School attributes achievement to focus on reading Runnymede granted $31,498 for improving scores on state tests

November 26, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The teachers who put in long hours and the parent volunteers ready to help in the classroom deserve credit. But when asked to explain Runnymede Elementary School's success in improving its scores over two years on the state's annual student performance tests, Principal Barbara Walker points to the school's commitment to early reading instruction.

"Our big emphasis has been on early literacy," said Walker. "We want to make sure that by the time children are in the third grade, they're able to read and understand what they read."

Runnymede Elementary School, off Mayberry Road near Taneytown, was one of 83 schools recognized by state education officials last week for significant improvement over at least two years on annual standardized tests, including the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.

The schools shared $2.7 million in awards for their achievements, with Runnymede receiving $31,498.

Two other county schools -- Taneytown Elementary and Westminster West Middle -- were among 208 schools that received certificates of recognition for demonstrating progress in test scores over a one-year period.

"It's very rewarding for the staff to be recognized by the state," said Walker. "They put in long hours, they plan together, they do everything humanly possible to help our students."

She said Runnymede's school improvement team will decide how to spend the award money.

"I envision we would spend it on something that would improve student achievement over time, like staff development," she said. "I don't think that purchasing something would be the way to go."

Runnymede's composite MSPAP scores increased from 38.3 in 1995 -- the second-lowest of Carroll's 19 elementary schools -- to 50.9 in the 1996-1997 school year.

The MSPAP tests, given each spring to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, are intended to assess pupils' thinking skills by asking them to solve real-life problems. The tests cover reading, writing, language use, math, science and social studies.

Walker said many of Runnymede's pupils have benefited from programs the school has developed to improve reading instruction.

"In the long run, that's probably the best thing we can do to improve their success on MSPAP and in life itself," she said. "They need to be reading for meaning, to get information and to follow directions."

Walker said Runnymede's staff has used federal grants to provide supplemental reading activities and instruction to pupils kindergarten and first and second grades.

As one of Carroll's five Title 1 elementary schools -- which serve larger numbers of low-income pupils -- Runnymede receives about $100,000 each year to hire a Title 1 resource teacher and two instructional assistants. The school also received two poverty grants, totaling $29,000, to hire instructional assistants on an hourly basis to provide individual reading instruction to pupils.

"We have many children coming to school who have not had a lot of experience with literacy," Walker said. "Maybe they don't have books in the home or perhaps they don't have materials in the home for writing. We saw that as a real need."

Runnymede's Title 1 resource teacher, Catherine See, developed a program in which first- and second-grade pupils "publish" books using their classroom writing assignments.

Pupils submit their work to "editors" -- See and instructional assistants -- who write out the stories by hand. The next day, children do illustrations, select the color of the book cover and write dedications.

"The children can see their own writing put into a finished format," Walker said. "I think that's a pretty powerful message."

Other early literacy programs at Runnymede provide one-on-one assistance to pupils identified by teachers as needing extra help in reading.

Pub Date: 11/26/98

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