Mitchell Community Schools have switched the focus onto literacy efforts with new program

MITCHELL – Dr. Steve Grissom presented information and results to the Mitchell Community School board about a new program implemented at Hatfield Elementary School to focus on literacy.

Hatfield Elementary Principal Dr. Steve Grissom

“What I Need” or W.I.N. is a winning program focused on preparing students for success when it comes to literacy in their grade levels, a problem that has plagued the United States as a whole in recent years.

The program started as a question that ended up being an idea that produced a way to increase student achievement in literacy, to ensure each student can read at grade level or better, which in turn allows them future success in other areas of learning.

Members of the Mitchell Community School Board, from left: Cynthia Brooking, Steve Burton, Crystal Mikels, Patrick Redman, Schoolboard President Christopher Shaw, Superintendent Dr. Brent Comer, Assistant Superintendent Jessica Jones, and MCS Attorney Greg Pittman

A discussion ensued among the school improvement team and grade level teachers on how they could succeed in implementing a new system of learning to help each student succeed which resulted in:

  • Identifying the power skills students needed to master at each grade level from K-2
  • Aligning skills needed on a K-2 continuum
  • Building lessons and assessments specific to the skill sets
  • Designing a spreadsheet to monitor and track student progress and needs
  • The curriculum is taught for 30 minutes a day, four days a week, and classroom teachers monitor the instructional pace
  • Teachers give quick checks to see if students mastered a skill or if the student needs additional help
  • Teachers then divide students into small groups depending on their areas of need to work together on mastering each level
  • If a student demonstrates mastery the teacher marks the skill on a literacy continuum spreadsheet which allows staff to target specific needs of each student
  • Teachers meet weekly to discuss students who obtained mastery to the next skill level to work toward
  • Teachers reteach skills and offer additional support as needed for students who may be struggling with a certain level/step
  • Each student remains in the specific mastery skill until they pass it, to ensure they understood the assignment

The school currently has 17 groups that have been identified for teachers, and support staff who work towards getting the students to grade-level literacy.

“The education system is in a crisis, 67 percent of students do not read at or above grade level. The COVID-pandemic has caused larger learning gaps that Hatfield is committed to changing. There is no room for failure, and all students are held to this same standard, no matter their learning abilities,” said Dr. Grissom.

This program includes children who are also dealing with learning disabilities or who have special needs, because as Dr. Grissom stated, “We hold each student to the same standard, because the world will end up doing that in the future.”

The program has taken the time and commitment of each teacher to change lesson plans, four days out of the week; with approximately 30 minutes each day the school breaks off into their groups to help the students, and the staff has been dedicated to this new program.

The current kindergarten class of students could not master letter and letter sounds. By the end of working with these 22 students, only four did not master the skill at this time. Those students have been identified to have a learning disability.

Dr. Grissom thanked the school board for their support over the last two years, he has been at Hatfield as the school principal. The board asked what they could do to support his efforts, and the answer was staffing, as the next year of kindergarteners are expected to be larger than the 2021-2022 academic year.