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Sylacauga City Schools improve literacy and math through professional development and instructional coaches


SYLACAUGA, Ala. – The Sylacauga City School (SCS) system, along with the rest of the country, saw a drastic decrease in literacy and math test scores since 2019, but the school system has been working on new teaching methods and practices to try and reverse the downward trend.

To help with improving literacy, over 40 teachers at Indian Valley Elementary School and Pinecrest Elementary School have participated in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training this year.

This professional development method equips SCS’s teachers with different strategies to teach “phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and language.”

“Teachers have adopted powerful instructional practices based on this dynamic professional development,” said Julie Green, District Reading Specialist.

Nichols-Lawson Middle School and Sylacauga High School teachers went through six days of professional development dealing with literacy as well as math.

The literacy training showed classroom teachers how to create assignments that engage students in reading grade-level texts in all subject areas and demonstrate their understanding of those texts orally and in writing.

Specialists from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) helped guide the teachers on these development days, and SCS instructors in both math and literacy are seeing the benefits already.

“SREB has changed the way we teach math in our district with phenomenal teaching strategies we all use in our classrooms every day,” said Gay Coley, math teacher at Nichols-Lawson Middle School. “One of the biggest assets SREB has provided us with is vertical teaming and collaboration among the high school and middle school math teachers. We are all now speaking a common math language which will benefit our students as they progress through our school system.”

In order to continue progressing in these new ways of teaching, all four schools now have instructional coaches.

Instructional coaches are experienced teachers who provide support for classroom teachers to implement the best practices gleaned from professional development.

The elementary schools have both a reading and a math coach to assist teachers, while Nichols-Lawson and Sylacauga High School have an instructional coach that assists with all subject areas.

Growth in teacher effectiveness is measured by student achievement, and improvement has been noted in all schools through classroom observations and periodic assessment data.

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