Whitehall City Schools officials say they are so pleased with the results of a new intervention reading program being used by some 250 other schools throughout the state that they plan to expand the pilot next year to at least one other school in the district.
The program, called Project MORE, was piloted at Beechwood Elementary School this year with six selected students. According to the school's literacy coordinator, Tammy Eblin, its success is based on a very scripted regime using one-on-one intervention by volunteers.
Project MORE -- an acronym for Mentoring in Ohio for Reading Excellence -- is a science-based volunteer reading mentoring program being implemented in more than 200 schools in Ohio.
Initially, Project MORE was designed to raise the expectations and performance of children with disabilities in the area of reading but also has proven effective for students considered at-risk for reading failure, according to Eblin.
She chose five third-graders and one second-grader for the pilot this year at Beechwood. Using three student volunteers from Capital University, the youngsters spent 30 minutes four days a week with Project MORE mentors, reading and tracking their own progress in both fluency and comprehension.
The pilot lasted some nine weeks and was such a success that the district plans to expand it to Kae Avenue Elementary School next year -- and possibly further. It will serve as another tool in the district's collective belt in response to Ohio's new Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
Eblin said she chose the program because of its apparent success and its low cost. The program relies heavily on volunteers, either from local universities, the community at large or students themselves.
"I wanted to start off slowly so I could understand the whole process," said Eblin, who will share the students' successes with school board members later this month.
Eblin provides the lesson plans for the volunteers to carry out, and the volunteers provide the instruction and the mentoring.
"The relationship between the volunteers and the students is very important," Eblin said. "There definitely was a connection made ... and that made a huge difference."
According to an independent evaluation conducted by the Center for Evaluation Services at Bowling Green State University between 2002 and 2008, Project MORE significantly increased the reading levels of students with disabilities on both informal and standardized reading assessments.
According to Dr. Rich Wilson, co-director for the Center for Evaluation Services, over a six-year period, evaluation results have shown that "Project MORE students with specific learning disabilities made one-month reading gains for each month of structured intervention."
Helen Bluth, a professor and director of field services at Capital University, said she couldn't agree more.
"We feel (Project MORE) is a very successful program. The progress is very visible," she said. "I think a big part of this program is that it helps build confidence and helps the children take risks."
Bluth became familiar with the program some three or four years ago and has been impressed since then.
She also has enjoyed the partnership with Whitehall and plans to provide volunteers from her classes as Project MORE continues to expand in the district.