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Two schools receive grants for instruction

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Hawthorne and West Clayton elementary schools are going to get new learning centers for parents, as well as more money for reading instruction and technology through Local Assistance Grants from the Georgia General Assembly.

The grants were submitted to the general assembly, with the support of Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), in January 2007. The combined amount of the two grants is $16,550. Hawthorne Elementary School will receive $9,550, and West Clayton Elementary School, $7,000.

"Education is so important, anytime we can help out with the grant process, we are glad to do so," Seay said.

The projects will let parents, who do not have internet access, come to their respective schools and use computers to access online resources, such as homework hotline. They will also be able to check the grades of their respective children. Both schools have to deal with the issues of finding space, and then getting the assigned space wired for computer access.

West Clayton Elementary will also use some of the money to expand the Reading First program to the fourth and fifth grades. The school already has the Reading First program available to kindergartners, first-, second-, and third-graders. Every day, the students spend 135 minutes on reading instruction.

According to the school's web site, the students are broken down into four achievement tiers. Students are assigned to their tier based on how they perform on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS).

Tier 1 students work in small groups, have met "significant" reading goals and need little to no, reading support. Tier 2 students also work in small groups, but these children have not met all of the reading goals and require "some support." Tier 2b, and Tier 3 students require "intensive support" and use a program called "Reading Mastery."

Hawthorne Elementary purchased 15 handheld "Study Buddies," which look like Game Boys, or PlayStation Portables (PSPs). The "Study Buddies"cost $399 a piece, and come with cartridges, which contain questions pertaining to what students are covering in their classes.

Once a class finishes a topic, which is covered on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, the students can use the "Study Buddies" to answer questions on that subject, contained on the cartridge.

While Hawthorne's "Study Buddies" didn't arrive until Wednesday, a group of students got to preview the learning tool during a presentation in December.

According to an assistant principal at the chool, "the boys are really crazy about the 'Study Buddies' because they [the consoles] look like video games. It talks to them and lets them know if they got the answer right ..."

Not all of the students, who have been impressed with the "Study Buddies," however, have been males. Morghan Sumpter, 11, a fifth-grader at the school, said she likes the challenge presented by the "Study Buddies." She said the machines aren't hard to use, but she has to think long and hard when she's trying to find the answer to a question.

"It's good because you need a challenge when you do something," Sumpter said. "It definitely provides a challenge."