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Posted: 12/18/13

RCS participating in
national study for speech

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo Community Schools is looking to improve reading and communication in its students while providing unique data in a national study.
       The school began piloting a multi-level language narrative intervention this month called Story Champs, and in doing so is one of five districts in the nation taking part in a study about oral communication.
       The district's speech pathologists are taking the lead on the program, saying they will select students most at risk to provide small group intervention and monitor their progress. The program will not cost the district any extra dollars.
       Eileen Presnell, speech pathologist at Hamilton-Parsons Elementary, said the program begins with universal screening, then identifies struggling students and places them in small groups. The third step is to give intensive speech and language therapy.
       "Having strong oral skills, specifically in story-telling, shows how well students do in reading comprehension in later grades," she said.
       She said screening of all kindergarten students began this month, while next month will start the classroom interventions and training for teachers.
       "We're excited to begin this initiative because research has proven that all students using this instructional program have shown improvement," Presnell said.
       Presnell said Romeo is one of five districts in the nation that is using the initiative alongside a study that tracks the effects of the program. She said eight past studies have shown Story Champs to be effective, but this particular study will measure not only special education students but all kindergarten students.
       Presnell said those students selected won't necessarily be those with a disability, but with a difference in speech such as an English language learner. Special needs learners will also be considered.
       "It's really expanding to a different set, so we're quite excited to have the opportunity to also influence the instructional practices of students," she said.
       Michelle Bottos, speech pathologist at Hevel Elementary, said a student's narrative proficiency at age 5 is considered one of the best predictors for future reading comprehension, hence all kindergarten students will be screened.
       "We know that reading, writing, listening speaking and social skills all lead to academic success," she said. "Language proficiency is the key ingredient to develop these skills."
       Presnell shared similar sentiments, saying the initiative pairs well with the district-wide technology distribution.
       "It has been a great year in the district to have innovation in a lot of areas that fit together so well," she said.
       An update to the Board of Education is expected in the spring to determine the program's success.


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