program ends at 1:30 p.m.

Students are divided into groups by reading level, not grade.

Teeter said there’s not a lot of paperwork or pen and paper involved. She said it’s mostly fun games and activities.

School finance concerns

KRR is solely funded through the Department of Children and Families with money from the TANF fund.

For the five schools in Garden City, it cost $200,000 to get the program rolling, according to Tiffany Lawson, the program manager for western Kansas.

While it partners with the state education department, it doesn’t get money directly from the department, something Roderick had been concerned about given the state’s current school finance issues.

Kansas schools could shut down if the Kansas Legislature does not come up with a constitutionally acceptable school finance formula by June 30. A special legislative session is scheduled to begin Thursday.

However, because KRR uses public school buildings, if schools were to shut down, KRR would have no place to go.

“If the schools shut down, KRR will have to stop, too. I really hope that doesn’t happen,” Lawson said.

KRR has looked at alternative locations like public libraries, but there are few large enough to accommodate the number of students participating in the programs.

Other summer programs

The Reading Roadmap is not the only educational summer program available to Garden City students.

Books on the Bus is a traveling library that visits Garden Spot Apartments, Buffalo Jones Elementary School and the Big Pool. It was started to meet the reading needs of children unable to visit the Finney County Library to participate in the summer reading program, bringing books to young readers.

Books on the Bus, or B.O.B., is funded by the Finnup Foundation and also is incorporated with the children’s Meals on Wheels program, so it provides books and a free sack lunch for students 18 and younger. However, it also would be affected if Garden City Schools were shut down July 1 because the program uses school facilities and resources.








Council Grove Elementary begins KRR

by Doug Conwell, Superintendent USD 417 (See original post from USD 417 here.)

It has been several weeks since last I posted a message. Since my last post, there have been items that will impact our students, their education and nutrition, that I want to share with you. The first piece of news involves USD 417 being selected to participate in the Kansas Reading Roadmap program. This is a reading intervention program specific to students in grades Kindergarten through 3rd grade. The purpose of this program is to help our Kindergarten through 3rd grade students reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade. I’ve talked about this issue before but it bears repeating.

The research is clear as to just how important it is to a child’s future education for s/he to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Student’s who do not hit this milestone tend to struggle in all subject areas throughout the rest of their academic lives. There are also other issues that reaching this milestone potentially mitigates. These include dropping out of school and/or developing a low self-esteem, which can lead to a host of other problems as a child ages. Reading at grade level by 3rd grade gives our children their best opportunity to being successful in school. The opportunity to tap into the KRR grant program, to help get them reading at proficiency, is a big deal for our students.

The primary criteria for USD 417 being selected to participate in the KRR program is that we have over 50% of our elementary school students qualifying for free or reduced meals. A secondary reason is that our district is highly involved with the state’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). This program uses student data to identify which students need help with both reading and math interventions in an effort to move to proficiency. While we have made great strides helping children through our involvement with MTSS, some students need more time and perhaps a different instructional approach to become proficient in reading by 3rd grade. The KRR program will provide both the time and a different instructional approach to help identified students.

There are three primary programs that are under the KRR umbrella of intervention work. USD 417 will begin offering an after school reading intervention program beginning in April. Letters and other forms of contact will be sent out to students who qualify for this opportunity. During this after school program, students will have two reading sessions and one physical activity session. Students will also receive an after school snack as part of the program. Students who are part of this program will have transportation services that will deliver students directly to their home once the after school program is completed for the day. The after school program will run for 50 days, 4-days a week each semester and will run throughout the school year.

There is a summer school component that lasts for 6-weeks, 5 hours per day Monday through Friday. The day will be broken up to cover reading skills but also will include student project oriented work in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field and general math work for parts of the day. Students will be served lunch, have some physical play time, and have transportation to and from home. We have not yet set the dates for this summer school program but I anticipate it will begin in very early June.

There is also a family component to this program. It will involve parents and their children attending a monthly family night. While we are still learning about all of the activities that will be part of this program, the focus will be on literacy. I anticipate that one aspect of this evening event will be to help parents to become engaged in literacy practices with their child. As I have stated before, when parents model reading, and other literacy practices, with their children it has a significant impact on the success of their child in school.

The adults who will work in this program will undergo significant training as they prepare for a different instructional process than what we presently use during our regular school work. Our district actually uses several research-based intervention programs as we search for ways to help our students learn critical reading skills. The work we do during the school year and the work done as part of the KRR program will coordinate for the benefit of our students. All costs are paid for through this grant. And, even if our free and reduced meal numbers drop below 50%, our district will remain in this program.

Because our timeline for implementation is very short, our initial work will involve students at the Council Grove Elementary School. At the very latest, students who attend Prairie Heights Elementary School will have this program available to them this fall. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students that we could not pass up. I want to highly encourage parents that if your child qualifies for this program, please enroll them to participate.

Governor meets with Kansas Reading Roadmap providers

By Chris Frank, KAKE News, August 11, 2015 (See original post from here.)

Wichita, Kan — Educators say if a third graders fall behind in their reading level, they stand a greater chance of failing and falling into poverty.

That’s why the Kansas Reading Roadmap Program targets third grader’s reading skills. Teachers from across the state were in Wichita Tuesday for training sessions as they get ready for school to resume soon.

Governor Sam Brownback spoke to those teachers in Wichita in support of the program. “It continues to expand nicely and I think the program is selling itself. That’s why it’s grown fast. We started just a couple years ago from one and now you’re at 44.”

The Program’s Executive Director Andrew Hysell says, “The goal of the program is to help schools use their existing resources, with a little extra, to insure that every child is reading at grade level.”

The Reading Roadmap Program is in 44 Kansas public schools so far after it started in January, 2014.

Hysell says, “We are so fixated on third grade, fourth grade reading level because if a child is not reading at grade level, at that point, their chances of being a successful student is low.”

KRR Executive Director Andrew Hysell addresses educators in Wichita

KRR Executive Director Andrew Hysell addresses educators in Wichita

Hysell says it’s at that stage students transition from learning to read to reading to learn. He says children who fall behind in reading have a more difficult time learning other subjects such as science.

Hysell says ultimately this is an anti-poverty program which tries to give students the reading power to learn and be successful and breaking the poverty cycle.

Governor Brownback, peaking on the subject of poverty in regards to this program says, “What I want to do is let’s stop people going into poverty instead of trying to work them out once they’re in it.

The program is funded from local and state education funds and money from the Kansas Department of Children and Families.