Jeff Davis School Board unveils plan to improve literacy skills

Published 9:57 am Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Jeff Davis Parish School Board unveiled plans this week to improve literacy skills for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and junior high students at Welsh-Roanoke Junior High School.

Assistant Superintendent Ben Oustalet updated the School Board on plans to hire literacy coaches to help students improve their reading skills and become successful readers while improving test scores.

“It is important that students are where they need to be and it’s very important that we get students at the benchmark that they are ready to be successful,” Outstalet said. “If you don’t, the problem becomes magnified the older the child gets and eventually it really causes academic struggles.”

Email newsletter signup

“If you can catch them early enough, you can make a difference, especially in the foundational years leading up to the third grade,” he continued. “It’s vital for children,

He said literacy has always been an important part of education because of its ties to the curriculum and academic growth for students.

School districts throughout the state have been allocated funds to address literacy from birth through five and kindergarten to fifth grade, he said.

Jeff Davis Parish was awarded $300,000 to pay salaries and benefits for three literacy coaches. The literacy coaches will rotate throughout the parish to assist teachers and reach as many students as possible.

“This money will help us to beef it up and to support our teachers so we can continue to improve reading skills and test scores,” Oustalet said.

The literacy coaches will work with teachers and students to develop strategies to improve reading skills and test scores.

Early intervention is vital for struggling readers, especially in the foundation years leading up to the third grade.

“The ultimate goal is for kids to be reading on grade level by the time they get to third grade,” he said.

Beginning next school year, students who do not meet the reading benchmark assessments on the state’s Dibels testing by third grade will not be promoted to the next grade level. The Dibels test, which measures phonemic awareness and phonics, will be given to students three times a year.

“They want children to be proficient,” Outstalet said.

The parish currently has instructional coaches, which have worked with the curriculum, supervisors and teachers across the district.

“They have done some literacy, but it has not been solely literacy,” he said.

The literacy coaches will focus primarily on students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade. They will also provide intervention for students with disabilities at Welsh-Roanoke Junior High School which currently has an academic label.

“Our goal is to get that label taken off their school, improving their scores,” Oustalet said.

Outstalet said the parish plans to reapply for the literacy funding as long as funds are available.

“It’s our hope that we can continue to get some state funds and federal funds to support literacy,” he said.