Third Grade Success Act Advancing Pocahontas Schools’ Elementary Literacy and Math

We recently asked Stephanie Burns, the Pocahontas County Schools’ Reading Coach to provide an update about their implementation of the new West Virginia legislation called the Third Grade Success Act.

“Hello, I wanted to update the community on the Third Grade Success Act,” Burns said. “I talked to you back in September, I believe, on the new legislation, and how the Pocahontas County Schools were handling the Third Grade Success Act. Just to review, the third Grade Success Act is a plan, that’s a multi-tiered system support for the educators and the students to have the steps needed to improve our literacy and math scores.  They involve adding bench marks, making sure they are state-approved, adding additional para-professionals for grades first through third in a three-year phase. Making sure student-assistant team meetings are being held for students who cannot meet the cut-scores, and, that is for math and for literacy. And continue parent communication, which has been happening previously, but there are steps in place to ensure that is continuing.”

“We currently now have a Pocahontas County science of reading team. It is called ‘Science of Reading Literacy Leaders of Pocahontas County.’ We met with the state in late September, and those members are Becky Spencer; Michelle Murphy; Gena Hardesty; Diane Delfino; Marsha Beverage; Kristi Tankersley, Katherine LaFleur; Kaylie Kelly; and myself. And, during that time, we created an implementation plan for the whole county. We are meeting monthly.”

“Our necessary responsibilities are:

  • To communicate and collaborate with the West Virginia Department of Education.
  • To collaborate with the State Literacy specialists.
  • Create the Action Plan.
  • And add data collection activities.”

“This year, we are going to research and select a systematic phonics program, because we are finding out that our curriculum, we adopted is lacking a explicit systematic phonics approach. All educators also in elementary levels will be trained in Science of Reading this year, if not by January, 2025. We are going to start in the spring.”

“We do have some specific goals. We are going to train all elementary staff not only in Science of Reading, but we are going to evaluate our current curriculum. We are pretty confident that phonics is a definite gap in all of our early elementary grade levels, but we want to determine if there are any additional curriculum gaps or strategies that we need to implement within our elementary grade levels. We are hoping that by next fall, we will have a more concrete plan of the direction our county is going.”

“We are struggling with finding time to train staff because it is not necessarily built within our schedule. We are going to be looking at professional learning days to train staff in Science of Reading. And, we may be looking at some summer days, if staff is willing to devote that time.”

Stephanie, how much student performance improvement are you hoping to achieve by implementing this plan?

“We created a plan (in the) beginning of October, and that plan has already changed once we determined some more major needs.  We tended to create our plan that was pretty high level, and we realized we need to step it back and simplify our steps, so we can actually reach our ending goal, which is by 2026, having at least 75% of our children at grade levels where they should be in third grade in grade level reading and grade level math.”

Thank you.

Be sure to keep listening to Allegheny Mountain Radio, as we will also air an interview with Duane Gibson, the Pocahontas County School’s new Director of Maintenance, Transportation and School Safety,

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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