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KCSD reading coaches begin ‘Read to Succeed’ program

Posted: November 20, 2014 4:15 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2014 1:00 a.m.
Simone T. Owens/C-I

The KCSD’s reading coaches are (from left) Sara Fakoury, Dolly Rowland, Donna Farnum, Julie Smith, Janis White, Sherri Johnson, Betsy Horton and Adele Dixon.

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Several volunteers in the community are starting to help Kershaw County School District (KCSD) teachers improve reading skills in their students. They are reading coaches, the first part of a South Carolina initiative being implemented under the “Read to Succeed Act” passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley in June.

“We are excited about having the support of the state in meeting the literacy needs of our students,” KCSD Executive Director for K-12 Instruction Tim Hopkins said. “While most of our students do well -- as evidenced by our state assessment results -- we still have students who can benefit greatly from the initiative of the Read to Succeed Act.”

The reading coaches are the only component of Read to Succeed currently in place in the district and around the state. Read to Succeed is also part of a K-12 education reform initiative Haley launched in 2013. While the initiative identified technology and the lack of high-quality education opportunities for some students as areas to tackle, those involved determined literacy to be the main concern.

Under the act, all school districts, including the KCSD, became responsible for incorporating a reading program addressing eight reading components: reading plans; 3rd grade retention; summer reading camps; interventions; S.C. literacy competencies and endorsements; early learning, literacy and the Child Development Education Program; teacher preparation; and the reading coaches.

Three full-time and five part-time reading coaches now work in the district’s elementary schools. Some coaches serve one school, others serve two.

“Our focus is to help teachers help their students,” Donna Farnum, reading coach at Bethune and Baron DeKalb elementary schools, said. “We help teachers implement the best practices.”

Farnum and the other reading coaches said being interventionists is not their job. Instead, they analyze data and use it to drive instruction, and serve as resources for students, teachers and parents. Coaches provide teachers with effective practices learned while attending twice a month sessions at the S.C. Reading Coach Institute. Training focuses on specific S.C. literacy competency learning targets.

The district’s reading coaches said they’ve already seen evidence of student improvement.

“Particularly in students who had no interest in reading at the beginning,” Janis White, reading coach for Lugoff and Wateree elementary schools, said.

The coaches, whose activities and training sessions are funded by the state, said having a desire to read is one of the first steps in improving and maintaining an operative level of literacy.

The act is still evolving with other components not going into effect until 2015 at the earliest.

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