Origins of the Academy
Despite the best efforts of their teachers, approximately 30% of Richmond students do not pass the third-grade ISTEP+ Language Arts (Reading) test – the first in the series of statewide ISTEP+ tests.
Why This is Important
Not reading on grade level at this age is a highly-correlated “early predictor” of dropping out of high school.
- Increase reading performance by one F&P level.
- Increase performance on standardized reading tests.
- Increase positive attitude toward reading.
Starting the Academy
In 2007, local citizens decided it was time to try an experiment in support of the regular educational system. The result: an intensive, independent, voluntary, community-based, instructional program with a single, laser-like focus – to make sure that all third-grade students in Richmond would be reading on grade level by the time they entered the fourth grade.
The first Academy was conducted in 2008, with Dr. William Doering developing the curriculum and serving as headmaster. That year, all of the necessary funds were raised directly from individuals in the Richmond community and through the Wayne County Foundation. In 2009, there was a more formal partnership with Richmond Community Schools. By successfully responding to a call for proposals, the Academy garnered approximately two-thirds of its total cost from the school system. Dr. Lou Ann Moore, a retired elementary school principal and a specialist in literacy education, was the instructional director.
How it Works
The Third Grade Academy is a community-based “school without walls.” Students choose one or more learning sites best suited to them, based on their interests. The locations have included settings at local colleges, museums, the arboretum, and the public library. Full-day classes are scheduled over a four-week period beginning in late June. Classes, limited to 10 students, are directed by highly trained teachers and an instructional assistant. The standards-based curriculum is focused on reading and writing, with an eye toward skills assessed by the IRead3 exam.
Pre- and post-tests showed that Third Grade Academy Students increase their average scores in that period.
An immeasurable benefit of the summer learning experience was a change in student attitude toward reading in particular and learning in general. According to their personal comments, students grew in their love of reading and were developing a love for learning.