KU Center for Research on Learning

KU Center for Research on Learning

Teacher from the Virginia School District teaching a young student and showing him a SIM Comparison Table.

2011 SIM Impact Award

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The 2011 SIM Impact Award honors four Virginia schools that are pioneers in their use of the Content Literacy Continuum to promote schoolwide improvements in literacy for all students. James River High School and Central Academy Middle School in Botetourt County and Patrick Henry High School and Liberty Middle School in Hanover County are this year’s recipients of the award, given by the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning to recognize schools or school systems that have widely adopted many components of the Strategic Instruction Model and that have collected and analyzed data related to their efforts to improve instruction and learning with SIM.

Though other schools across the country have adopted CLC, the extent to which the Virginia schools have embraced it is groundbreaking. The CLC framework they have put in place includes features not found in other CLC projects: They make extensive use of speech-language pathologists at all five CLC levels (see our feature on this innovative approach beginning on page 21), and they have transformed relationships made possible by middle school-high school feeder patterns to create meaningful, deep collaboration across schools.

“I often refer to these schools as the bellwether schools,” says Diane Gillam, project manager. “They are the leaders not just in their state but also on a national level. They find that hard to believe.”

Supported by a series of grants, beginning in 2005, the four Virginia schools have built self-sustaining CLC programs that establish a comprehensive, consistent educational experience for students from the time they enter sixth grade until they graduate from high school. At the heart of every discussion and every decision lies the question of what is best for students.

“There is nothing more gratifying than working with enthusiastic teachers and administrators who continue to promote student success,” says Jerri Neduchal, CLC site leader in Botetourt County. “Hanover and Botetourt counties deserve this award because of their untiring commitment to improving student achievement by enhancing instruction for all students. They have embraced CLC as a way of conducting business daily.”

From the beginning, the project was ambitious, with its long-term vision of establishing feeder-pattern demonstration sites in all eight regions in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Virginia Department of Education in partnership with the Center for Research on Learning chose the Botetourt and Hanover schools from a pool of applicants as the initial sites for the project.

The approach the partners took in the beginning was akin to dropping in the Green Berets, says Patty Graner, director of professional development at the Center. Barbara Ehren led the original work, supported by Rosemary Tralli and Joan Fletcher. SIM Professional Developers with years of experience, vast knowledge, and exceptional skills were deployed to build the understanding and knowledge of those schools to quickly establish use of SIM Learning Strategies and Content Enhancement Routines.

“The whole idea was to bring together people with a deep knowledge of SIM and embed those two levels of the CLC into the schools to get them started on their way to becoming CLC demonstration sites,” Graner says.

Even as the SIM special forces began their work, the schools set about building internal capacity by establishing Literacy Leadership Teams. These teams consist of teachers, who represent the diverse interests of the faculty, and the principal or a representative of the principal, who sits on the team not only to be supportive but also to become more knowledgeable about literacy issues at the secondary level. The teams serve as liaisons to faculty, soliciting opinions and suggestions from staff members, collaborating with SIM Professional Developers, and collecting and analyzing data to identify literacy needs throughout the school. In some cases, Literacy Leadership Teams are the guiding force for a school’s literacy-centered improvement efforts and have become synonymous with school improvement team.

“There has clearly been extraordinary leadership that has demonstrated a willingness to be in this for the long haul,” says Don Deshler, director of the Center for Research on Learning. “They’ve endured dead ends. They endured when the results went flat. They endured a host of things. But unlike so many others involved in school improvement efforts, they kept their eyes focused on the agenda.”

The schools’ endurance has paid off in the form of increasing scores on state assessments and notable improvements in students’ literacy skills across the board, as illustrated in our features on the schools beginning on page 13.

“It shows that when you challenge educators, they really do rise to the occasion if you give them something that is good for kids,” says Tom Manthey, project director, Virginia Department of Education.

For the Center, the higher test scores, open collaboration, routine reliance on data to guide decisions, and broad acceptance of new instructional techniques are exciting developments. Of equal value to our future work is a look at what factors contributed to the success in the four schools.

“They have taught all of us so much about what it takes for CLC to truly make an impact,” says Ann Hoffman, CLC site leader in Hanover County. “Their commitment is inspiring, and their efforts will be reflected in the successes experienced by teachers and students well beyond their schools and into the future.”

