New legislation approved by the S.C. General Assembly last week and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday will create some significant, literacy-based initiatives.
The Aiken County School District will get state funding to introduce new literacy coaches in all 20 elementary schools this fall – starting in mid-August.
Thirteen Aiken schools with the highest poverty level will get full-time coaches; the remaining seven that don’t meet criteria will receive funding for a half position. However, those schools can make up the rest of the funds through other resources to provide a full-time position.
The state funding goes to all districts that exceed a 70 percent poverty rate. The Aiken District is above that level.
This action is a major component of “Read to Succeed.” The program’s most prominent component is intended to retain third-graders scoring below grade-level. That retention process won’t begin until the 2016-17 school year.
The state “will pay an allocation of $60,000 for each position,” said King Laurence, the District’s associate superintendent for instruction.
While there is no assurance about the longevity of the program, “I don’t see the legislators backing off from this,” Laurence said.
The District will have to move forward quickly to introduce the initiative. About half of the elementary schools have instructional coaches, and some schools may have Reading Recovery instructors who work with struggling first-graders.
During the transition to literacy coaches, Laurence expects those educators to apply for the new positions.
The positions are distinct from the existing jobs. Instructional coaches work with math, as well. The literacy coaches will focus on reading and also will have some teaching responsibilities.
However, the actual measure to measure a child’s reading ability has yet to be determined. The search for an assessment will be a significant part of the process.
The legislation also includes a substantial change to the 4-year-old kindergarten program. The state also will provide new funding, enabling each elementary school to introduce a full-day, 4-year-old kindergarten program. Currently, schools with 4-K classes have two half-day sessions. While the full-day classes will provide more help, especially to struggling students, others may not get a slot they would have received previously, Laurence said.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter.