WCU, Asheville schools receive literacy grant

Western Carolina University and the Asheville City Schools have received a grant of $149,749 to continue a project designed to improve reading instruction in secondary schools by increasing the number of teachers with the necessary skills to help their students become better readers.

Faculty members from Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions are working with “literacy coaches” from the Asheville school system to provide support for 24 language arts, science and social studies teachers at the middle and high school levels through the program, called Connected Coaching. Faculty from Western’s College of Arts and Sciences also are providing support.

Through the project, Western faculty members share their expertise with the school system’s designated literacy coaches working as “guides on the side,” providing on-the-job professional development opportunities to middle and high school teachers that will enhance their skills in literacy instruction.

“The partnership between Western and Asheville schools is attacking a critical area of concern in secondary education – making sure that students are able to attain a reading level commensurate with the difficulty of the subject area they are studying,” said Michael Dougherty, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions.

The project is funded by a grant awarded through the University of North Carolina Division of University-School Programs and Center for School Leadership Development under the national No Child Left Behind Act. Grants were awarded based on evaluations by a national review panel.

The statewide NC QUEST (Quality Educators through Staff Development and Training across North Carolina) program is designed to fund partnerships between UNC campuses and school systems with large populations of students in poverty. It focuses on preparing, training and recruiting highly qualified teachers, paraprofessionals and principals.

The first phase of the project received $283,584 in NC QUEST funding, and the second phase will allow the project to continue through September 2007, said David Strahan, Western’s Taft B. Botner Distinguished Professor in Elementary and Middle Grades Education.

“Preliminary evaluation data indicates high levels of participant satisfaction with the systematic approach of Connected Coaching,” Strahan said. “This grant will allow us to continue to integrate approaches that have been most successful at the elementary level with content area coaching that has proven promising at the secondary level, and to better assess how those strategies are really working in the classroom.”

For more information about Western’s Connected Coaching or any of the university’s initiatives to support the profession of teaching, contact the College of Education and Allied Professions at (828) 227-7311.