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School committee uses literacy audit to develop goals to improve

October 4, 2011

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Although the South Kingstown schools received positive results on its K-8 literacy audit, the school committee held a work session Tuesday night to discuss how to utilize the evaluation to make the program even better for students.

The literary audit, in which each classroom is evaluated, provides an objective view on the work in South Kingstown’s schools. It provides suggested areas of focus for future improvement of the program over three to five years. The audit was done through a federal grant.

“The audit guides our planning for future efforts. In some cases we’re spot on and in other instances there are suggestions. We did very good. We’re very happy. It came out looking very well,” Assistant Superintendent Mary Kelley said.

The audit informs the district as to the current status and fidelity of implementation of the programs and approaches to teaching in literacy K-8 and alignment with research based best practices in the CORE program in literacy. The audit also considers the strengths and challenges noted in instruction, scheduling, materials, professional development and use of data to inform instruction.

“The decision was made to conduct an audit to take a step back and look at the strengths and weaknesses of the program. I needed that objective lens to guide us through the next steps,” Kelley said.

In developing the next three to five year plan based on the literacy audit, Kelley said there are several implications for instruction. These include an assumption of a shift in thinking about teaching in which teachers will support students so that all are successful as readers at the earliest stages. The goal is to increase student skills and the rigor of the curriculum offered. It is also assumed that the Common Core will provide an interdisciplinary curriculum map and a new focus on informational text will be needed. Also, data driven decision making, such as the RTI Writing Manual that decides how to best effect growth for students, will become a priority. Lastly, the new literacy and the 21st century skills suggest the increased use of technology in supporting instruction and that students should be able to apply these skills in ways they will use in the future.

At the work session, the school committee divided themselves so each member could focus on one key practice area: leadership, budget, core literacy instruction, intervention policies, assessment, professional development, and parent involvement. The committee members then outlined their area for the other school committee, highlighting the strengths and their concerns.

For district and school leadership, regarding current practices to support literacy, South Kingstown’s plans and approaches were commended. This includes support for the literacy lab classroom that offers an understanding of the workshop approach. An area to be worked on includes continuing the rollout of the Common Core Standards. The Common Core provides a more detailed curriculum map in reading skills and strengths for each grade level. Grade level binders, which could include the report card manual, lab classroom documents and assessment protocols for each teacher is suggested.

In developing the next three to five year plan, the school committee also focused on the level of parent involvement and engagement that help with their student’s achievement. The audit found that there are parent meetings at schools, email is used to communicate with parents, information is sent to parents in a timely fashion to explain changes and volunteer activities occur with parents assisting the schools through the PTO. At Matunuck Elementary, parents have brought in IPADS to support technology integration, seen as a strength to the district.

To improve instructional support, the school committee discussed designing lessons and refining a new scope to integrate the Common Core Standards. With the Common Core, more detailed curriculum map in reading skills and strategies for each grade level will be developed according to the plans based on the audit. The addition of grade level binders will also benefit instructional support.

The committee said the full powerpoint explaining the strengths and suggestions the audit found will be posted to the South Kingstown Schools website at

The work session follows a school committee motion at the last Sept. 13 meeting, in which the school committee approved purchase order to support literacy at the elementary level, which was specifically targeted for students needing additional intervention to bring them to grade level. The two purchase orders were for assessment materials and materials to support the work in the two Title I schools. The district piloted the materials last year and found them to be more effective in identifying specific student needs so they are expanding their use to other grade levels. The total purchase amount was $16,179 for benchmark assessment materials and materials for Title 1 Schools.

The school committee also held a closed executive session before and after the meeting to discuss grievances, personnel and collective bargaining.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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