UPPING LITERACY

In their second year, Tennessee’s summer reading camps show improved skills for some

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visits with students in April at Farmington Elementary School in Germantown.

The results are preliminary and incomplete, but there is some evidence that a summer reading program for Tennessee elementary school students helped many to improve their skills.

More than 8,000 rising first-, second- and third-grade students spent part of their summers in state-funded literacy camps, a significant increase from 2016. While testing data is available for only half of participating students, those who were assessed grew in their reading accuracy by an average of 4 percentage points from the start of the summer to the end.

The program, which involves extensive reading and writing by students and emphasizes comprehension and reading enjoyment, is in its second year. The camps are funded by the state’s Read to Be Ready Grant Program, which disbursed $8.5 million among 200 schools, compared to a dozen schools last year.

To determine the program’s impact, the state used pre- and post- benchmark assessments of students’ reading skills. Results analyzed for 4,499 students show that those students grew in their reading accuracy from about 80 percent to 85 percent.

The assessment found that students surveyed also grew in their comprehension of reading questions, from about 65 percent to 67 percent.

“The results today simply reinforce what we believe,” said Education Commissioner Candice McQueen in a press release. “When students have the opportunity to read high-quality, authentic texts and are deeply engaged in learning experiences around those texts, they will thrive.”

Chandler Hopper, a department spokeswoman, said the state did not have both pre- and post-data for all students. “In some cases, the student may not have been present for both pre- and post- data collection,” Hopper said, “and because we cannot definitively explain each missing data point at this time, we removed incomplete student records from these pre- and post- analyses. But this did not substantively change our findings.”

In addition, 16 out of 29 Shelby County sites weren’t included in the analysis because they were also a part of Shelby County Schools’ new summer academies. Hopper said there was a difference in curriculum and assessment between Shelby County Schools sites and the rest of the grant sites, and so they weren’t included in the analysis.

The Tennessee departments of Education and Human Services have earmarked $30 million for the summer programs over the next three years as part of a major literacy initiative, which aims to get 75 percent of third-graders proficient in reading by 2025.

Tennessee still has a long way to go. Only a third of its fourth-graders are proficient in reading, according to the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress. But McQueen has said she is hopeful the Read to be Ready programs will get students there.

“I had a chance to visit several camps over the summer and was so encouraged by what I was seeing,” McQueen said.

Future of Schools

Ogden school staffer arrested after 12-year-old student is hurt

PHOTO: Chicago Public Building Commission

A 12-year-old student at William B. Ogden Elementary School on the Near North Side suffered a sprained wrist this week in a physical altercation with a school employee, according to the Chicago Police Department.

The employee, Marvin Allen, was arrested and charged with aggravated battery of a child. He has been removed from the school pending an investigation, according to an email to parents from Acting Principal Rebecca Bancroft and two other administrators.

Chicago Public Schools’ payroll records list Allen as a student special services advocate and full-time employee at the school. Student special services advocates are responsible for working with at-risk children and connecting them and their families with social services, according to district job descriptions.

An email to parents Thursday night from school leaders said an incident had occurred earlier this week “that resulted in a “physical student injury.”

“While limited in what I can share, the incident took place earlier this week between a student and staff member off school grounds after dismissal,” read the message. “The employee involved has been removed from school while a CPS investigation by the Law Department takes place.”

District spokeswoman Emily Bolton confirmed that the employee had been removed pending a district investigation.

“Student safety is the district’s top priority and we immediately removed the employee from his position upon learning of a deeply concerning altercation that took place off of school grounds,” Bolton said.

The exact circumstances behind the incident are still unclear.

The altercation happened Monday morning outside the school’s Jenner Campus, which used to be Jenner Elementary School before Ogden and Jenner merged last year. The Jenner campus serves grades 5-8.

At recent Local School Council meetings, Bancroft, the acting principal, acknowledged a “fractured community” at the school in the aftermath of the merger, which joined two different schools — Ogden, a diverse school with a large white population and many middle-class families, and Jenner, a predominately black school where most students come from low-income households. At the January meeting, parents complained of student disciplinary problems at the Jenner campus. Jenner parents have also expressed concerns about inclusiveness at the school.

The school has also experienced leadership turnover. One of the principals who helped engineer the merger died last March after an illness. And in November, the district placed Ogden Principal Michael Beyer on leave after he was accused of falsifying attendance records.

The incident also comes on the heels of a video released in early February that shows a school police officer using a taser on a female Marshall High School student.

On the hunt

Want a say in the next IPS superintendent? Here’s your chance.

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat

Parents, teachers, and neighbors will have a chance to weigh in on what they hope to see in the next Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent and the future of the district at three community meetings in the coming weeks.

The meetings, which will be facilitated by Herd Strategies at three sites across the city, will gather feedback before the school board begins the search for a new superintendent. The school board is expected to select the next superintendent in May.

Board President Michael O’Connor said the meetings are designed to get input on what the public values in the next superintendent. But they will also play another role, allowing community members to reflect and give feedback on the district’s embrace of innovation schools, one of the most controversial strategies rolled out during former Superintendent Lewis Ferebee’s administration.

“As we look for the next superintendent, it’s perfect for us to take input on that path that we’ve taken and then hear what [community members] think is working well and maybe what they think we could do better,” O’Connor said, noting that the administration and board are often criticized for failing to engage the public.

Innovation schools are run by outside charter or nonprofit managers, but they are still considered part of the district. Indianapolis Public Schools gets credit from the state for their test scores, enrollment, and other data. The model is lauded by charter school advocates across the country, and it helped Ferebee gain national prominence.

Ferebee left Indianapolis in January after he was tapped to lead the Washington, D.C., school system. Indianapolis Public Schools is being led by interim Superintendent Aleesia Johnson, who was formerly the deputy superintendent and is seen as a leading candidate to fill the position permanently.

Here is information about the three scheduled community input sessions:

Feb. 27, Hawthorne Community Center, 1-3 p.m.

March 7, Arsenal Technical High School in the Anderson Auditorium, 6-8 p.m.

March 13, George Washington Carver Montessori School 87 in the gymnasium, 6-8 p.m.