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Ivy Preparatory Academy Kirkwood School for Girls has partnered with the state to push scholars to read beyond grade level in a program that provides language and literacy coaching for kids and professional development for teachers.

The outreach, known as the Reading Mentor Program, is being funded by a three-year grant from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The Reading Mentor Program currently serves thousands of K-3 students across Georgia, including children at Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb County Schools, and Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy.

The Reading Mentor Program addition is part of a curriculum expansion at IPA Kirkwood School for Girls to increase rigor for scholars. Under the initiative, 90-minute blocks reserved for literacy and language instruction have been built into the daily academic schedule in the elementary school.

Sherry Miller, principal for IPA Kirkwood School for Girls, said the improvement is one of many on the horizon for students. “We do everything that we can to make sure our scholars can do everything they can to succeed,” she said. “Excellence in education is what we do.”

Under the initiative, reading will be a high priority in all core subjects.

“We want to challenge our scholars and meet their needs as it relates to reading and literacy,” said Pelita Merideth, an instructional coach at IPA Kirkwood School for Girls. “The key is to have more cross-curricular teaching so that we are not teaching reading in isolation. Scholars will see some of the same reading concepts emphasized in subjects like science and social studies.”

The Reading Mentor Program is supplying IPA Kirkwood School for Girls with teacher training and classroom support throughout the grant period. An expert literacy coach from GOSA visits the campus to teach classroom teachers how to use student data to design lessons that increase reading scores for their students.

“We come in once a week and enhance what is being done in schools within literacy and language,” said Kimberly Turner, program manager for GOSA’s language and literacy initiative. “We provide support that ranges from professional learning and co-teaching to analyzing data. We screen students in K-3 with a literary assessment to see where they are in their understanding of letter-sound recognition, phonics, and reading comprehension. It’s a three-year program with the hope that we will build capacity in staff to sustain student growth and teacher development.”

According to program goals set by IPA Kirkwood School for Girls, by the end of year one in the program 80 percent of students in grades K-3 will demonstrate reading progress in fluency and comprehension as measured by a standardized assessment. The proficiency levels increase throughout the life of the grant.

The focus on reading across the curriculum will help students excel in other classes, administrators say.

“When scholars improve their reading skills, they can boost their overall academic performance because reading is the foundation for learning,” said Alisha T. Morgan, executive director of Ivy Prep Academies..

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