Reading is fundamental to governor’s initiative

  • Thursday, January 16, 2014

All of Georgetown County’s elementary schools would get an additional reading coach under an education initiative Gov. Nikki Haley unveiled this week.

The “K-12 Education Reform Initiative” includes

$29.5 million to fund a reading coach in every public elementary school in the state.

The coach at six county elementary schools - Andrews, Brown’s Ferry, Maryville, McDonald, Plantersville and Sampit - would be fully funded by the state.

Those are schools where 20 percent or more of students failed to meet basic state standards for reading, according to Haley’s initiative.

Three hundred elementary school in the state would get 100 percent funding.

The state would provide 50 percent of the funding for coaches at Waccamaw Intermediate, Coastal Montessori Charter and Kensington, Pleasant Hill and Waccamaw elementary schools.

Three-hundred-and-forty state schools would get 50 percent funding.

Recent studies have shown that students who are not reading proficiently by the end of the third grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school on time.

In 2013, South Carolina ranked 42nd in the country in the percentage of fourth-graders scoring at or above basic on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Sabrina Goff-Mack, principal at Sampit Elementary in Georgetown, would be “thrilled” to have another reading coach join the other curriculum coaches at her school.

“Coaches are very important because they’re able to work with teachers and offer support,” Goff-Mack said.

The school has guided and independent reading programs, encourages students to read 30 minutes in school and 30 minutes at home, and sends books home with kids.

“Studies show in order to improve the reading you have to practice the reading,” Goff-Mack said. “Society has changed and we have kids with more technology background. ... Maybe books are not as valued. It’s a part of society. We live in an age of technology.”

She said reading education needs to start at home, before kids go to school.

“When they haven’t had those opportunities we have to provide those opportunities.”

Haley’s education initiative also calls for modernizing technology and improving bandwidth at the state’s schools.

Bandwidth in the state’s 82 school districts ranges from below 100 megabits per second, to between 1,500 and 3,000 megabits per second. The majority, 48 districts, have between 120 and 150 megabits per second.

Haley’s budget includes $29.3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund to improve bandwidth and wireless connectivity at schools.

The funding will be divided unequally, with poorer districts receiving twice as much money as wealthier district.

Haley is also allocating $4 million for technology training for teachers.

The governor’s budget proposal also includes $6 million for summer reading camps and up to $5 million for reading-related professional development for teachers.

All of the governor’s proposals need approval by the state Legislature.

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