Eaton schools part of state literacy research


EATON — The Ohio Department of Education and Workforce is partnering with researchers from the Ohio Education Research Center (OERC) to conduct a study on “positive outlier” schools around Ohio, and Eaton Community Schools was selected to be included in the research project.

Hollingsworth East Elementary School and William Bruce Elementary School were identified as “literacy positive outlier schools,” meaning the students are demonstrating significant growth in literacy from their initial kindergarten scores to their third grade reading state assessments, according to an announcement made by ODEW.

On Thursday, May 2, representatives for the OERC completed their tours and interviews related to the research study to learn more about how the schools were able to support students’ literacy achievement, despite barriers they faced during the pandemic.

The study with the goal of identifying and sharing best practices with Ohio’s broader education field, according to officials, highlighting best practices of select schools around Ohio. East and Bruce were selected as one of five to seven schools to participate in the research process. Out of 2,000 schools looked at, Eaton was in the top 15 making above-average growth, according to school officials.

The Ohio Department of Education and Workforce decided to do the research on the students who are currently in fourth grade and the effects the Covid pandemic had on their education. “In 2020, they were kindergarteners when we had our shutdown. They looked at their kindergarten fall scores because every year you have to do kindergarten assessment. And every year we have to submit to the state who’s on track for reading and who’s off,” Assistant Superintendent MissAnne Imhoff said.

“What they did was they project every year where those kids would be when they take a state test. We exceeded the projection,” she added.

Imhoff emphasized the need for a systematic approach to teaching reading, personalized learning, and parent-teacher partnership.

“Our work has been around the whole child in regards to if there’s a behavioral issue, what’s on the inside that’s causing them to act on the outside,” Imhoff said. “We’ve got a lot of emotional and mental health pieces, like the success liaisons, and our staff community mental health therapists are part of the wraparound for those kids. We’re trying to really make sure our kids are ready to learn. Then we have our systems that are helping them learn.

“They missed part of their kindergarten, which is huge. And in first grade they came masked, that was our mask year. So we’re trying to teach sounds. So we went to the screens where they were supposed to be able to try to see our lips, but, those don’t work. One thing after another when those kids were in first grade, and then by second grade, our system was kind of picking up,” she added.

Technically it was whatever happened between first and second that bumped them up from kindergarten, she said.

The teachers struggled. “But they are resilient people. They’re workers, and if it’s what’s best for kids, they’re willing to look at it and do it as hard as it might be,” she said. “They also struggled with having to change their philosophy.”

For the community, it is “great is for them to really feel like they’re partners with us to understand that we consistently do what’s best with whatever,” Imhoff added.

“I don’t know how many of them remember what first grade was like. I can tell you what kindergarten was like and I can tell you what first grade was, because that’s me, but I think most parents wouldn’t be able to say to you what happened in second grade. So this whole ‘learning to read’ thing has kind of spun itself because no one remembers how they learned to read,” she said. “I think that’s why teachers get more exhausted and more overwhelmed because there’s not an extra minute in the day to teach what they need. And I think that that’s why we need parents. Parents are crucial.”

“They’re picking our brains,” Imhoff said of the researchers.

The group will then take the information back and put it together to present best practices to ODEW.

“They (the students) made so much growth that they (state education officials) went ‘Hmm, I wonder what they were doing?’” Imhof said. “And now they’re trying to figure out what we were doing, so it’s the qualitative part of the quantitative research.”

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on X @emowenjr.

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