Grants provide extra learning opportunities at Clairton schools

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 7:28 a.m.

Clairton City School District's education programs do not stop after the last bell of the school year rings.

The district offers summer tutoring to students headed to third through eighth grade and a high school Keystone enrichment program for upcoming sophomores and juniors. Both programs are funded through the Heinz Foundation.

The district is involved in a pilot program through the YMCA for incoming first- and second-graders called the Y Readers Program. The new initiative is funded by a $30,000 grant from the YMCA. Clairton is one of 40 schools in the nation to receive the grant.

“It's all reading,” second-grade teacher Jennifer Schlata said. “Our morning is a four-block model, which consists of guided reading, writing, working with words and self-selected reading. In the afternoon we have all enrichment activities, which include physical education, character education, art and music.”

Students in Y Readers are growing caterpillars into butterflies and they have field trips.

“We've been learning about nouns and syllables,” said Amiere Jackson, 7. “It's very fun.”

Amiere said he is entering second grade and likes to read books.

The tutoring and reading programs are to prevent the loss of skills over the summer.

“We're just keeping them right where they need to be on the grade level so hopefully they'll catch up right where they left off at the end of the year prior,” Schlata said.

District spokesperson Alexis Trubiani looked into programs offered by the YMCA.

Clairton teachers and aides are running the Y Readers Program.

“We have a model that we have to follow,” Schlata said.

High school literature teacher and Clairton Education Association president Jodie Harriman helps to instruct the Keystone program, which focuses on math, literature and biology.

“These kids were close to but not proficient (on the Keystone Exams),” Harriman said. “We offer a diagnostic program so that we can help them overcome the barriers that they had on the previous test. They should be successful when they take the test at the end of July ... It targets the areas they were lacking. We use released test items from the Keystone (Exam), which are the best methods of practice. We also use Study Island. It's a computerized program that's aligned to the common core (curriculum).”

Students will be able to take a retest, and will not have to take the test again if they pass with proficiency.

Junior Khalil Berry said he signed up for the program for the retest option and is learning the same information he would be in a regular classroom setting.

Roughly 75 students participate in the summer tutoring program offered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.

The Y Readers Program serves 26 out of 32 eligible students Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Approximately 50 students take part in the high school program Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.

District data/testing coordinator Angela Cooper said she has seen a lot of improvement in students who participate.

“We have a pretest before summer school to determine where their needs are,” Cooper said. “At the end of summer school we test them again ... In the past, students have increased their scores, Whether it's by moving to a different performance level or within that performance level, they have gone up several points depending on what the teacher is teaching at that time ... I have seen so many more students in the advanced stage than I have ever seen in all 34 years of being here.”

The impact of the Y Readers and the Keystone programs will not be known for awhile because they are new initiatives.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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