Using Baseball to Raise a School's Grade | at G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary, Principals, Teachers and Volunteers Work on Reading Skills

By Womack, Christi | Sarasota Herald Tribune, September 19, 2015 | Go to article overview

Using Baseball to Raise a School's Grade | at G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary, Principals, Teachers and Volunteers Work on Reading Skills


Womack, Christi, Sarasota Herald Tribune


EDUCATION

BRADENTON -- When Principal Latrina Singleton and Assistant Principal Bernadette Pletcher started their new posts at G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School in 2014, this was the message: "Move it. Now."

Meaning, they needed to move Rogers Garden above an F grade, get the school off the state's list of lowest 300 performing schools and show parents there is a reason to send their children there.

"There is a sense of urgency," Singleton said.

The school, which looks new, opened in 2009 to students countywide who wanted to attend a school with an environmental curriculum focus. It was called a model for its partnerships with University of South Florida student teachers.

But school grades issued by

the state soon showed that students were not performing well. In its first five years, Rogers Garden received three F's and two D's based on students' scores. District officials added an extra hour of reading instruction in 2012.

Parents sent their children elsewhere, and today, even as several Manatee schools are crowded, Rogers is struggling to attract students.

In the fourth week of school this year, there are 237 students in kindergarten through fifth grade in a school built for 582. Last year, the school operated at just 37 percent of its capacity, the lowest in the school district.

Singleton and her staff are working to reverse the slide. Their focus is literacy, because 14 to 16 percent of the students at Rogers read at grade level. The districtwide rate is 50 percent.

"Literacy in every school, in every neighborhood, in every classroom is the most important thing," said Judy Laurent, the district's executive director of elementary education.

Enter Shelly Dorfman, visiting the school last year for ReadingPals, a United Way initiative that puts adult volunteers in Title I schools to nurture students' reading skills. A reading specialist, she is a member of The Library Foundation, which supports the Manatee County Public Library System.

She was previously successful in her hometown of Philadelphia at designing a literacy program to boost learning levels by as much as 14 to 16 points. With the support of the library foundation, a $5,000 grant through the Manatee Community Foundation and the Bradenton Marauders baseball team, a group of volunteers set out to duplicate the effort.

For eight weeks toward the end of school, after the critical state assessment tests were completed, baseball was a common thread in the classrooms. Dorfman and the library foundation taught teachers how to incorporate baseball in daily lessons. …

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