Last updated: April 08. 2014 3:18PM - 1213 Views
Jason Angus jangus@civitasmedia.com

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Over 30 area public school educators met with State legislators and representatives of Catapult Learning for a Legislative Luncheon on Friday, April 4, at the former Altus High School Library to discuss issues surrounding public education.

Senator Mike Schulz and Representative Charles Ortega sought input from teachers and administrators concerning Reading Sufficiency to present to Committee members at the State Capitol during the current legislative session.

Following a catered meal by La Plaza Catering, courtesy of Catapult Learning, educators gave feedback on Catapult Learning’s “Literacy First” reading assessment program.

Several teachers and administrators praised Literacy First for being a “complete package” when compared to other reading assessments. The program keeps schools accountable and teachers completely informed on each student’s performance level, and gives an accurate diagnosis and target area, explained Rivers Elementary School Principal Robbie Holder.

“It’s important for us to tell our parents, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ We’re not playing a guessing a game with Literacy First,” Holder said. “It’s a complete package. When the Reading Sufficiency Act came along it fell right into place. I believe that it has truly made a difference because my school is so fluid at River’s Elementary school. We have so many kids coming in and out that we’ve been able to diagnose and target kids who come to us from different countries, different school systems, and know exactly what we need to target in those kids help them read. It is the reason our reading program has become so successful over the years.”

Eldorado Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Harold Hays commented about their use of the program when it was offered to their school under a 3-year grant several years ago.

“As we were implementing it each year, we were finding that this was really an exceptional program for classroom teachers and for the students,” said Hays. “I wish they would put it back as a line item. If you have not at least investigated Literacy First, you need to take a strong look at that because it does work.”

Washington Elementary School Principal Rene Long compared other reading assessments to Literacy First stating they don’t provide as much diagnostic information or depth as Literacy First.

Senator Schulz and Representative Ortega were both active in the discussion.

“The comments today are dead on of what we need to hear,” Senator Schulz said. “So when we go back… we can talk to them about the details of these programs and why they work.”

Additionally, Schulz stated that the Rally For Education on March 31, went very well. Over 130 students, teachers and administrators met with Legislators at the State Capitol to discuss issues surrounding public education.

“The education community has allowed it’s voice to be heard,” Representative Ortega added about the education rally.

Currently, Altus, Lawton, Norman, and Still Water Public School Districts are the only schools in the State using the Literacy First program through a $455,000 competitive grant according to Catapult Learning Lobbyist Shawn Lepard. Altus implemented the diagnostic program approximately 14 years ago allowing teachers to detect reading deficiencies for grades K-3rd. The program was appropriated as a line item for $2.8 million in the State’s budget until 4 years ago when the Department of Education implemented the REACH program. Lepard stated that they continue to ask legislators to restore the full amount for the program state-wide and increase the funding of the competitive grant.

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