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YMLA31Ivy Preparatory Academies has partnered with the Governor’s Office Of Student Achievement in a three-year initiative to boost reading scores at the Kirkwood boys’ school.
The language and literacy partnership will supply Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy with teacher training and classroom support from an expert coach in the state’s Reading Mentor Program. The focus on reading will push scholars to read at and beyond grade level.
“When scholars improve their reading skills, they can increase their performance in core subjects because reading is the foundation for learning,” said Alisha T. Morgan, executive director of Ivy Prep Academies, who initiated the partnership with the state.
Ivy Prep is one of nine school districts in GOSA’s North Georgia region to participate in the Reading Mentor Program. Statewide the outreach serves “thousands” of students including those in Atlanta Public Schools and DeKalb County Schools, said Kimberly Turner, program manager for the language and literacy initiative.
“We come in once a week and enhance what is being done in schools within literacy and language,” Turner said. “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.”
Coaches from the state’s Reading Mentor Program also teach classroom teachers how to use student data to assist in the development of strategies and lessons to boost reading scores.
IPYMLA is in the midst of an academic overhaul to boost student achievement after it was placed on a state list of struggling schools earlier this year. A total of 140 Georgia public schools – including 27 from DeKalb County – on the list were warned that they could face a state takeover to improve student performance under a plan that was recently approved by the Georgia Legislature. 
According to Georgia Department of Education state data, IPYMLA is trailing state averages in English. About 77 percent of YMLA elementary school boys met and exceeded standards in English/Language Arts in 2014 and about 94 percent – 2 percentage points fewer than the previous year – met and exceeded standards in reading. The state average for elementary school students who met and exceeded standards in English and reading is 90 percent and 95 percent respectively. DeKalb County school district averages for students who met and exceeded standards in English in 2014 was nearly 84 percent, also higher than IPYMLA.
IPYMLA, however, did out-perform DeKalb’s reading exam average scores for elementary and middle school. Approximately 91 percent of DeKalb Schools’ elementary students met or exceeded standards in reading, which was three percentage points lower than IPYMLA’s reading achievement scores.
In middle school, 83 percent of IPYMLA boys met and exceeded standards in English/language arts and about 88 percent met or exceeded standards in reading. Both scores were below DeKalb County Schools’ averages of 88 percent and 92 percent and state averages of 93 and 96 percent.

The state partnership is one of the latest proactive steps administrators have taken to reverse declines in student achievement. IPA also contracted the services of Yardstick Learning, one of the nation’s leading strategic management consulting firms, to provide assistance with improving school operations. In addition, a task force of local, state, and national education experts has been offering support and guidance to IPYMLA as administrators work to improve student progress.

Morgan said that Ivy Prep purchased a national MAPP assessment tool to monitor how scholars at IPYMLA are progressing in English/Language Arts and mathematics. A benchmark assessment will be conducted on Oct. 1. New assessments will be given every six to eight weeks.
Teachers will use student progress data to help scholars understand their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses. Assessment data also will be shared with parents so that scholars can also work at home to strengthen their mastery of core curriculum concepts.
“We need parents to work with us as partners,” Morgan said. “Together we can improve student achievement at IPYMLA and all of our campuses.”
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