District Administration April 2017 - 56


SPONSORED WEB SEMINAR DIGEST

Transforming Low-Performing
Schools by Focusing on Literacy
Practical strategies for leading a turnaround
A District Administration Web Seminar Digest * Originally presented on January 31, 2017

For administrators taking on the challenge of turning around failing schools, developing a strategic
focus for improvement efforts is crucial. The Stringfellow Elementary School-a pre-K through 5 school
in the Colquitt County Schools in Georgia-had been one of the lowest-performing schools in the state,
was given a failing grade by the Georgia DOE and was under risk of state takeover.
Principals Tret Witherspoon and Josh Purvis helped develop and implement an ambitious schoolwide
improvement plan for the 2014-15 school year, which included a focus on early literacy through a variety
of approaches to instruction, intervention and family support. Within one school year, Stringfellow was
removed from the state's failing schools list after becoming one of the most improved and one of the
highest-scoring elementary schools in the district.
In this web seminar, Stringfellow's principals outlined the seven steps they took toward leading
change, discussed how leaders can make change less challenging, and described how Stringfellow used
Istation as part of its highly successful early literacy intervention program.

TRET WITHERSPOON
Principal
Stringfellow Elementary School
Colquitt County Schools (Ga.)
This is my third year as principal of Stringfellow Elementary. I had the experience of sitting in on a
presentation of Istation at my previous school, and
we were completely sold, so I wanted to bring it to
Stringfellow with me. At that point we had a School
Climate Star rating of 2 out of 5. Well, two weeks ago
we were awarded a rating of 4. That's a major accomplishment if you look at where we were and where
we are now.

JOSH PURVIS
Principal
Sunset Elementary School
Colquitt County Schools
We took seven steps toward developing our focus on
early literacy.
1. Select the curriculum. You want to analyze your
data and decide what is going to meet your individual

needs. We vetted lots of curriculum choices and lots
of software programs before we decided on our reading curriculum and on Istation.
2. Schedule your support. It's important that your
master schedule matches the demands of your curriculum. The same goes for choosing your software
program. You want to make sure that you can devote
ample time for your students to see the full benefit
from any online software programs that you choose.
3. Ensure fidelity of instruction. There certainly can
be pushback from veteran teachers who have been
using other methods for several years, and you have
to be willing to fight that battle and to hold the line,
but with the student outcomes in mind. Even the
greatest program in the nation is not going to be effective if it's not done with fidelity. Doing anything
with fidelity will improve student outcomes.
4. Implement some benchmarks. It paints a good
picture for how your year's going and allows you
to intervene and provide support in areas where it's
needed before you get to standardized test time.
5. Analyze your data. You don't want to just stop
with conducting benchmark assessments. You want to
fully analyze the data that you get from those assess-

View, comment, share this story online at DAmag.me/literacy
56 April 2017

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration April 2017

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