New reading program gains success in local schools

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United Way Of The Lowcountry’s Early Grade Reading program is helping students earn higher scores on tests.

According to results just released, students in five Beaufort County schools and two Jasper County schools participating in the United Way of the Lowcountry’s Early Grade Reading Program saw increases in the reading portion of their MAP test scores.

“These scores are indicative of the hard work put into this program by our volunteers and tutors, and we’re proud of the success of this program in its first year,” said Chris McCorkendale, United Way Board Chairman.

A total of 154 students in St. Helena Elementary, Joseph Shanklin Elementary, Hilton Head Early Childhood Center, Hilton Head School for the Creative Arts, Pritchardville Elementary, Hardeeville Elementary, and Ridgeland Elementary participated in the Early Grade Reading initiative during the course of the school year. Both Beaufort and Jasper County schools use MAP testing as way to assess core reading knowledge in elementary students.

A full 97% of Beaufort County students and 98% of Jasper County students participating in the tutoring program raised their test scores by the end of the year.
“The Early Grades Reading program is a vital part of our Early Childhood Department,” said Dr. La’Toya Thomas-Dixon, Director of Elementary Education, Gifted Services and ESOL Learning with the Jasper County School District. “Ongoing weekly tutoring for students with academic challenges is most successful when volunteers or tutors are consistent and caring, and United Way volunteers were consistent and caring above and beyond the call of duty. Great things are happening with our students and we are very thankful for United Way for creating this ongoing partnership.”

Officials with the Beaufort County School District also highly recommended the continuation of the Early Grade Reading program, stating “it is apparent that the United Way tutors are desperately needed in our most needy schools” in a report.

“The United Way of the Lowcountry is committed to continuing our Early Grade Reading initiative,” said United Way of the Lowcountry Executive Director Tina Gentry. “We are looking forward to another year of collaboration and partnership with both school districts and ensuring success for the students we serve.”

The Early Grade Reading program was started in 2012 by United Way of the Lowcountry as an education initiative that aligned with a United Way Worldwide emphasis on becoming a community impact organization.  One of the goals of the program is to increase to 80% the number of students reading on grade level upon entering 4th grade in both counties by enlisting 600 volunteer tutors, mentors and readers for the program. The United Way of the Lowcountry’s Early Grade Reading Program employs curriculum approved by the South Carolina Department of Education and used approximately 200 volunteer tutors in 2012.