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“They have taught all of us so much about what it takes for CLC to truly make an impact. Their commitment is inspiring, and their efforts will be reflected in the successes experienced by teachers and students well beyond their schools and into the future.”

– Ann Hoffman

“The transformation from a middle school student to a high school student was much easier with the help of these strategies and routines because you know what to expect from the teachers. You know that they are going to teach you much like you were taught in the years before.”

—Matthew Flint, senior, James River High School

Thank you to the faculty and staff of Central Academy Middle School, James River High School, Liberty Middle School, and Patrick Henry High School for their hard work and dedication to improving adolescent literacy. A special thanks to those listed below for their exceptional leadership.

Botetourt School Division
Anthony Brads, Superintendent
John Busher, Assistant Superintendent
Joni Poff, Supervisor of Instruction, SIM Professional Developer
Diana Dixon, Former Director of Instruction

Central Academy Middle School
Tim McClung, Principal
Andy Bell, Teacher Leader
Cathy Cronise, Teacher Leader
Tammy Ferris, Teacher Leader
Pam Kettelson, Teacher Leader
Suzanna Mejia, Teacher Leader
SIM Professional Developer Apprentice
Denise Sprinkle, Teacher Leader
Building Leader, SIM Professional Developer
Susan Trumbo, Teacher Leader
SIM Professional Developer
Sandra Witt, Teacher Leader

James River High School
Jami Talbott, Principal
Jennifer Alderson, Teacher Leader
Donna Cox, Teacher Leader
SIM Professional Developer Apprentice
Richard Furman, Teacher Leader
Philip King, Teacher Leader
Leah Lorton, Teacher Leader, SIM Professional Developer
Dana McCaleb, Teacher Leader, Building Leader
SIM Professional Developer
Teresa Simmons, Teacher Leader
SIM Professional Developer
Dreama McMillan, Former Assistant Principal

Hanover School Division
Jamelle Wilson, Superintendent
Patrick Henry High School
Jeffrey Crook, Principal
Paul Vecchione, Former Principal
Brian Maltby, Co-Building Lead
Ian Shenk, Co-Building Lead
Farley Allen, Teacher Leader
Chris Belcher, SIM Professional Developer
Karin Caskey, Teacher Leader
Kristina Godbey, Teacher Leader
Cathy Guillena, SIM Professional Developer
Tara Holladay, Teacher Leader
Terri Lent, SIM Professional Developer
Elizabeth Markwood, SIM Professional Developer
Chrisana Reveley, SIM Professional Developer
Hannah Sacra, SIM Professional Developer
Princess Sawyer, SIM Professional Developer
Alice Scheele, Teacher Leader
Stacy Stanford, Teacher Leader
Kevin Trent, Teacher Leader
Peggy Whitlock, Teacher Leader
Jean Wright, SIM Professional Developer
Frances Warnick, Former Building Lead
Liberty Middle School
Donald Latham, Principal
Kendall Hunt, Former Building Lead
SIM Professional Developer
Janie Brown, SIM Professional Developer
Deverick Strand, Teacher Leader, SIM Professional Developer
Rhonda Booth, Teacher Leader, SIM Professional Developer
Holly Drake, Teacher Leader, SIM Professional Developer
Lisa Atkins, Teacher Leader, SIM Professional Developer
Lalisha Fitchett, Teacher Leader,
SIM Professional Developer Apprentice
Kim McCallister, Speech and Language Pathologist
Julie Dauksys, Reading Specialist, Building Lead
University of Kansas Center
for Research on Learning
Donald Deshler, Director
Barbara Ehren, Former Project Coordinator
Diane Gillam, Project Manager
Joan Fletcher, Former Site Leader
Rosemary Tralli, Former Site Leader & Project Coordinator
Ann Hoffman, Site Leader
Jerilyn Neduchal, Site Leader

Virginia Department of Education Support
Tom Manthey, Project Director
Doug Cox, Assistant Superintendent of Special Education
and Students Services
Patricia Abrams, Director of Special Education
Office of Special Education and Instructional Services
Virginia Tech T/TAC Support
Helen Barrier, SIM Professional Developer
Ben Tickle, SIM Professional Developer

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