African American Males Show Dramatic Gains in Reading Achievement at South Carolina’s Clinton Elementary School

“I told our teachers that failure is simply not an option for any child,” recalled Rachel Ray, principal of Clinton Elementary School in Lancaster County, South Carolina. “Every child can learn to read. And at our school, every child is going to learn to read.”

In 2009, Ray embarked on a new reading initiative in partnership with American Reading Company to transform the school’s culture for reading success. 100 Book Challenge is a reading accountability system based on Common Core Standards through which practice targets are set, monitored, and rewarded, ensuring every student adopts the independent reading routines of academically successful students. Teachers underwent extensive “elbow-to-elbow” professional development training, and parents were asked to “take the pledge” to turn off televisions and monitor home reading practice for 30 minutes every night.

In 2010, the results were already evident. All students and all subgroups at Clinton Elementary School met AYP performance objectives in reading. On the 2010 Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) language arts exam, the percentage of third-grade students reading on or above grade level increased 26 points, and that of disabled students increased by 17 points, compared to 2009 scores. Among third-grade regular education, economically disadvantaged African American male students, the percentage of students reading on or above grade level increased from 47.4 in 2009 to 81.0 in 2010. These results surpassed the district average by 6 points and surpassed the state average by 10.5 points.

According to Jane Hileman, Founder and CEO of American Reading Company, “Principal Ray is a tremendously gifted principal who has embraced her role as the instructional leader for reading. I am proud of her tremendous success and congratulate teachers, parents, and students alike on the impressive test score gains.”

On Thursday, February 24, 2011, the school will host parents for a special Black History Month Dinner and Children’s Program. Parents will be asked to rededicate their pledge to 1) turn off the TV, computers, phone, and games; 2) observe their child reading for 30 minutes every night, seven days a week; 3) think and talk about the books afterward, 4) sign 100 Book Challenge logsheets; and 5) ensure their child packs up books for safe return to school. Guest speaker Maggie Kennedy from American Reading Company will speak about what parents can do to help their child become a better reader. The event will be held at Clinton Elementary School, 110 Clinton School Road, Lancaster, SC 29720.

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