New Education Program Aims to Improve Reading and Math Learning in WV

The following is an interview with Stephanie Burns, the full-time ELA (English Language Arts) Instructional Coach for the Pocahontas County Schools, and with Kristy Tritapoe, the Director of Elementary Education and Curriculum for the school system. We talked with them about the Third Grade Success Act. That new law, which was WV House Bill 3035, was passed by both houses of the State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jim Justice on March 21, 2023.

Good afternoon. Stephany, could you tell us about the Third Grade Success Act?

“Good afternoon to you as well,” replied Stephanie Burns. It is designed to help support our students to increase our reading proficiency and our math proficiency. This bill encompasses several aspects to increase our elementary students. It includes teacher training, additional support personnel in the classrooms, assessments for Dyslexia and Dyscalculia, multi tiered support systems, intervention strategies, increased improvement of parent communication and in the future, extended-year programs.

(Note: The learning disorder dyslexia affects an area of the brain which affects learning reading, and dyscalculia affects the ability to learn math.)

Kristy, can you tell us the key components of this legislation?

“Yes,” said Kristy Tritapoe. “One of the key components is that it established individualized improvement plans for reading and math to meet the needs of each student. It also builds in thirty-minutes a day of intervention time for reading and math. And, we have more support staff in the early elementary to assist with the implementation. So, this year we have staff in First-Grade; next year it will be Second, and the following year it will be Third-Grade. And we also have ongoing professional learning in the Science of Reading.”

Kristy, what does this mean for our students in their futures?

“Tim, it means that students will be identified earlier,” Tritapoe answered. “And by providing additional supports promptly, it will allow students to be more successfully as they move through their school career and into adulthood.”

Stephanie, what does it mean for the staff and teachers?

“Well, in the bill it states that there will be ongoing training -professional learning- for staff relating to the science of reading, said Burns. “We’re learning on a daily basis (about) how we support staff. One thing we are learning is we had the privilege of adding Peer Professionals into our classrooms, but we did not provide the training to them. So, this whole process, we are learning as we go. But, once again, it will provide more opportunities for professional learning on the Science of Reading. It will also provide us with guidance and structure for teachers and schools throughout the county to provide an improvement plan for the students who are having troubles or concerns, and within that plan it will help guide how to assist that student to be more successful, whether it’s reading or math.”

Where are we at with implementing the program?

“Unfortunately, we are trying to catch up to the cart, because we didn’t have all the pieces in place; the state doesn’t have all the pieces in place yet,” answered Burns. “So, we are learning as we go, and the state is now adding training in September, where we needed the training before that. So, even if you have conversations with us by the end of the year, we will probably realize that we need to provide some extra support, or (that) it involves some additional aspects that we didn’t realize before.”

So, it is an ongoing process?

“Yes,” both Burns and Tritapoe answered simultaneously.

Do either one of you have anything else you would like to add?

“No, I would just would say that we are real excited, because we feel that this is where we need to go statewide,” replied Burns. “And, as you said before, it’s an ongoing process. And, our goal is to make sure our children are successful, and we are doing our best to make sure that they achieve that possibility.”

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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