Program helps kids stay on track with reading, math

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By Sarah Harmon, Staff Writer
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register 

MOUNDSVILLE - Woody Yoder, curriculum director of Marshall County Schools, believes the key to helping children struggling to learn is a teacher's comprehensive knowledge of the unique qualities of his or her students.

According to Yoder, the county's implementation of the Support for Personalized Learning program has given teachers the tools to keep track of students who have difficulty learning concepts in reading and math and to intervene before these children fall too far behind.

Although the county has had forms of classroom intervention in the past, Yoder said SPL, which has been in effect for two years, is different in that the focus is on teachers taking the pulse of student performance throughout the year, instead of putting the most importance on cumulative tests at the end.

For example, a teacher could ask students to write a few sentences on the main point of a lecture at the end of the class to assess understanding.

"A lot of times, the WESTEST 2 result is more like an autopsy than a check-up," Yoder said. "Because it's summative, it's at the end of everything.

"Formative assessments are built in assessments as we go so we can react to kids and SPL is very dependent on schools using these assessments. The better the teacher, the better they are at figuring out if kids are getting it as they are delivering it."

Under SPL, students are put into three categories: Core students who don't need further intervention, targeted students who need some intervention and intensive students who need a lot of time and intensity of instruction to understand content.

Students who fall into targeted and intensive categories will get specialized lessons outside of class in small groups of no more than six students. In these lessons, teachers will take the time to determine the exact areas his or her students don't understand and give lessons tailored to those needs. According to Yoder, students in targeted and intensive categories are "progress monitored" or tested every two weeks to see how they are progressing with interventions.

Yoder said the county also is working to have every school set aside a specific time in the schedule for each grade level to have intervention lessons.

"I'll ask my elementary principals when they are making the schedule what is most important," Yoder said. "The answer should be they built the schedule around their intervention blocks. If you don't, you will miss opportunities to have kids in intervention sessions."

Yoder also emphasized the importance of parents getting involved in their children's education, since parents teaching children language early can curb reading problems when they start school.

"Parents don't necessarily see their role and they think (learning) happens in school," Yoder said. "If you are reading to your 9 month old, you are exposing them to something they have not been exposed to before. If you don't read to them from 9 months to 3 years old, you can go back and find that 2-year-old brain again. Kids are sponges.

"If there is one thing I can communicate to the world is how important parent teaching is."