T.R. Simmons working to enhance student literacy

T.R. Simmons Elementary School Principal Meagan Fields said the school is continuing to implement programs aimed at improving literacy.
At a meeting of the Jasper City Board of Education on Sept. 23, Fields discussed the school's continuous improvement plan.
She said faculty are using Benchmark Phonics in classrooms for the first time this school year to help students improve their reading and writing skills.  
"So far, I've heard positive reviews from all of the teachers," she said.
The school also has a reading coach to assist students, and Fields hopes many of the school's teachers will be able to complete LETRS training in the future.
According to fields, hundreds are on a waiting list to participate in the LETRS program, which she says takes an in-depth look at the science of reading instruction in an effort to improve students' literacy skills.   
"It's almost like taking a college course, but it is fabulous information and really digs into what we're doing to teach reading," she said.
Another effort at T.R. Simmons is to make community connections and to foster a collaborative learning experience between students and their parents.
The school is currently using the Seesaw app, a centralized location for students to complete activities and share work they are doing with their parents. Fields said students completed over 60,000 assignments through the app last year, and 10,000 parent comments were generated.
Parents have also been invited to orientations, curriculum nights and conferences this year.    
"We're really looking at opportunities to develop our students and also outreach with our community," Fields said. "We want to present multiple opportunities throughout the school year that involve our stakeholders — both academically as well as enriching activities with our students."
Fields said the school is always taking statistics into consideration to help each student reach his or her full potential. Currently, 51 percent of the school's students receive free/reduced lunch; T.R. Simmons' English learner enrollment is at 10 percent; and special education enrollment is just over 10 percent.
She said progress monitoring is key to student retention. 
"We're looking at all aspects of that student to make sure that they're making the progress they need to go to the next grade level," Fields said.