Reading programs radiate at Southeast

The Campus Report for Southeast Elementary was given at the SISD (Sweetwater Independent School District) Board of Trustees' meeting on Monday night, November 19, 2012.Making the presentation were the school's principal, Peggy Elliott; the counselor, Courtney Martin; and first grade teachers Bethany Bryan and Amy Nixon.Through goal-setting, prioritizing, the breaking down of data from TPRI (Texas Primary Reading Inventory), and visits from consultants at Region 14, it became apparent that a large part of school improvement at Southeast would include an increase in student achievement and student learning in reading. This year, the school made a point to increase their CAFE (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency and Extended Vocabulary) by using the Daily 5 Balanced Literacy Approach. Thus, the campus came up with a vision to increase their CAFE, which in turn would also raise math scores along with the foundation of preparing students for the state testing they would face in their future. By implementing and reorganizing the reading program, the school would build upon the knowledge and skills of teachers, similar programs and provide enriched resources.Through researching schools with the best practices in reading, Southeast found Shallowater Elementary, a school with a Reading First demonstration site. All ten first grade teachers, two second grade teachers and Elliott, Sweetwater ISD Assistant Superintendent Kathy Smartt and the district's Director of Educational Technology, Mike Marlett, visited the school.They took part in classroom observations and interviewed teachers, the principal and the reading coach to gain ideas on how to implement an improved reading program in Sweetwater. Immediately, they began working jointly to plan for professional development, supplies and revamp the school schedule to include a daily, ninety-minute protected--meaning nothing else can interfere during this learning time--reading block in each classroom.Over the summer, all kindergarten and first grade teachers completed extensive training in the Balanced Literacy approach as well as the use of the Daily 5 structure of differentiated instruction, which includes high-quality teaching of Reading to Self, Reading to Someone, Listening to Reading, Word Work and Writing along with meeting with the teacher. Listening centers, leveled readers, computer software and literacy supplies were also purchased for each class.In order to increase the students' reading ability, increasing CAFE is a top priority at Southeast. The school hopes to instill into students the joy of reading while improving skills and test scores by eliminating practices that make reading hard.One program that is continuing at Southeast at the kindergarten level is Certified Learning/SOI as a ninety-minute block on a daily basis. Certified Learning offers three components--computer, workbook and group, which increases perceptual skills of vision, audio and sense integration. By developing these skills early, general learning abilities of cognition, memory, evaluation, problem solving and creativity can be sufficiently founded through the program to increase students' learning abilities.In addition to the Certified Learning, the Bridges lab focuses on sensory integration and visual proceedings for first graders that need a continuation of the SOI program. In October, a consultant visited the school and reported that students are at a farther rate--almost three months ahead--in the program than expected at this time.In addition, the Imagine Learning Language and Literacy computer program is included at the school inside the computer lab. Holding up to 44 students for thirty minutes per day, the program strengthens phonemic awareness and sight work recognition, which is beneficial to English language learners through listening and speaking components.Other extra activities at the campus include a 30 minute block of reading at the library each week for each class. Each student also has 30 minutes of daily Physical Education and fifteen minutes of health instruction from the state's Healthy and Wise curriculum.PBIS--the Positive Behavior Intervention Support--is a district-wide training effort that teaches procedures for the hallway, cafeteria, bathroom and bus to promote positive behavior. And with this year's addition of a school counselor to the Southeast staff, Courtney Martin teachers Character Education and Guidance lessons to students.Successes are celebrated on the campus with regular assemblies honoring perfect attendance and honor roll students on their achievements. Also, an incentive adopted for PBIS is STARS, or Students Achieving Real Success. Students can earn StarBucks for good behavior which is entered into a drawing to win a prize from the principal's treasure box. Each week, a STAR student of the week is recognized.Music is also taught at Southeast, as the second graders will hold their Christmas program. This year, first graders will offer a First Grade Fandango toward the end of February.The PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) is a vital and active part of the campus, as they involve students in Box Tops for Education, Juice Box Brigades, Campbell's Labels for Education and the Elmer's Glue Crew recycling programs.They also offer pickles and popcorn on Fridays and on Mustang Spirit Fridays, they will sell Spirit Decals. The PTO additionally organizes and holds the Southeast Fall Festival, Christmas classroom parties, the Easter Egg Hunt while volunteering in classes and creating the school yearbook.Technology is strongly evident, as each class has a Mimio Smart Board, an Elmo projector, five computers for students and a teacher computer. Teachers also have an iPad to be used for TPRI (Texas Primary Reading Inventory) testing and other educational apps.Currently at Southeast, there are 191 kindergartners and 197 first graders. In total, the school boasts 389 students and an ethnically diverse campus. Concluding the campus report was a video highlighting the year so far at Southeast with photos and videos of different programs and events, which was created by Martin and Southeast parent Jeremy Wilks.