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January 17, 2014

In The Schools: New Castle staffers heading to San Diego

NEW CASTLE — New Castle school district personnel are heading to California to continue improving their approach in teaching students to read.

The school board Monday gave permission to George Washington Intermediate School principal Joseph Anderson, elementary principal Debra DeBlasio and district facilitators Shelly Bucci and Andrea Martin to attend the Success For All reading conference Feb. 5 to 9 in San Diego.

The cost for all four will be $8,226 and will be paid from the district’s Race to the Top grant, district superintendent John Sarandrea told the board. The expenditure covers $1,922 for airline tickets, $2,720 for conference registration, $2,824 for hotel rooms for four nights, $200 for car rental and $560 for food allowance.

Terence P. Meehan, assistant to the superintendent, said the district has implemented the Success For All program for several years in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

Pending board approval, the program next school year will be extended to fifth and sixth grades, he said.

Success for All is a whole-school approach for all grades for teaching students to read with newer ways of meeting common core standards and increasing the district’s state assessment performance profile ratings.

The standards require students to learn and use a more complex level of reading, thinking, speaking and writing skills to ensure readiness for college and careers, according to information from the Success For All website.

The program’s effectiveness has been proven in federally funded gold-standard research and in schools across the country for 25 years, according to website information.

Meehan said it has been four years since school district members attended the conference. So the staff members have not gained the common core aspects of the program, he said.

“Constant updating of information involves changes and there is ongoing research,” he said. New developments such as common core standards are incorporated into the training.

“It’s always evolving and updating new technology and methods, and that’s what the conference provides,” he explained.

 The district traditionally has a May inservice day for teachers, when conference attendees share the material with all district teachers, he said.

“Our reading scores on the elementary level certainly are an indication that it’s working,” Meehan said.

However, according to recent academic performance scores for 2012-13 posted on the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile website, the district has room to improve. Only one elementary school — West Side — attained a grade equal to a B in reading.

John F. Kennedy School scored 82.2 percent overall and a 78.8 percent in reading; Thaddeus Stevens, 70 percent overall and 64.70 in reading and West Side, 88 percent overall and 84.85 percent in reading.

All were higher than scores at George Washington Intermediate School — which is for students in grades four, five and six. It had a failing grade of 57 percent overall, and a lower grade of 51.48 percent in reading.

The Race to the Top grant available to the district equals $155,000 spread over three years, Meehan said.

More information about Success for All is available by visiting www.successforall.org.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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