Special Assignment: Reading Right

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May 7, 2007

WAYNESBORO, Ga.---The area's biggest school system, Richmond County, is taking a closer look at its elementary school literacy program, Voyager.

Scores have been falling every year since Linda Schrenko helped the county put Voyager into place, and the school board is now seriously considering whether or not to drop it.

But when it comes to teaching our kids to read, one local school has it figured out.

In Mrs. Wright's second grade class at Waynesboro Primary School, learning to read and write has never been so much fun...and the right answers just keep coming.

In fact, the way Mrs. Wright teaches reading, students are anxious to tell her they know the answers.

Mrs. Wright has the right stuff when it comes to teaching, and her whole school seems committed to these students.

"We believe all students can learn and that they will learn, and we go to all extremes to make sure students do learn," said Principal Tommy Mitchell.

The school uses the 4 Blocks literacy program.

"It provides a framework for teachers, but at the same time flexibility to choose materials and resources that they would like to use," Principal Mitchell said.

Waynesboro Primary does something else unique: they take kids at risk in reading and give them intensive tutoring, 30 minutes a day, every day, one on one.

"They're very good at what they do," Principal Mitchell said of his teachers. "That helps elevate our reading scores. If you can't read, you can't do math and science in other academic areas."

The numbers show it's working.

On the Georgia CRCT, 95 percent of first graders at WPS meet or exceed state reading standards. Just 5 percent of children there did not. 92 percent of second graders meet or exceed state standards; 8 percent did not last year.

Those are the kinds of scores you might expect from the most successful prep school...but Waynesboro Primary is a public school with a big challenge.

"This is a Title One school," Principal Mitchell said. "I can tell you 82 percent of our kids are on a free and reduced lunch."

The school is constantly re-evaluating to see what's working and what's not.

"Benchmark testing started this year," said Principal Mitchell. "We have solid information to make decisions on. You can't just pull things out of the air. We don't want to waste money and time. That's one of our procedures we have in place to weed out things that don't work."

Waynesboro Primary School has made Adequate Yearly Progress eight years in a row, and Principal Mitchell says it's all due to parents, teachers, and administrators working with the superintendent and school board--everyone cooperating.

It's a big effort. 1100 students go to WPS.

And teachers want to work there. Principal Mitchell says he can pick and choose because so many teachers want to work there.

The bottom line: the test scores prove it's working. See them for yourself by clicking here.

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