Graduation rate a focus in Pew’s first meeting

COUNTY — Sitting among the School District of Pickens County’s board of trustees, Dr. Kelly Pew was center stage for her first SDPC board meeting as acting superintendent for the district on Monday evening.
As has been previously reported, officials in the SDPC have set out as one of their primary goals to reach an 80 percent graduation rate within the next five years. Toward this end, the SDPC has assembled a committee of people working together to develop graduation initiatives for the district.
During Monday’s meeting, Pew offered board trustees and the public an overview of the initiatives, some of which have already been implemented, to ensure the district reaches the 80 percent graduation goal they have set.
“Our expectation is that the graduation initiative is not just a high school problem,” said Pew. “It is something we have to deal with, K4 through 12th grade.”
Because early identification of and intervention for at risk students is crucial to improving graduation rates, the SDPC, following the recommendation of Dr. Pew, has targeted and expanded 4K programs district-wide.
By using Title I funds, the district has added 4K to Title I schools. This past spring a pilot of the Level Literacy program, also funded by Title I monies, was unfurled. Additionally, the Reading Recovery program was expanded so that elementary schools have a 1.0 FTE teacher in Reading Recovery.
“4K is very important for our early learners, so Title I funds will be used to provide an additional half-day class in schools with greater needs,” said Pew. “Our schools receiving additional 4K programs next year include McKissick, Central Elementary, West End Elementary (which will actually have 1.5 4K programs) Chastain Road Elementary, Liberty Elementary, Clemson Elementary, Crosswell, East End, Forest Acres and Six Mile, which will allow us to serve an additional 220 4K students.”
In the 2011-2012 school year, 4K programs began expansion in Title I schools. As a result, an additional 120 students were able to benefit from this programming. Pew said that 99.5 percent of students have demonstrated growth as a result of the 4K programs implemented in 2011-2012.
Another paramount component toward successfully increasing graduation rates in the SDPC are reading interventionists. Two FTE Reading Interventionists have been added in the district so that all schools have a full-time person devoted to reading and literacy programs.
“Between 500-750 students district-wide will be served during the FY 2012-2013 as a direct result of adding the FTE Reading Interventionists,” said Pew.
Ignite classes, which combine Leveled Literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) lessons, are specifically geared toward students moving from first to second grade. Classes will be composed of only 12 students per class. A total of 144 students will be served through this program.
“Students are selected based on at-risk factors. Because of the small class sizes, students can build relationships with their teachers, and parents can build relationships with the teachers,” said Pew. “Teachers will visit the homes of the students in their classes, and there will be a parent participation requirement where parents will have to read with their students, attend conferences, and be active in the learning of their children.”
Finally, four graduation coaches allocated through special revenue funds will be shared by each of the SDPC’s four middle and high schools. Twenty-five at risk students will be served.
Dr. Pew said that each graduation initiative will require an accountability component to ensure that the programs work and benefit both the students and the SDPC as it moves toward reaching an 80 percent graduation goal for Pickens County.