VALDOSTA — VALDOSTA -- Although they struggled at the beginning of the year, third graders at Westside Elementary School receiving reading assistance from future educators at Valdosta State University proved that, in the end, they had acquired the knowledge and skills outlined in the state-adopted curriculum.
By the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, these students could understand words and phrases, their relationships, and their nuances; show a steadily growing ability to discern more from and make fuller use of text; consider a wider range of textual evidence; exhibit sensitivity to inconsistencies, ambiguities, and poor reasoning in texts; and more. Because of this, all of them met or exceeded standards on Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) in the content area of reading -- a requirement for promotion to the fourth grade.
It was the partnership with VSU that helped the students achieve success.
Linda Taylor, the third grade teacher who coordinates the partnership at Westside Elementary School, said, “It truly makes a difference.”
During the fall 2011 semester, university students in Dr. Gina Doepker’s LITR 4120: Literacy Assessment and Applications course worked one-on-one with the students in Taylor’s reading class. It was an opportunity for the future educators to focus on a struggling reader’s particular skill set and vocabulary and develop a unique plan to help him or her become a better reader. They used a balanced approach to reading instruction, focusing on vocabulary; fluency; writing, decoding, and comprehension strategies; and other skills.
The following spring semester, Doepker, a professor in VSU’s Department of Early Childhood and Special Education and director of the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Center, volunteered her own time every Tuesday and Thursday in an effort to help the students discover the fun side of reading. Her efforts led to the students being selected to represent the Peach State and interview an Olympic athlete through the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center’s Kids Ask Questions Project. They later researched and wrote letters to their favorite Olympic athletes.