Georgia District Reports Remarkable Rise in Graduation Rates After Implementing Reading Program
Aug 31, 2017
Since the 2012–13 school year when REWARDS was implemented, graduation rates have soared from 40 percent to 86.1 percent in the 2015–16 school year. “Students who had previously abandoned any expectation for learning are now experiencing success, often for the very first time,” says
“Before REWARDS, too many students had honestly given up,” Vautrot said. “They came to school for socialization or to be fed, but most had no hope of graduating.”
Six years ago, many students with disabilities entering high school at GCCSS were reading at the pre-primer to second-grade level. Many failed to master basic reading skills sufficiently to graduate. In response, administrators at GCCSS collaborated with the Graduate First Dropout Prevention program and North Central Georgia Learning Resource System (GLRS) opted to implement REWARDS. The results were remarkable from the start, noted Vautrot, who is known in the district and throughout the county as the “local literacy champion.”
“In conjunction with intensive individualized interventions and a staff of teachers and administrators that would simply not accept failure as an option, our students are succeeding with the REWARDS program,” she said. “After years of failure trying to learn to read with phonics and sight words, students are building the confidence to try again.
“The REWARDS program has increased reading grade levels across the board and given students the skills to read their core content textbooks and to write effectively—skills they need to succeed. Students are graduating with their class and going on to post-secondary training and education.”
With the high school reporting rapid grade-level growth, REWARDS has since been implemented in both middle schools and now is taught by every special education literacy teacher and ESOL teacher in GCCSS’s two middle schools and the high school. “We implemented the REWARDS Plus science program in seventh grade and have found it to be a perfect way to merge teaching science vocabulary and state content standards while reinforcing the REWARDS reading strategies,” Vautrot noted.
In addition, the district plans to soon implement the program in seventh-grade general education language arts classes to bring all students up to grade-level performance.
“Successful reading intervention at the middle and high school level is not only possible, it’s desperately needed and life changing,” Vautrot said. “We are proud, but mostly we're happy to impact the lives of our students in this way.”
For more information on:
Gilmer County Charter School System, visit www.gilmerschools.com;
- Voyager Sopris Learning, visit www.voyagersopris.com; and
- REWARDS, visit www.voyagersopris.com/rewards.
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