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Schools short on teachers for reading program
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A reading program described as one of the Effingham County School System’s most successful initiatives is also one of the most in need of more teachers, according to its coordinator.

Jennifer Peavy told the Effingham County Board of Education that the Reading Recovery program has four fewer teachers than it needs to help the lowest-achieving first-graders in the school district.

“We’re very short this year. Under-implementation means that we’re not able to serve all the kids in first grade that need to be served,” said Peavy, the teacher leader for Effingham County’s Reading Recovery program.

Peavy said that, including herself, the school system has 16 Reading Recovery teachers this year. School board Chairman Lamar Allen asked how many would be needed to give Reading Recovery tutoring to every first-grader who needs it.

“We need 20,” Peavy said.

Reading Recovery provides one-on-one tutoring to first-graders who have extreme difficulty learning to read and write. A specially-trained Reading Recovery teacher works individually with each student for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for 12-20 weeks.

“It’s like a shot of adrenaline that we give them in first grade,” said Dayle Burns, K-5 curriculum and professional learning coordinator for Effingham County Schools.

“If it was up to this board — I’m probably speaking for every one of us — we’d give you every person you needed,” board vice chairman Troy Alford said.

Each teacher serves “about eight kids a year,” Peavy said, so another 30-40 students could be helped by adding four more teachers. Reading Recovery training costs almost $4,000 per teacher, according to Peavy.

Superintendent Randy Shearouse estimated the school district’s current expense for Reading Recovery at $900,000 to $1 million. Adding teachers would mean another $50,000-$60,000 per teacher in salary, benefits and Reading Recovery training, he said.

“It’s costly. It’s all local money that goes into those 16 teachers,” Shearouse said. “But (the program) proves itself. When you see the results and you hear what teachers and administrators and parents say, it does make a big difference.”

Burns thanked the board of education for not eliminating Reading Recovery amidst budget constraints because of cuts in state funding and reduction of the county’s tax digest.

“I feel really lucky that I work in a school system that has it, because there aren’t many,” she said. “Other than the classroom teachers, the Reading Recovery teachers are the foundation of the success in this school system. If our kids can’t read, they can’t even do math anymore because there’s so much reading (involved).”

Peavy told the school board that, of the 148 Effingham County first-graders who participated in Reading Recovery last year, 64 percent successfully “graduated” — meaning they could read at grade level and did not require any further intervention services.

Twenty-two percent of last year’s Reading Recovery students went through the full 20 weeks of the program then required further assistance, Peavy said. Eight percent were “incomplete,” meaning the school year ended before those first-graders received all their Reading Recovery help, and 6 percent moved to another school district before completing the program.

However, she added, Marlow and South Effingham are the district’s only two elementary schools serving all their first-graders who need Reading Recovery intervention. Also, Guyton Elementary was the only Title I school fully implemented last year.

“We saw remarkable results there. We saw higher scores and text levels than we’ve ever seen in the history of Guyton,” Peavy said.

“I think, with what you’ve got to work with and your staff, you’ve done an awesome job,” Alford said.