Photo: Holland Sentinel
A third Holland Public Schools elementary school will be included in the Higher Impact Learning Project.
After Holland Heights and Holland West were included in the program’s Cohort A consisting of 76 west and southwest Michigan elementary schools, Jefferson Elementary is one of 76 schools included in Cohort B.
The HIL Project is funded through a $12.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to Western Michigan University, in collaboration with the Reading Now Network and the MAISA General Education Leadership Network.
The grant supplies the schools with financial support, a literacy facilitator and training in effective literacy strategies for staff.
“The grant does not come in and tell you everything you have to do,” HPS Superintendent Brian Davis said.
“It looks at the best research-based literacy practices based on GELN principles and asks ‘How might we support you in your work to develop those?’
“If we implement those with fidelity, the end result should be increased student achievement. We’re seeing that at our HIL schools already.”
Kyle Mayer, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services at the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, has been involved with HIL Project through his ties to WMU, RNN and MAISA Literacy Essentials.
“The HIL Project combines all three of those,” Mayer said. “The HIL Project is about literacy and leadership.
“It approaches the work in a way in which teachers and principals are listened to, honored, respected and supported. It’s uplifting work, inspiring to be a part of.”
Heights and West were the only OAISD schools involved in Cohort A of the HIL Project. Joining Jefferson in Cohort B are Woodside Elementary (West Ottawa), South Elementary (Coopersville) and Ferry Elementary (Grand Haven), Mayer said.
Schools are chosen for the program based on their level of poverty.
“They are all high poverty schools compared to most other schools,” he said. “The HIL Project recognized correlation between literacy and poverty and is providing extra help where it’s needed most.”
The origins of the HIL Project can be traced to the formation of RNN, which studied elementary schools in 13 West Michigan counties to find successful trends and strategies in schools with high poverty levels, but also literacy rates.
“I give a lot of credit to our OAISD superintendents,” Mayer said. “They started this Reading Now Network about six years ago.
“Without their leadership, we wouldn’t have this exciting work. It all started with the leadership of our superintendents.”
Davis said providing literacy supports is crucial when thinking about the state’s Read by Grade Three law, but it’s about more than that.
“It’s all set and done to make sure each student can read well and independently at the end of third grade,” he said. “The end result is to produce more readers.
“But it’s not just to pass the test on the third grade M-STEP, it’s to get kids curious and enjoy books. To love to read for the pleasure of reading.”
Mayer said schools not involved in the HIL Project can receive support from the OAISD, and not just in literacy.
“Many schools who are not part of HIL officially would like similar supports,” he said.
“Through OAISD, we are seeking to provide those supports to any school willing and asking for them. It can also apply to math or other content areas, not exclusively literacy.”
Mitchell Boatman firstname.lastname@example.org @SentinelMitch