When Kim Day left her position as Director of Literacy of Purpose Built Schools for a new role as Director of Research and Development with The Schenck School, Purpose Built Schools Atlanta CEO Greg Giornelli asked her to think about ways the two organizations might be able to partner.
“There were concerns that while some of the elementary school students might not be dyslexic, some may have dyslexic-like profiles and, as a result, were struggling with learning to read and were perhaps going unidentified,” says Day. “When I got to The Schenck School, the administration was very interested in talking to Purpose Built and learning more about the work at THES and Slater.”
In 2017, Day brought The Schenck School’s Head of School, Josh Clark, for a meeting at and tour of Slater Elementary. As a result of that meeting, an official partnership formed between The Schenck School and Purpose Built Schools Atlanta for Schenck to provide direct reading services to students through The Dyslexia Resource, an outreach program of The Schenck School.
“We started doing work together in January 2018. We called that Year 0. It was supposed to be a planning year, but we went ahead and started working with some students,” says Day. “We brought in some reading remediation specialists and worked with the instructional coaches at Thomasville Heights to identify students who were struggling with reading and began working with them. That was the beginning of the partnership.”
The 2018-2019 school year marked the official first year of the partnership. The Dyslexia Resource brought in three reading specialists to provide reading remediation to 99 students in first, second, third, and fourth grades at Thomasville Heights Elementary.
An app developed by The Hill Learning Center in Durham, NC, allowed remediation specialists to move from a 1:1 or 1:2 specialist to student ratio to a 1:3 ratio. Remediation sessions occurred twice a week and lasted 40 minutes.
The program expanded in the 2019-2020 school year to include three additional remediation specialists and another 99 students at Slater Elementary School. Remediation specialists also saw a specific group of third-grade students at Thomasville Heights for 40-minute sessions, four times a week.
“We had a cohort of children in the 2018-19 school year that struggled to make gains in reading, no matter if they were working with us or with the remediation programs within the building or with their classroom teachers,” says Day. “So, we decided that they needed more time with our remediation specialists. We called it ‘double dosing’ and the kids did quite well.”
The results of the program have been impressive. By spring 2019, scores on an assessment used to show a student’s growth in reading yielded results that equated to approximately two years of reading growth in just one year for those students who received remediation from The Dyslexia Resource reading specialists.
December 2019 assessment data showed that remediation students at Thomasville Heights performed similarly to their peers in first and second grades. Students receiving remediation at Slater outperformed their peers in first, second and third grades.
The outcomes for the group of third grade Thomasville Heights students receiving additional remediation were of particular interest. Based on the mid-year data, students receiving remediation four times per week clearly outperformed both their peers and those students receiving remediation two times per week. Moving forward, these data will be used to determine remediation dosage for students at both Thomasville Heights and Slater.
“One of the lessons learned over these two years is that it’s the relationships that we have within the school building that are most helpful to us,” says Day. “Instructional coaches and teachers have been invaluable in helping us navigate schedules and providing information about behavior management systems in place in the classroom that we mirror in our sessions with students so the expectations are the same.”
These relationships proved imperative to the continuing success of the program as the coronavirus pandemic struck this spring. The program moved to a 1:1 online tutoring model the week of April 13 after the APS spring break. Many sessions took place over the phone when students were unable to access a computer or Chromebook.
“We had to work closely with the leadership staff at both schools to get information on how to contact families,” says Day. “As part of our contingency planning for next year, we are prepared to toggle between the classroom to online much quicker if needed due to our experience this spring.”
Moving forward to next year, the program is expected to expand with a focus on second, third and fourth grade with the potential to continue to work with some fifth-grade students who participated as fourth-graders in the 2019-2020 school year.