TAMPA — Sulphur Springs Elementary School wasn't always a place that won state awards. At one point, only two third-graders were reading at grade level. Crime is high in the neighborhood and 99.6 percent of students qualify for reduced-price lunches. But things are changing; on Friday the school was named the state's top reading leadership team. Call it vindication for a school that climbed up from the bottom rung, from two straight F grades to a B in 2009. "You have to celebrate any successes, even the small ones," principal Christi Buell said at a morning gathering with teachers. "We believe we have a really good model here." Among Sulphur Springs' lessons:
Crunch lots of data
Figure out exactly where each student is falling short. Are kids failing to decode the meaning of individual words? Are they struggling to link all those phrases together into ideas?
Spread the knowledge
Make sure teachers know what each student needs to improve, and which materials and techniques are right for them.
Create a reading frenzy
Organize student reading clubs, fun contests and book talks. Gather high-interest titles, up-to-date computer software and effective reference materials for teachers and volunteers.
Train every adult
Focus on research-based practices, and don't stop with the reading teachers. Train classroom teachers, hold evening sessions for parents, and help afterschool volunteers become reading teachers, too.
Extend school day and year
Offer afterschool and summer activities in partnership with a group like the YMCA, so kids have a reason to stick around after the final bell. When necessary, tutoring comes before dodgeball.