North Adams Schools Developing Districtwide Literacy Approach

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The school district is working on data-driven literacy efforts to create proficient readers.
"Literacy is critical to the academic achievement of all of our students, and it's a key factor in determining the success of our students," Kimberlee Chappell told the School Committee last week. "That's why literacy and equity are inextricably linked. If you can't read or write then you can't access anything. We live in the age of information, it is required that we have the skills to be able to read and write."
Not being able to read and write can make life much more difficult, she said.
Chappell, the district's literacy and Title 1 grant coordinator, said the schools are using the approach of gathering current data and then collaborating as a team to develop strategies to support students. 
The Nation's Report Card, part of the National Assessment of Educational Process, says only 65 percent of fourth-graders are capable of reading at or above a basic level. Massachusetts tracks slightly higher on average but North Adams is at roughly 50 percent. 
The schools are working within the Next Generation Science Standards of inquiry, which uses assessments to create evidence-based instruction that is aligned to state standards. The three-tiered design focuses on universal support, targeted support and intensive support.
"Each year we administer universal screeners in fall, winter and then again in spring to help us determine how to develop instruction that we will need," she said. Once we've collected the results ... We collaborate as a team on strategies that can help us maximize student growth. 
Teachers and leaders from across the district will be brought together to begin the process of developing a literacy plan that is cohesive throughout the district. Chappell said the school district is partnering on a four-part survey with Hill for Literacy, which provides training, professional development and data implementation. 
She said the results of the needs assessment will be shared with the educational team and then with the broader community later this month.
School Committee member Richard Alcombright asked what three things parents can do to support literacy efforts at home. Chappell said it depends on the grade but that the basics are reading to children, teaching them letter names and sounds, and how to put letters together to make words and build on sentences.
And just conversations and narratives, she said, can help in developing vocabulary.
"In the information age, I feel that there may be a lack of that when we're talking about interaction, human interaction," Chappell said. "The best thing you can do is talk about what's going on in your life. If you're boiling a pot of water, talk about putting the noodles in the boiling water and then use the language that goes along with it."
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said the schools are seeing some results from these efforts and noted that North Adams has the highest rate of prekindergarten participation in the county. 
"That early childhood experience can be very, very valuable to students," said Malkas. And while some parents may prefer to wait until kindergarten, "there are things that parents can do as well to start to develop those early literacy skills."
"Research shows us is that with the right instruction, 95 percent of students who have reading difficulties will become proficient readers and writers and as public educators it is our moral imperative to make sure that we have that goal," Chappell said. 

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Hundreds Still Without Power in North County, Stamford

A new pole is in place for a transformer on Main Road in Stamford. 

Update: The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., has issued another severe thunderstorm watch until 8 p.m. for Berkshire County, eastern New York and Southern Vermont. 

STAMFORD, Vt. — Nearly 18 hours after severe thunderstorms pummeled the region, hundreds of customers are without power. 

The latest update estimates is that power will be back on at 2 p.m. in North Berkshire. Green Mountain Power's outage map could not provide an estimate on power restoration.  
Many residents woke up to the sounds of chainsaws and generators on Wednesday morning as clean up from the storm continued.
Stamford was hit hard with trees blocking roads and broken utility poles. Some 499 customers in Stamford and Readsboro were without power.
A post from Stamford's emergency management director said conditions in North Berkshire were delaying power re-energizing in the Vermont town because it's sourced from National Grid in Massachusetts. 
More than 800 customers were without power in Williamstown, Mass., as noon approached. Tree and lines down along Main Street had taken hours for National Grid crews to address and hampered their ability to aid smaller outages in nearby communities. 
Williamstown Police posted on Facebook that because of the extensive damage to the electrical supply lines to town, parts of Williamstown may not see power until later tonight or possibly tomorrow.
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