CIS celebrates student achievement, grant

Published 12:58 pm Friday, August 31, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Clanton Intermediate School celebrated being one of the top 50 schools in the state for third grade reading scores and receiving $20,000 during a special assembly on Aug. 31.

The funds are being awarded by the Alabama State Department of Education.

Fourth-grade students were congratulated on their hard work the previous year.

“You should be very proud of yourself,” Chilton County Schools Superintendent Jason Griffin said. “To challenge you third graders this year, you have a lot to hold up to because we expect that same thing from you this year,” Griffin said.

He emphasized that CIS was on the same list as schools from larger school systems, such as Hoover and Pelham.

“You are on the list with schools that are a lot bigger than we are and have a lot of advantages that we don’t, so I am very impressed with what you have done,” Griffin said.

Principal Louise Pitts said the teachers and the students worked hard. Improvement is based on comparison of April state test scores as compared to August scores.

“I am just blown away by this faculty and staff and these students at this school about how competitive and wiling you are to improve yourselves,” Pitts said. “I love it.”

Pitts said the funds will likely be used to purchase interactive teaching boards and Chromebooks.

There were 11 third grade teachers, a special education teacher and reading coach that helped students increase their reading comprehension last year.

Some, like Shannon Wyatt, were veteran teachers. For others, last year was their first year teaching.

“I am so beyond excited, especially for us to be a small school here in Chilton County and that we are up to par with the other schools in the state,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt, who has been teaching for 20 years, said “a holistic approach” to reading focused on vocabulary, fluency, phonetics and comprehension helped her students achieve the level of reading proficiency that they did.

Reading nonfiction materials and chapter books was also incorporated to foster “a love of reading, a love of chapter books,” Wyatt said.

“Third grade is that tie in their life when they are actually able to read longer books,” Savannah Diaz, who taught for the first year last year, said. “Third grade is that moment where they realize they can read chapter books, if they want to, so it helps get them interested in reading.”

She said the state recognition was “reassurance … that I was trained and I know what I’m doing that I don’t have to stress about it — that I’m well-prepared” because she has started teaching in January last year.

Kaitlyn Chance and Justin Watkins were also first-year teachers. Each said teaching students in small groups played a key role in helping students.

“You are able to get more one-on-one with the students and really impact them more as opposed to whole group,” Chance said.

She said this approach allowed her to help students work on specific areas. Improving vocabulary was a focus, especially the meanings of prefixes and suffixes for all of her students.

Chance and Watkins said knowing the meanings of prefixes and suffixes helped students be able to build words.

Watkins said reading comprehension was a focus for his classroom.

“I’m really proud of my students and everybody else’s students,” Watkins said. “The teachers did a great job, and they helped us as first-year teachers as well.”

“I’m ecstatic,” Chance said.

CIS keeps track of students’ progress throughout the year using a number of different programs. Accelerated Reader helps track students’ reading comprehension, while online learning games help determine mastery of other specific aspects of reading.

This data is reviewed weekly. Pitts said she meets with the reading coach and teachers in short meetings about how students can improve and who may need extra help. Suggestions and recommendations are also made.

Pitts said the meetings are meant to be a positive to help teachers help students. She emphasized that every teacher at the school knows how to read the data.

“The teachers here work hard,” Pitts said.

She said teachers are what make the greatest difference in a child’s learning.

Three of the third-grade teachers from last year have moved to other schools. Of these, two are now assistant principals.