WASD Receives $25,000 Innovation Award

WASD Receives $25,000 Innovation Award

District Receives Top Prize During State Literacy Conference at PSU
The Williamsport Area School District received a $25,000 first-place Early Impact and Innovation Award by the state Department of Education and the Keystones to Opportunity (KtO) Grant on June 18. The award was given during the Keystones to Opportunity Innovation Award Banquet during the statewide Pennsylvania Literacy Conference at Penn State University for the district’s use of competitive Keystones to Opportunity grant funds and its implementation of literacy improvement practices for students in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade.

The district was one of 24 school districts in the state recognized through the Innovation Award process, which was narrowed to eight finalists and then named one of four winners in the categories: Early Childhood Collaboration Models; Local Comprehensive Literacy Plan; Break the Cycle: Families and School Partnering; and Early Impact.

“When you consider there are 500 school districts in the state, WASD’s recognition as a top innovator is a considerable honor and a demonstration of our teachers’, principals’, students’ and parents’ efforts to improve literacy practices and student achievement,” said Dr. Susan Bigger, federal programs director. “It was only accomplished with significant team effort, which is a privilege to be a member.”

The $25,000 award recognizes the district’s use of more than $1 million of competitive Keystones to Opportunity grant dollars. That funding came to WASD in two rounds: $569,904 in 2012; $490,688 awarded in 2013; and an expected $463,994 in 2014.
With the use of these funds, the KtO team, led by Bigger, has improved literacy outcomes by developing consistent instructional practices and data team processes built around several literacy assessments defined by KtO. The grant’s resources also have brought to the district a research-based core reading program, “Treasures,” which builds on the critical elements of literacy instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, reading comprehension and vocabulary) backed by the state Comprehensive Literacy Plan and National Reading Panel.

The district also created a systematic approach to literacy improvement.
“Each year, the central office conducts School Data Team meetings with every building made up of principals and teacher representatives, including instructional coaches to discuss the use of data, actual assessment results, support and intervention of at-risk and accelerated students, as well as goals of improvement,” Bigger said.
This annual process sets into motion a series of underlying actions at each building that involve and require the entire school community to look at and analyze data.

“Grade level teams meet periodically — at least once a week — to review screening data, plan instruction, make instructional adjustments and monitor student progress,” Bigger said, adding that information is collected and reviewed by the district’s KtO data liaison, Jackie Whiteman, a critical position funded through grant dollars, and instructional coaches that provide essential teacher support.

“In our second year of (the grant),” Bigger said, “we continue to see improvement in students’ building block skills in literacy and will determinedly pursue opportunities for our students that KtO has afforded the district.”

(Information from
Greg L. Hayes
Director of the Williamsport Area School District Education Foundation & Public Relations)
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