By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Nineteen third-graders at Washington Elementary School are getting a helping hand with their literacy skills thanks to a grant from the Raymond, Norbert and Eleanor Rueter Fund.
The fund -- administered by the Community Foundation of the Quincy Area -- awarded a $4,410 grant to Washington School in October. That money is being used to pay six teachers to come in early or stay late three days a week to provide "extended day" tutoring for the 19 students.
The goal is to boost the academic performance of the selected third-graders, all of whom had been performing below third-grade standards in reading and writing.
Principal Sara Cramer said the students chosen for the program were at least 1 1/2 to two years behind in their literacy skills, based on standardized tests given three times a year.
Cramer said it's important for third-graders to have basic reading and writing skills before they enter Baldwin Intermediate School as fourth-graders, so she was grateful to see the grant come through as a way to help the 19 targeted students.
"We picked third-graders (for the extended day program) because if they do not know how to read and write by the time they leave third grade, there's research out there that says they probably will not be successful from there on out," Cramer said.
The extended-day tutoring is given to students on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for about 30 minutes each day. Students either come to school early or stay late to get the individualized help.
The students also receive additional "interventions" during the normal school day to help bump up their literacy skills -- on top of attending their regular classes.
"So they're actually getting two extra layers of support on top of what every child is getting in the classroom," Cramer said. "We're very hopeful that we'll have the results we're looking for and see a boost in their reading achievement and their writing achievement."
Alisa Sanders, a Reading Recovery teacher and literacy coach-in-training at Washington School, is one of the six teachers involved in the program. She feels the tutoring is helpful to students -- especially because it takes place at the beginning or end of the day and is in addition to regular classroom work and other interventions offered at school.
"As teachers, our biggest constraint seems to be time. And the fact that people are willing to look outside of our school day can really help benefit these kids," Sanders said.
"The most important instruction for these kids is their core classroom instruction. One reason we're lucky enough to have this grant is that we don't have to pull them from any other type of instruction that they're receiving during the day to receive an extra intervention on top of what they're already getting in the classroom."
Matthew Mann, a 9-year-old third-grader, is a participant in Washington's extended-day tutoring program. He likes the program and feels it's helping him become a better reader and writer.
"It helps us so we can get our reading skills up more and that we can learn new things about words and letters and apostrophes," he said during a break in one tutoring session this week.
"We come here to read and write about what the characters (in storybooks) are doing and saying, and who's the bad one and who's the good one in the story," he said.
Matthew said he doesn't mind staying after school several times a week to work on reading and writing.
"We don't care -- until it's summer break when it's really nice outside," he said.
The Raymond, Norbert and Eleanor Rueter Fund offers grants each year to local educators as a way to help students who need some specialized education to improve their academic performance.
Cramer submitted the grant application because she was looking to create an extended-day tutoring opportunity that would dovetail with literacy intervention programs already offered by the district.
Cramer said she initially checked to see if any money for extended-day services might be available through the district's Title 1 federal funding, which goes to certain schools with a high percentage of students from low-income homes.
"At that point in time, it did not look like there would be any funding available for extended-day provided through the district," Cramer said. "So I thought this (grant program) would be an opportunity to service some kiddos, and we were fortunate enough to receive the funding."