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Gains in Reading Expected to Spread

All 8 of the East Providence elementary schools are expected to benefit from a literacy partnership with Highlander Charter School.

The elementary-literacy program that is being expanded to all eight of East Providence's schools this year produced significant gains in reading at the pilot schools over the past two years.

"At Oldham, there was a 16 percent gain in scores," said Beth Salvillo, the coordinator for the program. "At Whiteknacht, there was a 13 percent increase."

The expanded focus on literacy is being made possible by another $170,000 federal grant to the Highlander Charter School of Providence, which has been working with the two schools since last year.

"We wrote the grant application in conjunction with the charter school," said Salvillo. "They had to partner with a public school system. It gives us a lot of opportunity to collaborate with them."

Highlander has a proven track record, she said.

The program works primarily by "enhancing what teachers are already doing" in the classroom, said Salvillo. "There are no new strategies or techniques. It just gives teachers ways to grow."

The money is not buying a new program, Salvillo stressed. She described it as like "an after-school graduate-level course" for teachers.

One of the ways teachers grow is by learning how to better use existing data to identify where a child is struggling in reading, she said. It helps to guide them.

Teachers also share ideas and strategies, Salvillo said. All of it led to the gains in student achievement.

"It's a win-win for everyone," Salvillo said.

Highlander is one of seven charter schools in the country to receive the competitive funding under the "Charter School Exemplary Collaboration Awards" program, which encourages charters and traditional public schools to share best practices and resources, according to the K-8 school.

Rose Mary Grant, president of Highlander Charter School and its Highlander Institute, said that the funds will be used to continue and expand the literacy work of the school and the institute.

"The collaborative model was based on the success of the Rhode Island Literacy Partnership, a five-year initiative out of the Highlander Institute," she said in a news release.

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