Georgia District Reports Remarkable Rise in Graduation Rates After Implementing Reading Program

Aug 31, 2017
Voyager Sopris Learning’s REWARDS helping to break generational cycle of illiteracy in rural Gilmer County

DALLAS, Aug. 31, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Gilmer County (Ga.) High School graduation rates for students with disabilities have skyrocketed more than 46 percent in the past four years, and officials point directly to the district’s implementation of a reading remediation initiative—REWARDS from Voyager Sopris Learning. Moreover, district officials report student engagement is also at a new high level as the program is not only helping students learn to read, it is breaking the generational cycle of illiteracy in this rural community at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains.

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 Diane Vautrot, Special Education Coordinator, Gilmer County Charter School System.

“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.”

“We applaud Diane Vautrot and her tenacious team at Gilmer County Charter Schools for tackling this situation head-on and succeeding beyond anyone’s wildest imagination,” said Jeffrey A. Elliott, President, Voyager Sopris Learning. “The benefits of this work will last a lifetime.”

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.”

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About Voyager Sopris Learning
Voyager Sopris Learning® is an education partner committed to unlocking the full potential of every teacher and every student. We believe that the best way to meet and exceed standards in education is to address the underlying systems of teaching and learning, and to nurture those systems at their most fundamental levels. Our programs and services are based on research and classroom evidence, ensuring they are easy to implement, teacher friendly and effective. We offer a variety of digital and blended instructional tools, programs, and professional development, all of which are designed to help every teacher deliver nothing short of the highest-quality instruction to every student. Voyager Sopris Learning is a business unit of Cambium Learning® Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:ABCD), based in Dallas, Texas.

For more information, visit www.voyagersopris.com, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

About Cambium Learning Group, Inc.
Cambium Learning® Group is a leading educational solutions and services company committed to helping all students reach their full potential. Cambium Learning accomplishes this goal by providing evidence-based solutions and expert professional services to empower educators and raise the achievement levels of all students. The company’s award-winning brands include: Learning A-Z® (www.learninga-z.com), ExploreLearning® (www.explorelearning.com), Kurzweil Education® (www.kurzweiledu.com), and Voyager Sopris Learning® (www.voyagersopris.com), which provide breakthrough technology solutions for students and teachers—including best-in-class intervention and supplemental instructional programs; gold-standard professional development; valid and reliable assessments; and products that enable access to learning for all students.  Cambium Learning Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:ABCD), is based in Dallas, Texas. For more information, visit www.cambiumlearning.com.

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