This article was originally published in the PA Principals Association 
e-newsletter, The Advisory.

Huntingdon County, a rural county located in central Pennsylvania, is home to more than 6,000 pre-K – 12th grade students. More than 40% come from economically disadvantaged homes. Hundreds of the young children are being served by the area’s Head Start program operated by the Huntingdon County Child and Adult Development Corporation (HCCADC).

To improve literacy in Huntingdon County, Southern Huntingdon County School District (SHCSD) and Mount Union Area School District (MUASD) both applied for and received Keystones to Opportunity (KtO) Grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

After learning about GrapeSEED, an oral language and critical listening program for young students, SHCSD piloted GrapeSEED in early 2015 in multiple kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Based on the success of students during the pilot, usage was expanded into all kindergarten and first grade classrooms as well as preschool, pre-K and the Head Start classrooms. To give an example of the continued success they were seeing, SHCSD shared results from the kindergarten classrooms based on the Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GRADE) assessments that were administered in September 2015 and again in January 2016. The data showed that all five kindergarten classrooms started at below the national mean score, but after using GrapeSEED, all of the classrooms improved at a faster rate than expected.

directional tracking teaches literacy development

GrapeSEED Classroom at SHCSD

Talking about one of those classrooms, Stacey Miller, KtO Project Director for SHCSD, stated: “The teacher saw her students’ GRADE test scores improve from below average (53 points) in September 2015 to 122 on the mid-year assessment, which is above the national mean score of 88. Additionally, not one student was considered at risk on Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) following the mid-year assessment. All students had significant growth. GrapeSEED is the only thing different in that class from the previous year,” she explained.

kto grant helps GrapeSEED classes

Huntingdon County Pre-K Counts GrapeSEED Class in Mount Union

Louise Ketner, Executive Director of the HCCADC, mentioned that in the short time that Head Start staff has been using GrapeSEED, her teachers and staff have also noticed a difference. “It is helping the children with transitions and behavior issues. Children are less impulsive and more focused during activities. They are beginning to recognize letters and words they didn’t know before,” she said. “They also enjoy singing the songs and activities.”

MUASD under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Brett Gilliland has also begun using GrapeSEED. Gilliland is optimistic that the strong partnership between MUASD and the HCCADC coupled with the KtO grant funding and use of GrapeSEED will have MUASD students making gains in literacy similar to SHCSD in the coming year.

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