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Carroll County Middle School and its principal, Dana Oak, were recognized as outstanding collaborative partners for the second year in a row by the Nystrand Center of Excellence in Educ-ation. The school was recognized for its efforts toward educational initiatives through its work with the Louisville Writing Project. Oak received the award Dec. 2 at “A Celebration of Collaboration,” an awards presentation by the University of Louisville’s College of Education and Human Development and the Nystrand Center.
“Ms. Oak is a true instructional leader,” Jean Wolph, director of the Louisville Writing Project and instructor at the University of Louisville, said when presenting Oak and CCMS with the award. “I’ve never seen a principal give her staff as much imbedded PD (professional development) during the school day.”
For the past three and a half years, Wolph has worked with CCMS teachers in a variety of ways giving them strategies that they can use to improve reading and writing in the school.
Oak said that Wolph has demonstrated effective reading and writing strategies, such as reciprocal reading. With this strategy, students in small groups read a passage together and take turns acting as the “teacher,” leading the group through four steps to improve their understanding of what they have read. One student leads the group by asking questions that help the students find the main idea. The next student leads the group in summarizing the content, while the following student helps the group to clarify any remaining parts of the text that group members may have difficulty understanding. The final student then leads the group to make a prediction about what will happen next.
Wolph has worked not only with language arts teachers, but also with “content-area” teachers, incorporating children’s literature in science and social studies classes, to show how reading and writing can help students better understand the content in their classes.
Most recently, Wolph teamed up with teachers to help them write lesson plans that align with the new National Common Core State Standards, on which students will be assessed on the Kentucky Core Content Test, given each spring.
Oak pointed out, for example, that the On-Demand Writing Assessment, which is part of the KCCT, has changed dramatically this year and will require students to read a passage and use information from the passage to support a claim the student will make in writing.
“This is at a different level than what we are used to,” Oak said, “so Jean [Wolph] has been working with teachers analyzing student work.”
With a greater emphasis on grammar, mechanics, and usage on the writing assessments, Wolph has also helped teachers to cover those topics in a way that is interesting to students.
Oak believes that collaborating with Wolph and the Louisville Writing Project has paid off in much improved state test scores.
On-demand writing scores on the Kentucky Core Content Test rose as many as 15 points between 2009 and 2010, Oak said, after the strategies were more fully implemented.
The Louisville Writing Project is an exemplary site of the National Writing Project, which became recognized as a federal program in 1991 and has supported more than 200 sites across the country and beyond.
For more information on the Louisville Writing Project, visit their website at (http://louisville.edu/education/research/centers/lwp/).
Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.